This past weekend I went out with some friends for a socially distanced round of golf. All of us carried our own bags and we were sure to keep the distance from each other. As we approached the sixteenth hole, I was one down in a match with one of my friends. In golf, you can play either stroke or match play. Stroke play is where you add up the scores for each hole and at the end of the round, the person with the lowest number of strokes wins. In match play, each hole is its own match. For example, if we both have the same score on the first hole then we are tied. If I have a lower score on the second hole, I am now one up in the match. This continues through the round until someone is ahead more than there are holes remaining.
So, back to the 16th hole, a par three playing to about 205 yards with a pin tucked into the back-right corner on a slightly raised green. My playing competitor had the honor and hit first landing on the left side of the green before rolling into the first cut. This was not a guaranteed par, between the contours of the green and his sometimes-shaky short game. Either way my competitor had his work cut out for him. Knowing a par would most likely at worst tie the hole, I chose a bit more club and aimed for the middle of the green.
My normal ball flight is a fade meaning it flies from the left to the right which should be perfect for this hole and specific pin position. Well, I took my swing and as our group watched the ball it started to track directly towards the pin. Since we could not see it land, everyone thought it could be awfully close to the hole. As we started walking towards the green, we could not see a ball near the hole and my heart started to beat with excitement. I kept walking and as I looked into the cup……..I saw it was empty. Where was my ball? Looking back a mere five yards, we saw the ball and it had the worst lie in the bunker. Imagine my disappointment thinking I had my first hole in one to now a plugged lie in the bunker.
Instead of remembering my match, I hurriedly hit my shot all while trying to hit it close to the pin rather than just get it out of the sand. Well, ultimately, I left my second shot in the sand and proceeded to take a double bogey five on the hole. My competitor posted a bogey and yet still won the hole. With two holes to play he was two up. Ultimately, I lost the match with a significant reason being my play on the 16th hole.
Beyond sharing my love/obsession with golf, what can we learn from my story?
- There are eighteen holes in a round of golf, yet I allowed one-hole to impact my entire round and match. This would be like us allowing one event to impact our entire long-term plan. Recently, this event could have been the election.
- My lie in the bunker was horrible. Rather than deal with the shot at hand, I tried to make up for it and ended up making my problems worse. There are instances where we may not make the smartest financial decision. Rather than accept a poor decision was made, we take even more risk to try and make up for our previous bad decision.
- I hit my shot out of the bunker way too fast without considering my options. Our world is moving so fast and we can get information almost instantly. Rather than trying to make sense of each piece of data every second, we need to sit back and take a holistic view of the information and see how it would directly impact us and our plans.
- Even beyond the 16th hole, I needed to do a better job of playing my own game and not letting my competitor’s actions affect the shot I wanted to hit. Financially we need to do the same thing, in that we should not let what our friends or family are doing financially affect what we are trying to accomplish. Each of us has specific goals, different from others, along with different risk profiles. We are here to help you try and achieve all that is important to you.
While I did not get a hole in one there are still positives, I can take from the experience especially considering everything going on in the world. Additionally, the beauty of golf is before I tee off, I fully expect to shoot a career round and get a hole in one. Thus, I cannot wait to play again.
With all the uncertainty and worry over the prior few days, know we will get through this period. Stay safe and healthy and we are here to help or even just listen.
Have a good weekend.
Chris Zeches, CFP®