I played competitive golf from the very beginning.
Even when not in an event or tournament, I was in heavy competition with myself. I had goals and thus, expectations. For that reason, I almost never felt satisfied with my golf experience. From 1999 through 2015 (my entire competitive golf life) I can count on one hand the number of times I met my expectations. Sad.
2016. I was living in Isabela, Puerto Rico. I hadn’t played a competitive round of golf in over a year. And I was having the time of my life. There’s a caveat to this message but let’s save that for another time.
I spent my days surfing and coaching. My nights were filled with good vibes and cold beers. I didn’t miss competing with myself or anyone else. I was learning Spanish. Exploring waterfalls. I was immersed in the unique tropical, Spanish, native, and family oriented surroundings of northwest puerto rico. And that’s when I had one of the most enjoyable experiences of my golfing life.
I met Ross at a fancy dinner with a fancy chef at the laid-back but fancy restaurant at Royal Isabela. He and his wife were there on the dime of his father-in-law. I was there taking advantage of my membership discount. We were seated at the same table.
At the event I hoped to learn about wine and fine-dining. I didn’t. But I did learn that Ross was a surf coach. He learned of my golf coaching. We bonded instantly.
Ross had been living and surf-coaching in Rincon for the past few years and offered to take a look at my skills if I could make the 40 minute drive from Isabela at some point. I took him up on that offer the next week. I caught the best wave of my life (up to that point). Ross said I was in good shape and should practice my turns. I said I wanted to do airs.
For the next few months Ross worked on convincing me to golf while I neglected working on my turns.
It had been a while since I’d practiced and I really had no interest in going out on the course just to be disappointed. After his consistent urging I finally acquiesced. I would golf with him. There were conditions.
I would not be wearing a collared golf shirt. I would not be wearing shoes. I would be drinking (something I would never do if I cared to play well). Truthfully, I’d only had drinks on the course a handful of times in 15 years.
After the sixth hole I was four beers in and four under par.
I honestly can’t remember the outcome of the round – the score – but I can say without hesitation that it was the most fun round of golf I had ever had.
I made those pre-round qualifications (no shoes, no collar, + beer) on the basis that I figured I’d need to break all my normal habits of play if I were going to enjoy myself. I had spent so many years falling short of my expectations. I needed to ensure there would be no realistic way to expect I could play well. Turns out that was just what I needed to do in order to play well.
So does that mean that “no expectations” is the way to playing well? Not really. But it could mean that expectations don’t necessarily help.
I think it’s valid to summarize by saying that intentions are extremely important while expectations are seemingly useless.
The next time you’re heading into an important round, try this:
Set an intention for your mindset. You might try “I intend to give each shot my full focus”.
Allow yourself to accept the outcome. “Whatever happens is fine as long as I give each shot my full focus.”