I LOVE the game of golf.
The history, the tradition, the etiquette, the finesse, and the challenge of hitting a stationary object consistently (how hard can golf be?).
Growing up as a child I played a LOT of golf. My dad introduced me to the game at around the age of 5. Not quite as young or prodigious as Eldrick T. Woods, but close!
At one point I held a low single-digit handicap, played four years on the varsity squad in high school, and won the oh-so-coveted 1998 The Dalles Country Club Men’s Club Championship. I love the game.
I also haven’t really played in something like 15 years.
It takes a LOT of time to be good at anything, especially golf. While building and running a successful business, and then raising a young family, my golf game has been placed on the backburner.
With all of that said, take a trip back in time with me to the late 1990s and early 2000s. A golf psychologist was the “rage” at the time. Dr. Bob Rotella. He wrote classics like:
- Golf Is Not a Game of Perfect
- Golf Is a Game of Confidence
- Putting out of Your Mind
In “Golf Is Not a Game of Perfect” he talked about “thinking backwards” when strategizing your approach. Or put differently, begin with the end in mind.
The game necessarily must be played from tee to green (going forward), but if we mentally start from the green and work our way backward to the tee, the “right” way to play the hole may be very different.
When I finished my high school golfing career, I went on to a mid-level NCAA Division I university to pursue a degree in Civil Engineering. My best friend from the high school golf team went to an NAIA college. We both tried out for our respective golf teams. I didn’t make the cut; he did. To feed my golf habits I took up a job at Columbia Edgewater cleaning clubs and stocking the range. He had the opportunity to continue competitive golf, but on a low budget.
My hunch is his team’s golf coach had read Dr. Bob’s book. On their budget they couldn’t always afford a practice round, BUT they could walk the course backwards (for FREE!) and plot a strategy for the next day. So that is what they would often do.
Starting from the 18th green, they would evaluate likely hole locations on the green. Looking back to the fairway, they could “see” where the ideal approach would come from (avoiding water hazards, bunkers, and other obstacles) that might protect the green. From what they thought was the ideal approach location they could calculate if a driver off the tee was prudent or maybe a more conservative 3-wood or iron was a better choice. They would proceed to walk the remaining 17 holes to formulate the overall strategy. Each team member would tweak the general strategy to their own strengths (an important step!). The next day they would do their best to implement what they had conceived, and adjust as needed along the way.
How is this story relevant for us and financial planning?
Hopefully the parallels are somewhat self-evident, but let me lay them out as I see them:
- We’re all playing the game of life, yet we each have our own course to “play”. Your goals are different than mine. Your obstacles are different than mine. Your strengths and weaknesses are different than mine. Be sure to play to your strengths!
- In golf, we’re trying to shoot the lowest score possible. In life, we’re trying to achieve “fulfillment” in all of its forms. And those areas of fulfillment are often in conflict.
- In Golf, we can only make one stroke at a time. In life, we can only act in the present. We are preparing for the future, hopefully learning from the past, but we are acting now to set ourselves and loved ones up for the best possible outcome!
- In golf, the “right” way to play the hole might look different if we start from where we want to be as opposed to where we are. In life, the more we can define what we want our future to look like, the easier it is to break down the goal in to “bite-sized” pieces (strokes?), while balancing tradeoffs.
- In golf, the course is fixed, but the elements change day to day and moment by moment (wind, rain, temperature). In life, our goals may change and we need to adapt our plans accordingly.
- In golf, sometimes you get a bad break (ball in a divot in the fairway; hitting the flagstick on the approach and winding up in the bunker). In life, sometimes tragedy strikes or we’re dealt a bad hand. How we choose to respond may compound the problem or minimize the effect. This is a great time to be “unemotional”!
I could go on and on… Like I said, I LOVE the game of golf. I also LOVE the “game”, or process, of financial planning.
Let’s go play the game of life beginning with the end in mind, looking from where we want to be, back to where we are, and play to our strengths!
Also note: if you’re looking for a fourth to your foursome, I just might dust off my sticks!
#FinancialPlanning #GolfGoals #LifeGoals
The Dalles Country Club, Hole #8 – Photo Credit: Scott McMullen
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