Discipline & Focus On the Golf Course and Off

March 8, 2017  |  

Discipline & Focus On the Golf Course and Off

In golf, the majority of the time, the right decision is the most boring one. For instance, chipping out to the fairway and putting yourself in a position to make par is the right play. Over the course of a round, this strategy will help you card a better score than going for “broke”.  Executing the high risk shot may work once or twice, but more often than not, they get you into deep trouble that will hurt your score for the day.

In the investment world, having a plan and sticking to the plan – in both good and bad economic environments — puts you in the best position to succeed over the long run. The common denominator in most golfing and investing situations is that successful people have a plan from the outset and they stick to it.

Every Sunday during the Professional Golf Association (PGA) season, I watch the final round of the current week’s nationally televised tournament.  It continues to amaze me just how much better PGA tour players are than the average golfer. Sure, these are the best players in the world. Their swing mechanics are sound; they seemingly make every putt; and they have gifted hand-eye coordination.

It is humbling to watch these athletes make a difficult game seem so easy and effortless. The elite pros didn’t get to their current level without a tremendous amount of hard work, but there is one trait that PGA pros and good weekend golfers have in common: discipline.

In their post-round media interviews, the pros are invariably asked why they thought they had such a good day on the course. Their answer is typically something like this: “Yes, I hit the ball well today, but I had a plan to attack the course and I stuck to it.”  Every time I hear this simple explanation I think about my own golf game, the financial markets and life in general.

Let’s explore how discipline applies on and off the golf course.

The 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, New York is remembered more for Phil Mickelson’s epic collapse than for Geoff Ogilvy’s victory.  On the last hole of the final day of the tournament, Mickelson stood on the tee box with a one stroke lead, needing only a par to win his first U.S Open and third straight major championship.

The 18th hole at Winged Foot is 450-yard par 4, with a narrow fairway. Not an easy hole, even for the pros. Mickelson decided to start with a driver rather than a safer 4-wood club and he pushed his tee shot into a spectator tent.  On his second shot, he tried to hit his ball around a tree –a very difficult “hero shot” – that ended up ricocheting off a tree and rolling back to his feet.

From there it went from bad to worse and Mickelson carded a double bogey (two over par) on that final hole and lost the U.S Open. One commentator called it “one of the worst collapses in U.S. Open history” as these video highlights of that final hole confirm.  Did Mickelson stick to his plan on the 18th hole?  No. And, I am sure he would agree that he did not.  What if Mickelson hit the safer 4-wood instead of driver off the tee? What would have happened had he chipped out to safety from behind that tree instead of attempting the low percentage hero shot around the tree?


In life’s high-stress moments, it’s not always easy to stick to your plan and convince yourself you are making the right decision. These situations test our human nature to second-guess ourselves and make mid-course corrections without thinking through the consequences.

There are few, if any, guarantees in golf, in investing or in life. Over time, you will hit many good shots and probably even more bad ones. Having the discipline to maintain your composure and stick to your plan in each situation will most likely result in the best outcome.

Key Takeaways

  • Whether golfing or investing, it’s better to be consistent than to be a hero.
  • The right decision is often the least exciting one.
  • Like successful golfers, successful investors having the discipline to stick to their plan no matter the circumstance.



Registration with the SEC should not be construed as an endorsement or an indicator of investment skill, acumen or experience.  Investments in securities are not insured, protected or guaranteed and may result in loss of income and/or principal.  This communication may include opinions and forward-looking statements.  All statements other than statements of historical fact are opinions and/or forward-looking statements (including words such as “believe,” “estimate,” “anticipate,” “may,” “will,” “should,” and “expect”).  Although we believe that the beliefs and expectations reflected in such forward-looking statements are reasonable, we can give no assurance that such beliefs and expectations will prove to be correct.  Various factors could cause actual results or performance to differ materially from those discussed in such forward-looking statements.  Historical performance is not indicative of any specific investment or future results.  Views regarding the economy, securities markets or other specialized areas, like all predictors of future events, cannot be guaranteed to be accurate and may result in economic loss of income and/or principal to the investor.  Investment process, strategies, philosophies, allocations and other parameters are current as of the date indicated and are subject to change without prior notice.  Nothing in this communication is intended to be or should be construed as individualized investment advice.  All content is of a general nature and solely for educational, informational and illustrative purposes.

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About Patrick Melvin Jr.

Patrick D. Melvin Jr., is a Wealth Manager at Independence Advisors, LLC. Pat models client’s financial plans and works with the firm’s clients on financial planning areas such as retirement planning, investment planning and estate planning. CLICK HERE TO ASK PAT.

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