Lower your score by raising your expectations score

Listen in on any foursome on any given day, and you’re bound to hear things like this:

I can’t understand it. I used to hit the ball so much more consistently.

I hit it so much better on the range than on the course.

I know I can make that shot when I’m on my game.

And they all come down to one thing: EXPECTATIONS.

As I’ve charted my rounds this year, I’ve come to the conclusion that I need a new category: percent of shots hit according to expectations.

I’m not talking about chips and putts. Leave them out of the equation. That’s a different category.

Instead, I want to focus on shots from 75 yards on out – shots that require more of a full swing. You can whittle it down to whatever works for you, but I want to keep track of shots of lengthier skill and touch.

OK, so here I go. But first, I need to figure out what reasonable expectations should be.

It starts on the range. Time and again, if I had to guess what percent of range balls I struck well, I’d guess it would be about 65-75%. At least that’s what it feels like.

But then I get out on the course and the number seems far lower, and the reason is obvious: I don’t expect much on the range. I’m at ease. I’m just trying to make solid contact.

Out on the links, there are greens to hit and bunkers and hazards and out of bounds to avoid. The expectations are completely different. And there’s that little matter of trying to post a decent score.

So I’m going to peg my target percentage at 50%. That seems reasonable. I think I’d be satisfied if I hit half my shots the way I’d like to hit them – maybe not great, but at least playable.

I’m not going to crush every drive 275 yards down the middle, but if I hit it well and it’s at least close to the fairway and gives me a good look at the green, that’s some measure of success.

Then there are shots to the green, and I think the standards have to be a little higher here although degree of difficulty has to be considered, too.

If I’m 200 yards out and hit the shot well, I’m going to consider that a good one even if it doesn’t find its way to the putting surface.

But if I miss the green when I have a wedge in my hands, even if I thought I hit a pretty good shot, it simply isn’t acceptable. I’ve got to convert that.

Given all those stipulations, I sat down and calculated my most recent round.

In terms of score, it was a disaster. In the midst of several what I would consider great shots, I had three blowup holes and kept giving shots away. Bad shots were really bad.

My “expectations” score reflected that. The totals were 13 good shots out of 41, which computes to 31.7%.

Imagine that. In an entire round, I hit 13 good shots. A small bucket of balls on the range is usually 40 balls, and I don’t think I’ve ever hit only 13 good shots. Ever.

So what are your expectations … and results? Set the bar where you think it ought to be, then measure how often you’re clearing it.

It’s simple math: Most courses have four par-3s, 10 par-4s and four par-5s. If you figure on one shot apiece on the par-3s, two or three on most of the par-4s and three or four on the majority of the par-5s, that’s going to be about 36 to 46 shots per round.

As shocking as it may seem, most of us probably aren’t going to hit more than 20 good shots per round. That’s what makes our great game so great – playing well is truly an achievement.

Examine your most recent round and figure out your percentage. Then, the next time you play, calculate your percentages on the range and on the course.

Get those two figures to a high level and in closer proximity, and you’ll be saying things like this:

I’ve got this.

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