Golf is frustrating.

Okay, let’s be honest, it’s downright mean sometimes.

It’s the only sport in the world with a “handicap” system to account for the incredibly penal nature of the game.

For the likes of us amateurs, some new to the sport, some not so new; it is hard to reconcile ourselves with the notion that Golf doesn’t owe us anything. (Cough, Sergio Garcia). Sure we’ve had a few lessons, put our time in at the driving range, and spent plenty of money on equipment, accessories and greens fees. Not to mention the amount of time actually spent playing the sport. But at the end of the day even Tiger has to earn every shot.

The most difficult part is managing expectations in light of the amount of time, energy, and most importantly, Hope that we invest in the game.

Who are you and why does golf owe you a good round? If there has ever been a sport that is a better teacher of life lessons than golf is then please show me.

The real problem is there is no graph or formula depicting where you should be on the score chart given how long or how much you’ve been playing. This isn’t like weightlifting where a trainer tells you: lift X number of pounds for 3 reps of 10, 2 days per week, etc. And what happens when you level off?

No such formula exists, especially not for amateurs who are limited with (1) Time and (2) Money. Even with unlimited resources factors such as talent, physical coordination, hand-eye coordination, kinesthetic awareness, health, energy, and motivation all play a role. Even after a stint with Hank Haney Michael Phelps who has all the athletic ability, work ethic, health, and resources anyone could ask for is as far from being a scratch golfer as anyone of us out there.

Ah golf….

The real goal is to avoid discouragement and disillusionment.

THIS is what leads to frustration and in some cases the decision to quit the game. It’s no wonder that golf suffers with stagnant growth – according to the numbers more people leave the game then take it up anew each year. The next time you’re frustrated with your game ask yourself this: Have you worked hard enough for it? How do other people, with similar life circumstances, score?

Before expecting too much of yourself consider these things:

Number of Rounds: Have you played a lot? Recently? Anyone close to pro can always harken back to a time when they played 36 holes a day for at least one or two seasons before their handicap even got to the single digits. I can track my long game skill directly with amount of time spent on the range and my short-game ability directly with how many rounds I have played recently.

Previous Experience/Talent: When did you start playing? Those who start as a kid, and get the muscle memory while still developing, has the hugest advantage of anyone at all. If you didn’t start young did you play baseball, field hockey, or tennis? Having other stick sports helps with hand-eye coordination. Your friend the tennis star will beat you every time all else being equal.

Mental Ability: Are you patient with yourself? Are you mad when you hit bad shots on the first day of the year? I stopped getting mad when I realized I wasn’t actually good enough to get mad. Instead, I use that fire in my belly to propel myself directly to the range immediately after my round to fix whatever was broken.

Time on the Range: I hate to say it, but no one is getting better by continuing to play rounds with their old crappy habits. At the same time who wants to be a range pro? Just because you can hit good shots on the range doesn’t mean you’ve conquered the game. You have to learn to take it to the course and execute when it counts.

Mange your expectations before your unrealistic expectations get the better of you. The goal is to play well but the goal is also not the let golf beat you down when you haven’t had the time or resources to give to your game. You alone know whether you have actually given it all you could, and then even some more.

As the saying goes: “Don’t be mad at the results you didn’t get because of the work you didn’t do.”♣