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Expect the unexpected

Expect the unexpected


Ahhh, you’re back on the course. After being locked down you’re stood on the first tee box again, a tricky hole, and one you’ve struggled with in the past, lots of danger on the right, and red stakes lining the fairway. Perfect.


You’re lacking confidence and not sure what to expect. Bang, the dreaded slice returns, your ball sails out of bounds and before you know it, you’re three off the tee. But how can your thoughts before the shot influence this dreaded start to a round?


Your expectations before a shot can have major influence not only on your mental game, raising or lowering anxiety or confidence, but also your physical game, with the ability to loosen or stiffen your body as a result. Therefore it is important to manage your expectations throughout your round, importantly before every shot.

The theory behind expectations

Expectations are a combination of both your perception of the task or shot at hand, and also what you put this down to. Are the factors influencing the outcome of your shot within your control or not? What have you put your performances down to in the past and how do these translate into future performances?


Let’s start with your success. When you have a good round what do you put this down to? Is it something stable, like your ability or do you put it down to something unstable, like a few lucky shots? If you put it down to your ability you naturally become more self-confident in your ability, you believe that you can continue these performances going forward and you’re well on your way to lowering your handicap. If, however, you put it down to luck on the course, you retain humility, understanding that although you must be improving, your success isn’t guaranteed next time.


By the same token your failures can also be put into these two brackets, if you have a bad round and begin to relate it to your ability, you can reduce your confidence and expect to play the next round, or certain holes poorly based on these experiences. An often preferred attribution is something unstable, if you feel you were unlucky with a few putts or chips you can protect your confidence, and you understand that next time you play, you might get a lucky bounce, or play the hole in a better way.


It is unhealthy for an athlete to lean too heavily one way or another. The athlete must be able to praise themselves when it is deserved, and understand that they have hit an excellent shot, however this mustn’t go to their heads. Similarly, if you hit a bad shot, don’t be too critical on yourself, golf is full of factors you’re unable to control, particularly as we’re in the midst of the winter months, with poor ground, and even worse conditions, but you must also be able to take responsibility when it’s warranted.

Closing thoughts

As we’ve mentioned, it is unhealthy to lean too far in your attributions. Don’t be afraid to congratulate yourself if you hit the shot of your life, and don’t be too critical if you hit a poor shot, we’re all capable of it…me more than most apparently…


But take your previous experiences and use them to benefit your future rounds, don’t step up to the tee and be petrified of hitting a poor shot, just because you did last time. This time will be different, step up, take a deep breath, and bomb it down the middle.


To find out more


For more psychology resources visit psych-chek. To learn more about altering your attributions within golf make sure to give this a read.

About the Author

Luke Vidler

An amateur golfer and recent graduate of Chichester University. I have both a BSc and MSc in Sport and Exercise Psychology and am keen to utilise my knowledge in practical situations, even if I can’t help myself!

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