Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Managing Expectations

...is one of the hardest things in disc golf.

After doing fairly well at the new (and I think, harder) course in Middle Creek, I was disappointed that I shot so poorly at OT Sloan last weekend (54, 55). So I went back to Buckhorn today for the first time since last month when I shot a personal best (49).

I parked the first drive for one of the easier birdies I've made on that hole (which is normally a bit too long for me). "Okay," I thought, "I am driving longer. It's going to be one of those good rounds."

Instead, I pulled a drive on 2 that left me short and in the woods with no shot at birdie and then hit trees galore in taking a double bogey 5 on hole 3. "Okay," I thought, "It's going to be one of those frustratingly bad rounds."

Then I pulled a very long approach from the right rough on 4 (one of the harder holes for me) and took a solid par on a tough hole. I followed it with a birdie on 5 and a good up and down on 6 to get my par. After six holes I was at par. "Okay," I thought, "I erased by bad hole. I can still have a good round."

So, you guessed it, I took another 5, this one on hole seven--one of the statistically easiest holes on the course for me. (I have a lifetime average of 2.9 on it.) This was the product of a pretty bad three putt. "Okay," I thought, "I don't have the putting stroke today. I'm +2 on the front nine, which is generally easier and have already taken two double bogeys. Let's try to keep it in the 50s."

I promptly birdied the next four holes: 8, 9, 10, and 11, including solid 20-25 footers on two of my putts.

And so it goes with the yo-yo of expectations based on one's temperature at any split second. I birdied one more hole (16) and made a great shot to clear the pond on 17 from between two trees only to land behind another tree to make my par putt on a bad lie. So I parred 18 and finished -2 (52), a good 2 1/2 strokes below my average and about half way between my average round and my best round ever.

Seldom when one has an optimal outcome is one above average or on course every step of the way to it. How many times have I been even par on the front nine? Why is it so different in your head when you've shot 9 straight pars as opposed to four birdies and two double bogeys?

If you are going to throw hard enough to make birdies, bad shots and bad luck can make errors worse than ones that result from tentative throws. But I'm convinced in the long run, the way to success is through increasing the number of opportunities you have, not just maximizing the percentage of opportunities you get. Sure I would not have taken a five on hole seven if I wasn't putting aggressively (and pulling it badly), but the extra stroke I got for not hitting the come backer is still relative to the strokes I gained on holes 4, 8, 11, and 13 by putting aggressively.

I need to focus on having a good round...not on trying to figure out on every hole whether or not I'm having a good round.

Because when I try to do the latter, I'm often wrong.

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