How High Expectations Can Impact Your Golf Game

Earlier today I saw a tweet about how Tiger Woods, when he was in his prime, hit around 50% of fairways. The tweet also mentioned expectations and how most of us expect a lot more than that. Thinking a bit more about this, I realized just how true it is. A lot of golfers, far from the level of Tiger (who many call the GOAT), certainly expect a lot more than a driving accuracy of 50%.

The negatives of expectations

There are two main issues with setting too high expectations for yourself and your game. First of all, unrealistic expectations make golf less enjoyable. If you expect to hit every single fairway, every single time you play, you are bound to be disappointed. And although competition is part of golf for many players at various amateur levels, ultimately golf is supposed to be fun. So by setting expectations that are unrealistic, you’ll end up failing to meet those expectations and take away from the enjoyment of the game.

Second, high expectations can also negatively impact your game. The mental side of golf is, as we all know, very important. And so to go back to the expectation of hitting every single fairway, every single time: the moment you miss a fairway, you’ll feel discouraged. You might even start feeling more tense and doubt your abilities as you didn’t manage to live up to your own (way too high) expectations. So ultimately, unrealistic expectations can really make a dent in your mental strength and also impact your actual performance.

Gaining perspective

Setting goals and objectives is an important process for all golfers looking to improve. However, there is a big difference between setting reachable (and challenging) goals and setting foolish expectations. Every player has to make these assessments at their own level and figure out what type of goals and expectations are ideal for them.

Normally I wouldn’t encourage comparison on the golf course, although I know it can sometimes act as a force of motivation for improvement. In the case of expectations, however, I think it’s worth having a look at those at the very best level, and gain a bit of perspective by seeing how your expectations stack up against their stats.

We all know that that there is no such thing as perfect in golf, but if anyone is getting close enough, it’s the professional players. They are the ones who play golf for a living and spend more hours than anyone else working on their games. And they are the ones with the best stats. So let’s look at some stats for driving accuracy from the PGA and LPGA tours.

PGA and LPGA tour stats

The average driving accuracy on the PGA tour for the 2021 season up until this point is 59.43%, with Abraham Ancer leading the field at 72.50%. On the LPGA tour, there was no average available for driving accuracy, but Marina Alex was leading the field during the 2020 season (which obviously was a lot shorter than normal) at 83.4%. But then again, this is higher than the average. If you want to have a more detailed look at these stats you can find them here (PGA tour) and here (LPGA tour).

Watching the first round of The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass today I also saw an interesting putting stat. You know how they sometimes display tour averages from different distances in real-time when someone is on the green. So this stat was saying that the PGA tour average of made putts from 6’4” (approximately 1.9 meters) is 63%. If you think about it, 6′ doesn’t feel like such a long putt, and many people expect themselves to make those more often than not, but on the PGA tour, the average is just a bit more than a 50/50 coin flip.

Looking at these types of stats from the professional tours can help give you a bit of perspective for how high expectations you should have for yourself. If the tour pro average on the PGA tour is 59% in terms of driving accuracy, and these are the best players in the world, then how can you get upset when you show up to the first tee and miss the fairway? And how can you get mad at yourself for missing a 6′ putt, when the PGA tour professionals make on average 63% of all the putts from that distance.

Learn to manage expectations

Learning to manage expectations is without a doubt one of the most important (and maybe also overlooked) skills for most golfers. Regardless of your level, too high and unrealistic expectations can get you in trouble. Not only can it negatively impact your actual performance, but it can also take away from the game itself and make golf less enjoyable. And although the stats from the professional tours shouldn’t be your only guidance in setting proper goals and expectations for yourself, I think it can be a great place to go for a bit of perspective. So the next time you miss a fairway or don’t hole that 6ft putt, maybe you won’t be too hard on yourself.

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