Summer is slowly approaching, which is a magical time for golfers and poker players. For one, golf is being played all over the country (although it's a little warm in the desert areas), and the World Series of Poker is in full swing in Las Vegas. One of the reasons I moved to Nevada and lived there for three years is to have more options to play poker, as well as rekindle my passion for golf. As I've played and studied poker over the years, I've learned several things from poker that I have been able to apply to golf that not only has improved my game, it also provides perspective, which can save one's sanity. Here are some of the most important lessons I've learned from poker.
1. The process is what matters; stick to good strategy and results will come.
Anyone who has played poker online can attest to the fact that it can be extremely frustrating. You play your best, make as many good decisions as you can make, and sometimes the cards don't go your way, and you can lose a lot of money even when you're playing optimally.
The same thing applies to golf. One of the biggest common fallacies is that most forms of gambling are strictly luck, while sports are strictly skill-based. Truth is, there is plenty of luck regarding the outcome of a round, a tournament, or a season.
Just as it can take thousands or hundreds of thousands of poker hands to realize your true win-rate, it can also take several rounds, maybe even years, before the results you're capable of producing will come to fruition.
What does this mean for the professional? It means that patience is absolutely essential. You can't predict results. As frustrating as it can be, luck plays a role in scoring on the golf course. If you continue to improve, stick with the process, and stay patient, the results will come.
2. Own your mistakes, and learn from them.
The pursuit of perfection can be devastating to both poker players and professional golfers. No matter how good you are, or how well you are playing, you're going to make mistakes. The worst thing you can ever do in these circumstances is to ignore these errors and not learn from them; even worse is to blame your losses on someone or something else.
Does this mean that you beat yourself up and dwell on mistakes? Of course not. Great poker is not gauged by how many spectacular plays you make; it's about finding leaks in your game, studying approaches to fix those leaks, and making better decisions when similar situations arise. Professional golf is no different.
3. It's a long-term game.
This ties into number one, but deserves its own mention. While you can track wins and losses in poker based on finite sessions, it's important to understand that it's a long-term game, which will last a lifetime, or however long you choose to play.
Golf is the exact same way. Sure, a round of golf is fixed at 18 holes, and a tournament will usually not run more than 72 holes. Do these finite golf sessions reflect your overall ability? No.
Golf should be thought of as a long-term game. Think of your results over thousands or tens of thousands of holes, and I'm sure you'll see that you'll have moments of brilliance mixed with times of struggle.
The better a player is able to see the game from an expansive viewpoint, the easier it is to focus on the shot, the moment in the present. No matter what you shoot for a round, or a tournament, there will always be another moment. Put your best foot forward on every shot and you'll have a competitive advantage over those who can only focus on results.