Golf Is Hard! Or, Is That Just What We Expect?

Here at the Golf Performance Center, there is a deep appreciation and love of lifelong learning that drives and inspires our staff. One way in which we engage in this process is to share thought provoking posts, blogs, articles, ideas, and experiences via group email and allow a natural discourse to emerge. Recently, a post in Golf Digest titled, Why do some top juniors make it and others don’t? The surprising answer, by Sam Weinman led to some interesting conversations about whether or not thinking that golf was hard, or difficult, was inherently self-limiting. Although the article, which is great and worth a read, does not directly address the idea of self-limiting thoughts, it does promote the idea that golf is hard and players who are better able to deal with the difficulty ultimately have more success. Being able to effectively cope with adversity is most definitely a skill the best players possess. However, I’m not sold on the idea that golf is “hard”, and I worry that expecting it to be could interfere with a player’s development. 
In Psychology, one way to explain human behavior is using the expectancy theory of motivation. The idea is a simple one: humans will act based on what they believe the expected outcome of their behavior will be. For example, most golfers can relate to the experience of stepping up to a shot expecting the worst. Then, unsurprisingly, the self-fulfilling prophecy comes true! You expected to hit it out of bounds and you did. Expectations are always influencing our thoughts, feelings, and actions and undoubtedly guide our behavior. Thinking that golf is “hard” is one expectation that could be making it more difficult to achieve your goals. If every time you go play or practice you are expecting it to be difficult, there’s a good chance you will make it so. This expectation could lead to unnecessary stress, frustration, and burnout. What if golf wasn’t “hard”? What if golf just was? And, you got to decide what you wanted the expectation to be? Imagine if you expected golf to be fun, playful, exciting, or inspiring? Would that change your experience? Golf is only hard if you say it is. If you’re someone who believes golf is hard, I invite you to reconsider. Not only do I believe that by reframing your expectations into something more positive your overall experience of the game will improve, so will your performance.

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