Great Expectations Aren’t Great For Golf or Life

This lesson will address why it is that when you often feel great and have really high expectations, you will often produce a very disappointing performance in golf and in life, and a different outlook you might embrace.

“The little that is completed, vanishes from the sight of one who looks forward to what is still to do.”  – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Ever go to the golf course and can’t wait to play because you feel so good about your game?  Maybe you have had a terrific warm-up session with all sorts of great expectations, and then followed it up with a bad score or disappointing play.  Maybe you’ve had some really good rounds lately.  Conversely, maybe you felt a bit ill or felt your game wasn’t too sharp, but you surprised yourself by following with a great round of golf.  It’s happened to me many times as well as to players of all abilities.  What’s happening and what went wrong?

While it is natural and desirable to feel positive, translating that into high expectations, more specifically expecting a certain result or outcome, stresses your golf game to the point of often braking.  In Law of Attraction terms, you are leaping toward the future and not being fully present.  This sabotages your scoring potential.

When you set expectations of scoring really well, winning a tournament or match, qualifying for an event, or simply impressing others, you create a pre-set standard.  That standard with all its emotional and mental constrictions interferes with your ability to be present, to focus on the shot at hand as you are always comparing your present situation to that pre-set standard.  Secondly, you place additional pressure on yourself when you are hoping to alleviate pressure.

When you don’t live up to the standards of your high expectations, you are apt to press, try extra hard or on the other hand; you might begin to berate yourself.  With every disappointment then comes added anxiety and frustration.  Soon disappointment sets in, steals your confidence and composure, and your round is in shambles.

So what expectations should you bring to the first tee?  Here are two perspectives that should help you.

  1. Expect the unexpected. No matter how you feel or the state of your game, treat each round and each shot as a new beginning.  Your confidence in your preparation, your plan, your equipment, and most of all your ability to handle whatever challenge faces you should be your strong point – not your score 18 holes later or the outcome of the match.  You are about to play the greatest game ever, so don’t leap ahead to presume the results.  In this way, you will not become so upset when you encounter a problem or bad stretch.
  2. Expect the best, but be prepared for anything. This is a variation of “expect the unexpected,” but means that you prepare for anything that the game can throw at you.  One of the greatest match players of all-time Walter Hagen attributed his success to his belief that “I know I have the skills to get the ball out of trouble and back into play.”  Notice that he didn’t reference winning a hole or even a match, but to simply taking care of the task at hand.
  3. Commit only to your commitment. The only expectation that you should carry onto the first tee is that you will focus on each target, trust your process and swing, accept whatever happens, and move on to the next shot.  And by all means, commit to having fun!

This all spells the difference between being positive, hopeful, and optimistic to that of having high result expectations.  Have you ever watched a touring professional fail to birdie the easy holes, yet compensate on the more difficult ones to have a good round?  Tiger Woods does this quite often.  Had he stressed over the failure to score on “the expected holes,” he would never have been present enough to recover on the others.

Playing golf with the expectancy of being totally present with each shot and fully accepting the results is what allows you to shoot low scores and more closely reach your potential.  Stay patient and leave your result expectations of anything else in your trunk, as your golf bag has no room for it.

Now think about the rest of your life.  Take the word “golf” out and the lesson remains the same.

Exercise:  Review your most disappointing rounds or the way you usually approach a round of golf – especially the important rounds.  In your Golf Prosperity Journal list any result expectations that you might have carried with you onto the first tee.

“The best thing about the future (substitute – golf) is that it only comes one day (substitute – one shot) at a time.”  – Abraham Lincoln

For more of Bob Fagan’s coaching, refer to  And if you’d like to help raise money for charity while making money for yourself, check out

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)