Golf is a Series of Independent Decisions

I’ve been playing golf for close to 25 years now. As I learn more and more about the game, there are lessons “hiding in plain sight” that I wish I knew when I was first taking up the game.

In this article, I’d like to explore a concept that eluded me for a long time. While I grasp its significance now, it’s not something I’m perfect at. But like anything else in golf, I want to get better little by little over time. I think this basic framework can help you tremendously.

When we play golf, tons of moments feel connected. As you tally up your score, you can’t help but think how the tee shot on the 3rd hole really changed how the day went. Even while you’re in the heat of the battle, it’s hard not to think about what happened on previous holes, or how the shot at hand might affect future results.

Without getting too philosophical, this game tugs at your brain from opposite directions. The past and the future want to influence your decisions. However, I’ve found that it’s best to evaluate this game as a series of independent decisions.

Fighting the Past

Every time you approach the ball on the golf course, there is a new situation to evaluate. Even if you’ve played the same course 100 times, the wind, temperature, turf conditions, and how your swing feels that day are all variables to contend with. That’s the beauty of golf – every day is different.

Once your round has started, your mind begins to fight against the past. If things are going poorly, your negative emotions may start to carry over. Perhaps you’ll get a little more aggressive with your line off the tee, or start hunting at a pin you know you have no business attacking.

Conversely, if you’re off to a hot start, your brain can start playing different tricks on you. To preserve your good fortunes, you might play a little too safely, and even start changing your technique.

Either way, no matter how strong your mental game is, prior results can weigh heavily on a golfer’s mind as they evaluate the shot at hand.

Controlling the Future

As it pertains to strategy, golfers often let the future influence their decisions. One of the hardest things to do is not make decisions in the present that are affected by “wishful thinking” of your future self. To illustrate what I mean, I’ll go through a couple of scenarios with tee shots and approach shots.

Chasing Angles Off the Tee

Golfers often try to favor one side of the fairway to get a better “angle” into the green based on pin position. For a long time, I subscribed to this belief myself. As I learn more about the game and seeing top-level statistics from all skill levels, I have yet to find any convincing argument for why it’s a good idea.

For starters, take a look at this image compiled by Lou Stagner:

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By: Jon
Title: Golf is a Series of Independent Decisions
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Published Date: Tue, 13 Oct 2020 11:47:42 +0000


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