Golfers, Goats and Rituals

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Sitting Tenant on path to 14th tee, West Mon

On the tee at the par 3 18th at Dewstow Golf Club I reached for a 7 iron. This was the first time I’d played the course but on meticulous investigation of the yardage (card), the wind (finger in air) and slope (downhill) I thought a 7 iron was perfect. I noticed my playing partner (a life long member at this club and a hitter of similar distance to me) reaching for an 8.

I put my 7 iron away and hit the 8. I was 10 yards short. My playing partner hit an 8 and was also 10 years short.

“I’m always short on this hole” he muttered as we walked after our balls.

Golfers are creatures of habit. We obey sets of regular, repeated behaviour often for no other reason than we’ve always done it – I leave a drop of tea in my cup even though I haven’t used tea leaves for 20 years, I read the newspaper from the back to the front even though the sports pages have long since moved to a special section of their own. I put 3 long tees and 3 short tees in my pocket at the start of each round. I always hit driver on the 8th – I think it’s the law.

“A golfer has more rituals than a catholic priest.” I’ve heard.

Consider this; the parable of the quiz show, the car and the 2 goats.

On a tv quiz show there are 3 prizes – 2 goats and a car. There are 3 doors in the studio and behind each door is either a goat or a car. The contestant chooses one of the doors. However this door does not get opened immediately. Instead the host of the show, who knows where all the prizes are, will give the contestant more information and allows them to change your mind, if they want to. The extra information you get is your host opens one of the doors not chosen to reveal a goat.

The intriguing question now is “Should the contestant stick with their original choice of door or change their mind?”

The initial thought may be that this seems ridiculous – surely your first choice should stay as you’ve a 1 in 3 chance of winning…. surely it can’t make any difference?

However it does and you should. You should change your mind and you’ll have a better chance of winning. Let me explain;

There are 3 doors – A B and C. Assume the car is behind Door A .
This means there are 3 possibilities;

1.You choose Door A. The host reveals the goat at Door B. If you now change your mind and choose Door C you only win a goat.

2.You choose Door B. The host reveals the goat at Door C. If you now change your mind and choose Door A you win the car.

3.You choose Door C. The host reveals the goat at Door B. If you now change your mind and choose Door A you win the car.

If you keep Door A you will only win a car 1/3 of the time.

The situation has changed. A few minutes ago at the beginning of the exercise you had a 1 in 3 chance of selecting the door with the car behind it. Now with the additional information there is a 2 in 3 chance.

OK – it’s a little contrived but the principle is the same – if you get more information don’t ignore it – reassess. Often I see players wandering off to chip with a wedge and find a bad lie. Instead of walking back to their back for a sand wedge they’ll try a ridiculous shot with the wedge then moan for the rest of the round. Or players will see their playing partners leave their putts short and will then hit their own putt short,and moan about it for the rest of the round. If things change – reassess and change with them.

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