The US Open and our expectations

Where do I see most amateurs wasting strokes? When I say wasting, I am not counting strokes lost due to hitting bad shots (which is natural for every golfer). I am talking about stokes that are given away due to lack of course management.

I would say 95%+ of all amateurs I have played with have a warped view of what a good shot is for them and it is the fault of golf announcers.

How many times have you heard Johnny Miller (it’s all golf announcers, but Miller is the biggest offender) say that a player is not happy with a shot that ends up 10-15 feet from the pin on a shot from a distance of like 125 yards.

Statistically, that is an excellent shot from that distance, even for a Tour player. Fact is the winner each week on the PGA Tour has an average distance from the hole in regulation of up to 40 feet, it is usually in the 30’s, and almost never in the 20’s. The guys at the bottom of the field missing the cut are averaging 60 feet or more.

I think I once saw the average distance a shot for 100 yards finishes from the hole on the PGA Tour is 22 feet.

I once kept track of my friend, who was a 3 at the time, when he shot 75…it was over 100 feet. I wanted to prove a point to him.

I also kept track of something else a few years ago. I played in a 4-some and kept a notebook during the round. Using verbal and body language reactions, I kept track of what 4 different golfers would have shot if you added up the expectations of each individual shot.

I shot 68 and would have shot 64.
Player #2 shot 76 and his expectations added up to 64.
Player #3 shot 78 and his expected score was 58.
Player #4 shot 84 and his cumulative expectation was 52.

What is the point of all of this statistical nonsense? What is the point I wanted to prove to my friends?

Amateur golfers have an incredibly unrealistic expectation of individual shots and much of the blame is on the golf media. If you have the perfect swing, you will hit every shot perfect…and when we watch golf on TV, we find out it is only a good shot if it is inside 5-feet.

These unrealistic expectations lead to:

1. Attempting shots they are not capable of pulling of.
2. Getting frustrated with adequate shots and developing a negative attitude.
3. Tinkering with ones golf swing after every shot that doesn’t split the fairway or end up in gimme range.

ALL BAD!!!! For having fun and for shooting good scores.

The US Open was the perfect analogous situation for amateurs to learn about expectations. The conditions in the US Open for the best players in the world, line up with the conditions most amateurs play in on a day to day basis.

During the Open at Pebble Beach all you heard was:

“He can’t play near this pin.”

“Even though he is in the fairway and has a short iron is his hands, just hitting it on the green would be a good shot.”

“That tee shot missed the fairway, but it was still a good shot considering…”

Realistic expectations lead to less frustration, more fun and…LOWER SCORES

So the next time you hear Johnny Miller call a 9-iron to 18 feet a poor shot, throw a crumpled up piece of paper at the TV…

…and the next time you hang your head in shame when you pull a 7-iron 30 feet left of a back right pin…remember, that shot is better than the tour average this week for all 7-iron shots.

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9 Comments

  1. Bob34

    Monte,

    Thanks for posting this and it brings up a question; With everything else in life, I wear my emotions on my shirt sleeve. On the golf course, I’ve become almost a robot, it takes a lot just to be pleased with a shot, on the other hand, 5 or 6 really bad ones in a row will get me pretty torqued off. Servicable misses don’t bother me. I think this comes from the expectation you describe but I also think it comes from hearing Nick Faldo talk about being calm, even keeled & keeping the emotions in check. I’m wondering if it’s just better to be myself and allow the emotions to come out with good shots & bad?

    -Bob

    Reply
  2. Will

    @ Bob: You can’t be who you’re not. The key is to be able to let it go and move on; by the time you’re approaching your next shot, the last shot should be a non issue. Much easier said than done, for sure, but trying to be something that is unnatural to you is just one more thing to have to focus on while on the course, IMO.

    Reply
    • Bob34

      Thanks Will! That makes sense to me. The less I have to concern myself with, the better. Thinking back on it, I tend to play better when I let good shots pump me up some and inwardly cursing a bad shot right away lets me move on to the next one without holding a grudge against the last one 🙂

      Reply
      • Monte Scheinblum

        Agree with Will. You have to be yourself, which is why I scoffed when Tiger said he would change his course demeanor.

        Reply
      • gwlee7

        Bob,

        You and I have played what, maybe 25 – 30 rounds of golf together now? You’ve always played better with me when you get it out of your system than when you try to hold it in. And you know me, I’ll put some serious “Sunday School” language on a golf ball. But, you also know that I am more of a teapot than a pressure cooker. I’m done by the time I need to hit the next shot.

        Reply
      • Bob34

        Greg,

        Yeah, looking back it, I can remember a few times I’ve had you down 3 or 4, you popped off some of that Sunday School language and came back to beat me by 1 or 2 when I was sure I had that match in the bag 😯

        Monte,

        Great point about Tiger, He’s probably trying so hard to change his on course demeanor it’s affecting his game. (In addtition to all the other off the course stuff)

        I really appreciate this post. There’s a lot in it that’s going to enable me to have more fun!

        Thanks,
        Bob

        Reply
  3. Will

    Monte, this was a great post. I think it’s something we should all keep in mind when we go play. Managing expectations is a huge issue for us average players, especially those of us with competitive natures.

    Reply
  4. jp

    Great post, Monte. This article/post will help me next time I hit a bad shot to remember I’m not “scratch” or on any “tour”. I’m just out trying to beat my buddies out of a couple of bucks. Thanks again
    JP

    Reply

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