A huge reason golfers don’t get better.

Ridiculous expectations combined with a pass/fail mentality.

I don’t have to preach or rehash my views on the ridiculous expectations of golfers, I already wrote an article on it.

LINK to Article

However, I left out an important part of this. The pass/fail mentality of practice and trying new things.

A rhetorical question. What are the odds you are going to hit a crisp, online shot while doing a drill or exaggerated feel?

I had a lesson a while back where a guy was hitting 50 yard slices, asked for my help, I gave it, he started hitting 20 yard slices and lamented he was still slicing.

Had a guy yesterday just stripe one (a groove low) during a drill and slammed his club and said, “thin.”

This pass fail mentality of practice sets you up for nothing but failure. During a drill, your only goal is to experience the feel of a proper movement and hitting the ball well couldn’t have less meaning.

When you are attempting a new movement, your body doesn’t know quite how to assimilate it, so solid shots will be few and far between early on, even for the scratch golfer.

Add all of this together with the unrealistic view golf on television paints what good golf is…you have a recipe for failure of every golfer.

I believe Hogan’s quote was he hit 2 good shots a day, yet we have 12 handicappers slamming their clubs on the range after a one groove low contact that finishes 20 feet from the intended target.

This is not specific or relative to skill level. ALL golfers require center contact, very little curve, proper sized divots and the ball to finish within a few feet of the target, or it’s a fail. “I am very competitive and hard on myself.”

Fine, so don’t be stupid and stop using a mentality that’s like banging your head on the wall so the headache will make you forget your broken toe hurts.

I will often hit a pull hook in front of my students, be happy and they will look at me funny. My response is a heel, low faced block is the miss I hate and a ball that starts left in the middle of the face is progress for that poor swing. I can avoid a hook any time I want. If those thin blocks show up, the Army golf is on the way.

Why not grade shots both on the course and in practice on a sliding scale, like we had in school.

What’s going to make you feel better at the end of a round or practice session? Which one would be a better session to an outsider? Which one will lead to improvement?

You hit 50 balls and pure 2 of them.

Grading scale 1……..2 passes, 48 fails
Grading scale 2……..2 A’s, 30 B’s, 15 C’s and 3 F’s




  1. Rancho Bob

    “Process, not outcome.”

    I try to do that, but it’s not easy.

    Playing recently, one of my playing partners would compliment my shot and my thought would be, “Crappy swing; good result.” Often the case. But I don’t have to write “bad shot” on the card. Just the number.

  2. Mike

    great advice, and is useful in many areas of our lives.

  3. Paulp

    Most of the my shots are D’s and F’s. I’d be thrilled with 47 shots that were “C” or better. I’d also be thrilled with changing a 50 yard slice to a 20 yard slice on a consistent basis.

  4. Niklas

    Spot on. Why is it that golfers expect to get better at a really hard game without a plan and thorough practice? I mean, no football player or hockey player expects to be great unless he (or she) practice really hard…

    Plus, the game becomes so much more fun if you have realistic expectations!

    The same discussion is true not just for practice but on the course as well. Many 30+ hcp seems to think par is to expect and birdies to hope for. In reality, a double bogey is a “pass” and bogey to hope for. The pars and birdies will come eventually!

  5. Greg

    I read a great article by Fuzzy about 25 years ago called “Enjoy this rude game.” He said we’re no different than amateurs. An 18 handicap goes from shooting low 90’s to back to back weekends of 84, 83 and they think they’ve taken the next big step. The next weekend they’re back into the 90’s. We shoot 66, 65 the first two days of a tourney then shoot 75, 76. I play 4 – 5 days a week, have the best instructors, custom clubs and it’s my job and we still screw it up. Expect to get out of the game what you put into it and enjoy it.

    • Calvin


  6. Richard

    Great mind set Monte, I truelly believe that quality golf is played when one has a quality mental game. Positive thinking=no fear=no tension=better swings/golf

  7. jwmonty

    Monte, you are not wrong about the “ridiculous expectations” amateur golfers have. For some reason, this is unique to golf and doesn’t seem to happen to amateurs in any other sport.

    Tennis players understand that that if the average club player played a set against a pro, he wouldn’t win a single game and probably wouldn’t even win a single point (unless the pro double-faulted). We all know that if most of us got into the ring against a pro boxer, or into the cage with a pro MMA fighter, we’d be knocked out in seconds. We know that in a one-on-one game against an NBA player, we wouldn’t score a single basket. We know that if we tried to hit against a major league pitcher, we would never even get the bat on the ball except by accident. We know that Olympic-class weightlifters and powerlifters can lift three or four or five times the weight that most of us can. No one expects it to be any different.

    Yet in golf, people expect to hit shots most of the time that are pretty similar to what a pro would produce. Even if they concede that they can’t carry a driver 300 yards in the air, they still want it to fly over 250, and be in the fairway.

    Golf isn’t an easy game. Average players shouldn’t expect to come close to what the best in the world achieve. But for some reason, they do.

  8. Neil

    Damn…this is me completely.

  9. David H

    A positive mind set can help you do a lot in life. I got a piece of advice a few years ago that was pretty good. Take a small bucket when you practice at the range. For every ball you hit, take 5 to 10 real practice swings to re-enforce the movement you are practicing. Even if you hit a crummy shot when you hit a ball, you follow that with 5 or 10 practice swings that avoid the whole pass / fail thing. It takes concentration to complete real practice swings with a real purpose, but I think it works. Golf is very hard for most people. Goals while important need to be realistic and achievable or the end result will more often than not be disappointment.


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