Realistic Expectations
One of the great regrets of my life is that I missed the fatherhood experience, never having had children of my own. As I get older, I find that I gravitate to the younger folks, and offer my help whenever I can, whether on the golf course, hunting fields or just life in general. One of my joys is working with younger kids on their golf. That includes instruction, of course, but what I think is more important for them in the developmental stages is to learn to manage their expectations. Actually, we all could benefit from that bit of advice.

On Sunday, I had the joy of playing with the 16-year-old son of one of our partners here at SCOR Golf. Kyle is a tremendously talented young man who I’ve worked with quite a bit, but he really hasn’t committed himself to golf yet. I’m talking about the kind of commitment that keeps him working hard at it as long as there is daylight. He might not ever get that, and that’s OK, but he hasn’t figured out yet that your expectations can only rise from your achievements, and not from you desires.

On a granular level, Kyle has great strength, but hasn’t learned to harness it yet. He wants to choose his clubs based on his maximum distance with that club . . . if everything falls exactly into place. Like most golfers, and especially young ones, he’s enamored with the power game. When we play, I show him that throttling back and controlling the shot is much more reliable.

On the more global level, I discovered Sunday that Kyle has very unrealistic expectations about what a round of golf should really be like. He, like most of us, expects all the shots to be struck solidly and fly like he imagined. So I explained that he hasn’t earned the right to have such expectations yet. His scores average around 90-95 and his best ever is an 85.

So, here’s my point (finally.)

Kyle was off to a good start with three pars and two bogies in his first five holes. He kind of “fat-pulled” a four-iron approach on a 200+ yard par three. His shot left him only 10-15 yards short and left of the green, but he wheeled around, dropped his club and expressed his disgust with the shot. And I got on him about it. “What’s wrong with that? It’s a difficult par-3 with a 20 mph crosswind and you are in good position to get up and down or at least make no worse than bogey.”

I went on to explain that he was only two pars away from tying his best round ever, and if he just played for bogies – and stay excited -- he would probably make twice that many or more. And I seemed to get through to him of the reality of golf, or his golf at least. He stayed in the moment, with only a little more cajoling from me, and shot an 86 – one shot off his best ever! And I MADE him congratulate himself on his accomplishments. Instead of focusing on those few shots that were bad, and the 2-3 doubles he made, I told him to focus on the good that came out of that round.

So, here’s my point (or points) for managing your expectations, too.
  1. If you are a low single digit player, you’ll still only hit 2-3 shots a round just like you wanted.

  2. If you play to a 12 or higher, any shot that keeps you in the game isn’t really all that bad.

  3. Regardless of your skill level, there is no such thing as a “birdie hole” when you are standing on the tee. A “birdie hole” can only be claimed when you have managed a good tee shot and approach to makeable putt range.

  4. If you are a 12-15 handicap player, you only need to make 3-6 pars to beat your handicap, as long as you don’t chop up any holes. Bogies are good scores unless you regularly shoot in the 70s!
So, the next time you are on the golf course, try to set and manage realistic expectations. Your golf will be better for it, and you’ll have a ton more fun.
The Wedge Guy is sponsored by SCOR Golf, where Terry Koehler is President/CEO. He encourages you to submit your questions or topics to be considered for his columns on Tuesdays and Fridays. Each submission automatically enters you to win a SCOR4161 wedge to be given away monthly. Click the button below to submit your question or topic today.

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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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