A friend had the following sentence as his signature line on his emails... "Low expectations are the key to happiness." I found myself laughing a little bit at the thought of it, but then I started pondering it some more...maybe he was right...we face disappointments all the time, and now that I think about it, it's often caused by our own doing. We create an expectation in our mind and when the outcome isn't what we planned on, we're ultimately disappointed or hurt.
But on the golf course I think our brains go on "expectation auto-pilot", and I'm not sure we could stop ourselves from wanting or demanding things from our swing, our club, our ball, the green we're putting on, or the rock we need to hit just right so we don't go into the hazard. It just happens.
Where I live, we don't expect to be golfing in April - so the fact that our course has been open for a week has been a complete bonus. And most of us use that as an excuse for any "less than stellar" shots we attempt - I think I've heard (or said) "it's ONLY April" at least once in every round I've played this year. We shouldn't be expecting great rounds so early in the season...but as golfers, we do.
As I think back to the round I played yesterday with some of my favorite pals, it's interesting to see how many expectations I had (even though it's only Spring Training!). After feeling pretty good about my short game so far this year, I was not expecting to hit so many bad chips (all short-can we say decelling through the ball?). I got frustrated early. And even though it had rained quite a bit over the past few days, and I could see the greens were a little fuzzy with new growth, I could not get myself to get the ball to the hole (I'm blaming my putter!). I expected my Nike CPR hybrids to draw (because they always do) and they sliced instead (I'm blaming my sore shoulder). I think at least 3 times I told the ball to "GO!" because I expected it to be short and it was already past the pin...but on the last hole I thought I was all over the pin and ended up 20 feet short. I expected putts to break that I knew didn't, and I fully expected my friend Bob to tell me that I should have hit my drive over the corner of the pond on 18 (oh wait, he did!).
But I do have to admit that in some cases I give myself some slack...there are a few holes where I'm happy if I keep the ball in the fairway, and if I get past a bunker or get to the 150, I'm thrilled. On a few other holes I expect that my ball will not hold on the green because I know I can't spin it. I also know not to compare myself to the guys I play with - I expect that I'm going to be hitting 2-5 clubs up from my big hitting friends...and I'm okay with that.
One thing that strikes me now is how we react to other people's expectation of us...I remember playing once with a few people I didn't really know...I hit what I considered a really marginal shot and one guy gave me the "great shot". I thought right away, "is that all the better he thinks I can play?" When I did hit some good shots he actually looked surprised (can you hear the "Wow! Great Shot" reaction with the disbelief in the voice?), and I realized then that this guy had some really low expectation of what I could do on the golf course. It bugged me at first, but by the time we were heading up 18 I knew he had a different expectation of my game and I could tell that he meant his compliments. And I'll be honest, I know my own expectations were increased a notch or two just to prove to this guy that I could play - nothing like a good incentive to provide inspiration! It was also a great lesson to me to be more sensitive to my expectations of other people.
It's up to us to gauge our game and set our expectations in a way that will bring out our best shots and provide us the best opportunities to score...and it's always important to remember that the unexpected can and does happen all the time on the golf course.
So I think the lesson learned for me today is that REALISTIC expectations are the key to happiness on the golf course. It's good to demand a little more from your game as long as you don't let it take over your game. Now excuse me while head out to hit some 350 yard drives...
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