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Strategy is one of the topics that fascinate me most about golf because it combines multiple disciplines – expectation management, mental discipline and numerical analysis. I also like course management (another word for strategy) because it is a way for golfers of all skill levels to lower their scores without changing their swing. Almost all players have something to gain by sharpening their decision-making skills.
As someone who has spent some time in casinos, I happen to see numerous parallels between golf and gambling. Many of the forces that work against you in blackjack or roulette also prevent you from hitting your lowest scores. In this article, I'll explain why the two are so related, and how you can stop becoming the gambler and be more casino-like in your golf game.
Golfers are mostly gamblers
When I was 20 my friends and I loved going to casinos. We often joked that the best feeling was when you first hit the ground because the night was filled with so many possibilities. But we all knew all too well the pit in your stomach when the house took all of your money.
One memory in particular always stands out. A friend of mine, who is probably one of the brightest guys I know, walked over to the blackjack table with an envelope full of $ 2,000 and a rock solid strategy. Thirty minutes later it was all gone. His experience is probably quite similar to much of yours – when things started to go bad, his bets got more erratic and emotional. Before he knew it, all his chips were gone.
The great philosopher Mike Tyson sums it up in one of his most famous quotes: "Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face."
The interesting thing about gamblers and golfers is that they behave almost exactly the same when adversity first strikes. How many of you are going to the course optimistic about how your round will end? More importantly, how many of you know how easy it is to quit your strategy when things start badly?
Casinos always win in the long run because the games they design have odds that stack against gamblers, even when they play with perfect strategy. Plus, their real advantage is how irrational people become when they start to lose. While golf isn't exactly the same, many players pile the odds against themselves with their decision-making and inability to control their emotions. The gambling mentality makes a challenging game much more difficult.
I know this vicious circle all too well, and one of my main goals with Practical Golf is to help you avoid it as much as possible.
Becoming the house
The good news is you can stack the odds in your favor and become more like a casino in your golf game. You may "lose money" here and there, but in the long run you will be satisfied with the results.
If you want to become a better golfer and look more like the house, two things have to be done regarding strategy:
You must understand the rules
You Need More Discipline
This is where the casino metaphor starts to diverge a bit. Blackjack dealers have clear rules for how they are going to play the game. If they diverge, hundreds of overhead cameras know immediately and lose their jobs. Their job is quite simple (aside from thousands of people losing money).
Golfers have a more complex task because they never learn how to play the game optimally from a strategic perspective. Plus, each shot is a new set of conditions, and it will challenge them to not only choose the optimal strategy, but also have the discipline to do it. The inner gambler is always lurking and telling you to go for it, when in that situation it might be best to play the smart shot.
What's even more difficult is that there are so many myths about what is considered conservative or aggressive, and what is the right decision. The more I learn the more I think those terms are less useful. Fortunately, modern golf statistics have helped clarify the correct choices in many scenarios if you want to give yourself the best chance of getting the lowest score.
For example, I was always under the impression that hitting a driver on most holes was an inherently aggressive move, and I often withdrew to safer clubs thinking it would help keep my scores lower. However, I've changed my mind on that subject quite a bit thanks to the work of people like Mark Broadie.
How do you do it?
If you are interested in playing golf, less like a gambler and more like a casino, learning the correct rules is the first step. Fortunately, it is not that complicated. The challenging part will be the discipline of sticking to the plan throughout your rounds.
Over the years I have written a lot about strategy on this site. At the end of this article, I'll share a list of cornerstone items that I think will point you in the right direction on how to choose the right clubs and goals in different situations on the court.
If you are interested in a more comprehensive learning experience I would refer you to a friend of mine, Scott Fawcett. He is one of the top players in golf statistics and his DECADE system is used by many elite amateurs and tour players. Recently he introduced DECADE Foundations, which is more aimed at recreational players. Many readers have gone through the program and given me positive feedback, which is not surprising given that the material is so good.
If you are interested in a sneak peek, you can watch the video below. In addition, if you buy from this link, you can get a $ 25 discount.
In addition, here's a list of articles that I think can help you make better decisions on your rounds. If you stick to the plan, I can pretty much guarantee your scores will drop. I have received numerous emails from readers telling me that their disabilities have been significantly reduced by following just a few of these rules. The best part is, you don't have to be perfect either; you just have to get into the habit of making better decisions more often.
An easy way to choose targets with irons
Iron vs. driver off the tee: why safety doesn't always win
Understanding Shot Patterns and Targets
The Driver Dispersion Test
You don't have as much ball control as you think