Expectation Management in Golf

Good shot or poor shot, Every shot is an opportunityto learn to be a better golfer.I thought it might be time to reign in my expectations on how good of a golfer I can really become. I have talked about being a scratch golfer for years and the closest I came was 2 years ago with a handicap index of 2.7. Last year, due to many reasons, the closest I came to my goal was 3.8. That is a full 1 point higher than the previous year! What the heck is going on?

Actually, nothing is going on. I have experience an constant fluctuations in my game for years. I will score low for weeks, then score higher. I will lower my handicap index and it will raise a bit. Overall, I have seen a steady lowering of my scores and handicap index over the past 10 years. The change was slow and took quite a bit of effort. But, that was expected considering I started at a 9 handicap index about 8 years ago.

Where does this leave most golfers? Considering the amount of time and effort I put in over the year, many would expect greater results. I say that logic is folly. And here is why.

I am not sure what type of work you do, but consider a task that will take some time and has several stages of completion. When starting the task, you see great gains and many of the minor chores relating to the overall task are completed quickly and easily. Now, as you narrow in on the end, you find that the last 5% takes as much time, or longer, to finally complete everything. That 5% is the golden nugget to the ‘whole’ task, but it is the most difficult to achieve. Some will say that 95% is good enough and will consider the task complete; others would have stopped at 80%. But, those like me will weigh the effort of that last 5% for a while before proceeding or stopping. Does this sound familiar?

Now, back to golf. Becoming a scratch golfer is the end task. I have worked a long time to get to the 95% mark. (If you are wondering how you stack up check the USGA handicap stats here) Moving down even 1 point on my index takes hours of focused training and preparation. Of which, I am willing to do, but the gains will be slow, but very rewarding.

Let me put it another way. If a golfer practices twice a week and plays twice a week for a full golf season, their results will vary depending on where they start. If you already shoot a raw score of:

  • 110 or higher: expect your score to drop by 20 strokes over the season
  • 100 – 110: expect your score to drop by 15 strokes over the season
  • 90 – 100: expect your score to drop by 10 strokes over the season
  • 80 – 90: expect your score to drop by 5 strokes over the season
  • 75 – 80: expect your score to drop by 0 – 3 strokes over the season
  • Below 75: expect your score to drop by maybe 1 stroke over the season

I think you get the point that the lower your current score is, the more difficult it becomes to shave strokes off your game. That is what at The Grateful Golfer, we talk about all aspects of playing golf, not just ball striking. Of course the numbers in the above example are not scientific, but I bet if you ask most players, I would be pretty close.

Expectation management in golf is important. Depending on your overall goals, your expectations may be lower that others, but not to worry, they are your expectations and only you can say if they are good enough. Personally, I like to keep plodding along until it is proven that I cannot reach my goals or until I have met them. No matter what your approach is, managing your expectations is a part of the game.


10 thoughts on “Expectation Management in Golf

  1. Hi Jim,
    One of the great things about golf is that every day presents a chance to play our best. Structuring a plan to get consistently better is important but your point around managing expectation is significant. Loved this post and as a golfer with an index just under 10, I can calibrate my expectations accordingly.

    Thanks, Mike


  2. Jim, you are to be commended for your tenacity and focus on the prize, and your numbers look very accurate to me. I too thought of trying for scratch a few years back but one day of practice and one day of play per week didn’t cut it so I adjusted expectations. Now, I’m no longer chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and enjoy the game more.

    Good luck with your quest for scratch and enjoy the journey!



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