Randomness in Golf
Count me among the many that have been influenced by Nassim Taleb’s books, The Black Swan, and Fooled by Randomness. And not surprisingly, I thought about how they can apply to your golf game. The subject of these books is randomness—how unusual things can happen that nobody has thought of, expected, or prepared for. These can be both good and bad. Past performance is not indicative of future results!
When applying randomness to golf, we can think of things that have happened to us on the course that are completely unexpected. On the good side, things like holes-in-one, chip ins, or other unexpected good breaks are examples of positive randomness. Think of Louis Oosthuizen’s amazing double eagle in the second hole of final round of the Masters this year. On the bad side, we can all think of the time when we’ve hit one OB after making two birdies in a row, or hit a shot that is completely uncharacteristic of our games. Think of Rory McIlroy’s triple bogey on the 10th hole of the final round of last year’s Masters. How can we take advantage of randomness in golf and use it to our advantage?
First, we have to realize that a lot of the randomness on the golf course is out of our control. Good bounces, bad breaks, and what your opponent does are completely out of your control. Second, we have to stay grounded. If you hole out for eagle on the first hole, it doesn’t mean the course record is in jeopardy. The opposite is also true. If you hit two straight balls in the water, it doesn’t mean you are the world’s worst golfer. You have to take (or at least try to take) emotion and ego out of the equation. It easier said than done, but you have to focus on the process of playing your next shot and not get too high or too low when the random crazy event happens.
Third, we have to take advantage of the random good things and not dwell on the random bad stuff. If you get a lucky bounce or make a great shot, make sure your bear down and concentrate on your subsequent shots to not let that good luck go to waste. You have to also have a short memory to forget about the unexpected bad things that can happen.
The most memorable things in golf are the unexpected. Nobody remembers the time they hit their drive in the fairway, hit their approach on the green to 20 feet away, and two-putted for par. The lasting memories come from the most random.
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Brant Kasbohm, PGA
Director of Instruction