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Mental Golf
Spring Expectations: The Good and The Bad

By Dr. Robert K. Winters

Spring is one of the most exciting times of the golf season because it is the promiseof a new golf season. Many of you have been polishing up your clubs and watchinggolf tournaments on TV, and now you are ready to start your own golf season withexpectations of grandeur! However, as this season starts, it is important to understand thatyour golfing expectations may interfere with your ability to play "one shot at atime" and to stay focused in the present. This in turn, robs you of your chance toplay to your utmost golfing potential. Oftentimes, placing great expectations on how theday "should turn out" will be counterproductive and ruin your round. Let me explainhow your "great expectations" may hurt your ability to play and score your best!

First, when golfers place preconceived expectations about how they are going to playor how well they will score, they create a "benchmark or standard" that interfereswith their golfing talent. The expectations of how they "should" play, take themout of the present moment and rob them of their ability to create "flow" and enjoy eachmoment and shot as the round progresses. This "should" mentality interferes witha players ability to focus on the shot at hand. Instead of a golfer playing and acceptingthe result, (whether the result is good or bad), he or she may think that they shouldhave done better or that they should have made a better swing on that shot!

In sport psychology, we call this "must" or "should" mentality as "the tyranny ofthe shoulds!" How many times have you been over a shot and said to yourself, "I mustmake this shot!" Or, I "should have been even par at this point in the round!" Soundfamiliar? Golfers often become more concerned with achieving this "expected" standardthan with what needs to be done with the present shot. This creates tension and disappointmentif they feel they are not reaching their "expected" measure of success. The idea of playing an enjoyable round of golf has now turned into a day of work and frustration.With every unfulfilled expectation, frustration and disappointment sets in and robsplayers of their confidence and composure. This dilemma is due to a number of "expectancies" that are self-created by golfers of all abilities. A few of these expectation"traps" that golfers frequently fall into are (a) expectations of shooting a certainnumber or score, (b) the expectation of playing perfectly, or (c) the expectation of hitting the ball a certain way say a draw or fade for that round!

By being aware of your expectations and eliminating them, you have the capabilityto remove these mental handcuffs by not placing limitations on your performance.By eliminating your golf expectations, you are not accountable to any pre-set standardsof performance, thus, your mind and body are free to play to your true potential.

What should I expect while playing?

Now that you have an idea of how expectations can affect your performance in a negativefashion, youre probably asking, what should I expect while getting ready to playor when I am in the middle of my round? Here are a few strategies that will help.Adopt a mindset that says "I expect the best, but I am prepared for the worst"

What this means is that you have prepared your mind and body to do the very best youcan on each shot and that you can handle anything that comes along. The great WalterHagen once said, "Whatever happens on the golf course is okay, because if I put theball in trouble, I know I have the skills to get it out of trouble and back into play".I think this is a great way to think because it provides you, the performer, withan attitude that provides you with self-control, no matter what the results or circumstances that prevail. This philosophy worked quite well for Walter, it can also workfor you.

Develop the philosophy that the only thing you expect of yourself while playing isthat on every shot, you make the commitment to really get into your target, to swingwith trust and finally, to accept the result and move on to the next shot with thesame expectation of your commitment.

This expectancy of your commitment truly works for shooting low scores and playingto your potential on the golf course. What this strategy does is provide you withthe commitment to swing with trust on each and every shot. It also provides you withthe ability to accept what you cannot control. Playing golf with the expectancy that youare giving every shot your complete commitment and accepting the result is the bestway to start playing to your true potential.

Expect the Unexpected

Expecting the unexpected is a strategy that suggests you not become so upset or dejectedwhen things might go wrong. Learning to remain patient and realizing that the inconsistenciesand unexpected ironies of the days play are what make this the greatest game ever invented by man. Knowing that unexpected events, bounces and shots willhappen (and they will happen) during a round of golf is what makes the game of golfinteresting and fun. The mystery of not really knowing what may or may not happenis what keeps bringing you back for more!

So, in order to get off to a great start this spring, relax and leave your expectationsoutside the golf course gates! Play in the present moment and swing to your targetswith confidence and trust. The sooner you can eliminate the burden of scoring expectations and the "should mentality," the sooner you will play to your potential therest of the year! May all of your putts find the bottom of the cup!

Dr. Robert K. Winters is a leading sports psychologist, author and lecturer. He workswith amateur golfers and touring professionals around the world and is the mentalgame consultant for NBC and Total Sports Network on the world-wide internet system,www.golf.com. He is also Director of Golf for NIKE Golf Schools at The Boca Raton Resortand Club in Florida and also at Williams College in Massachusetts. Dr. Winters canbe contacted for individual or team consulting via e-mail at: mindpowersports@aol.com

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