Being Hopelessly Optimistic on the Golf Course

Jonathan Byrd on the 8th tee at Harbor Town / Photo from PGA Tour LIVE

During the third round of the RBC Heritage, Jonathan Byrd stood on the par 4, 8th tee at -2 for the tournament, hit some trees with his tee ball, and ended up left out of bounds. He re-teed, and hit another ball out of bounds, right. His third drive ended up in the fairway. Byrd went on to make an 8 on the hole.

Shaken but not wrecked, Byrd went on to play his next several holes in one under par.

Byrd did go on to score a couple more big numbers towards the end of his round, but there was no sudden collapse after he made the 8. This is counter to what I often see when playing with weekend golfers. Once they score a large number – even if on the 1st hole – they immediately assume they’re going to have a bad scoring day.

Expect good play

Now, it’s one thing to have expectations that don’t match your play. Like a 10-handicapper expecting to shoot par every time he goes out. This would be an example of not having realistic expectations on the course.

I often like to tell some newer golfers (who expect to play better), that one doesn’t pick up a flute and expect to be a concert performer in a weekend. Just like with golf, it takes a lot of practice to excel at it.

Scott Fawcett from DECADE (an app that helps with course management), often talks about expectation management. You need to manage your expectations when you’re out on the course. Not only so you don’t perpetually annoy your playing partners, but that you can enjoy your time out there.

If you’re a 10-handicap, a realistic expectation is that you will shoot between 8-15 over par. Be content with that.

But along with that, be hopelessly optimistic on the course. Expect good things to happen, rather than bad. I realize this takes some mental effort – but if you do it often enough, it will come more naturally.

While watching a recent PGA Tour broadcast, Jordan Spieth’s caddie, Michael Greller mentioned a previous golf shot that didn’t come off like Spieth hoped. Spieth immediately called the bad shot a “fluke”. I loved that. He is expecting his next shot to be the best one he possibly can hit and that it will come off as planned.

Incorporate this mindset into your game (and life!) and you’ll likely start to see better golf shots.

How has being optimistic on the course helped your game?

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