An Executive State: Navigating Emotion and Expectation on the Golf Course

An Executive State: Navigating Emotion and Expectation on the Golf Course

As players strive for perfection, the distinction between an executive state—a mindset characterized by strategic thinking, calmness, and focus—and a state marred by emotional turmoil or stress becomes starkly evident.

This blog dives into examining how players can leverage data to refine, develop, and optimize their emotional responses and memory recall. By focusing on statistical insights and objective performance, it offers a pathway for players to cultivate a mindset that not only embraces the challenges of the game but also transforms them into opportunities for growth and improvement.

The Impact of Emotion and Memory

At its core, golf is a game of precision, process and patience. Yet, it's the emotional highs and lows that can leave the most lasting imprints on a player's memory.

Research suggests, humans have a tendency to remember negative experiences more vividly than positive ones, a bias rooted in evolutionary survival. This "negativity bias" ensures that we are quick to recall threats to our well-being, which in the contexts of golf, means a missed putt or a poorly executed shot can have a disproportionate impact on a player's memory and self-perception.

The Role of Expectations

Expectations play a crucial role in how experiences are interpreted and remembered. Players often set high standards for their performance, influenced by professional benchmarks or personal goals of ‘very best’. When reality falls short of these expectations, it can lead to frustration and a focus on the negative aspects of their game.

A Tale of Two Outcomes

Let's examine the psychology behind putting, where emotion and expectation often collide. Imagine a 7 handicap player missing a putt from 8 feet—a distance from which scratch players have an average make rate of approximately 43.71%. Commonly, the immediate reaction is one of frustration or disappointment. However, reframing this scenario through a statistical lens offers a more constructive perspective: if you make the putt, it's a moment to celebrate; if you miss, it's simply one of the expected misses out of ten attempts from this distance.

Using Circles to Realigning Expectations: The Key to Emotional Balance

Understanding that progress in player development, is measured against one's own past performances rather than an external standard can help align expectations with achievable goals. This approach not only reduces the likelihood of disappointment but also fosters a more positive and constructive relationship with the game.

Addressing expectation misalignment is not about setting players up for mediocrity. It requires enabling them to achieve regular success through realistic and continually evolving standards. At Circles, the software is designed to encourages goal evolution and perspective shifts as players develop. It discourages the pursuit of unattainable standards and instead promotes competition against oneself. It focuses on the achievement of realistic milestones that incrementally evolve as the player develops, and create an environment that fosters motivation, self-awareness, and self-esteem development. This approach leads to a compounding rate of improvement.

Shifting the Focus: Celebrating Success

Counteracting this natural bias of remembering negative experiences more vividly, requires a conscious effort to celebrate successes and set realistic expectations. By acknowledging and celebrating improvement, no matter how small, players can create positive emotional experiences that are more likely to be remembered. This positive reinforcement can help to balance the negative bias, making successes memorable.

Towards a Positive Mindset: Harnessing Executive Function

Transitioning to an executive state on the course requires a deliberate reframing of one's approach to the game. Instead of succumbing to the emotional and sometimes ego-driven reactions, prompted by missed shots or imperfect execution, players can benefit from adopting a more proactive mindset. Understanding the statistics and probabilities inherent to ones game can help align expectations, mitigating the impact of negative emotions and enhancing overall performance.


The journey from frustration to executive clarity is not a simple one, but it is rewarding. By acknowledging the powerful role of data to impact emotion and memory. Players can reframe their experiences, begin to realign their expectations with the realities. This shift not only can create a more enjoyable and less stressful experience, but also paves the way for continual player development.

Written by Craig Dixon



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