Expert Excerpts: Sports


Scott Fawcett – Shot Selection in Golf

Scott Fawcett Transcript

Thank you. Well, it’s often said that golf is like a microcosm of life and since life is all about problem solving and decision-making and dealing with frustration, which all checks out to me, it sounds like about every round of golf that I’ve ever played. You can really start taking a lot of just casual life advice and then trying to switch that into golf. And what I did with Decade was essentially optimized course management by combining millions of shots in the ShotLink database from the PGA tour with shot pattern information that we now have launch monitors. And so you’ve got to think of a shot pattern on the golf course as being like a shot gun glass.

I know that we all wish that we had a sniper rifle, but it’s just not what we have, and unfortunately for us also, when you fire your shotgun on the golf course, only one pellet comes out at a time and you really have no idea which one is coming next. And so really codifying the decision making process to where young junior golfers are able to think essentially like Tiger Woods after about three or four hours of either lecture or online content watching has really revolutionized the game. And essentially, if you watch any golf right now, Bryson deChambeau, Will Zalatoris, Maverick McNealy has a chance to win today. All of these young players that are doing some pretty amazing things on the PGA tour, essentially I’ve worked with, at least 95% of them. And again, I failed as a professional golfer, largely because I was a lunatic, and so trying to look back at what I did wrong and how mental I got on the golf course is really what I try to teach my young players, how to avoid those things.

And we use math to essentially have better expectation management. So, you’re not out there thinking you need to be hitting every shot close, making every single putt. Once you actually understand how many shots it should take to hole out from any given area, it’s easy to not know, I shouldn’t say it’s easy, it’s easier to not be a lunatic. And so really then you start learning that as scores, as you improve, as your scoring average drops through the 70s, which that’s a pretty high level of player, it’s definitely, I shouldn’t even throw out a number, it’s got to be in the top 10% of players out there. Your scoring average drops largely from making fewer bogeys far more than it does by making more birdies.

And so much of that is, it’s interesting because there’s so much of loss aversion in life and psychology, and so understanding that out there on the golf course, it’s actually a good thing to be worried about loss aversion all the time and trying to, I tell my players, I don’t want you to tip toe around and just try to not make mistakes. I want you to feel like you’re playing aggressively while you’re just tiptoeing around and trying to not make mistakes. So, what we’ve done is essentially quantify how large shot patterns is and then just overlay that with, again, a little bit of basic expectation that because at their core, all decisions are made from using some form of weighted average math, whether you realize it or not, even something as silly as crossing the street. I mean, depending on how big of a hurry you’re in, you’re going to probably want to hover right around 100%.

Whether you realize it or not, that’s actually what you’re doing with essentially every decision you ever make, where you’re just weighing the potential outcomes and then how important is it for you to cross the street? How important is it for you to try to make a birdie in any given spot? And so systems, the Decade system, is essentially just a checklist that codifies what experienced people have taken decades to learn in any given genre and that’s actually the reason I can call it Decade, Will Zalatoris, after I caddied him a few years ago when he won the Texas Amateur in the US Junior, he sent me a text afterwards that just said, I’ll never know how to thank you. You’ve given me 25 years of experience in five days. And so, you know what? I try to always encourage people, whatever your genre is, is to try to look for ways to systematize the decision-making process.

Mainly because as the brain is developing, and again, this is all just stuff, this was not intentional. I did create Decade on purpose. I did not think that it would change the way the game is taught, but what I’ve really come to realize over the last few years is that the developing brain, basically, it’s not that young people under the age of 25 are idiots, they’re actually really smart, they simply don’t have all of the pieces of the prefrontal cortex specifically, to synthesize all of the information that’s coming at you in order to make a coherent decision. Which is why 18-year-olds make far better soldiers than somebody like me with gray hair and a gray beard make, because I have enough experience to say that looks like a bad idea out there and they’re still young enough, not dumb enough, but just not experienced enough to say, well, I’m going to live forever.

So these systems help people that do not have a fully developed brain yet. And then beyond that, what I really try to get players to focus on and what I really used to be a little bit timid about talking about, I think timid is actually the right word, I was trying to think of a better one. The idea of just meditation, I’m a huge Sam Harris fan, and I used to think whenever I failed as a meditator back in my 20’s, when I was trying to play professional golf, I was under the impression that you were supposed to have no thoughts. And so naturally when my brain was constantly bombarded with thoughts, I thought I suck at this and would just head out the door and go right back to my fast paced brain. What the point of meditation really is, is rather recognizing these ruminating, recurring thought patterns and loops in order to stop them before they get out of control.

And in golf, so often people think, God, if I can go back 30 minutes, I would do this different or do that different and that’s obviously not the way any sports work and golf is no different than that. And Tiger Woods just recently, he was on a Golf Digest event where he was teaching Jada Pinkett Smith, was the day before his car wreck, he was teaching her how to play golf and how to think her way around a golf course. And they started talking about meditation, which honestly, I’ve known for a long time, I’m the exact same age as Tiger. I’ve known for a long time that he has played in a meditative state. Honestly, back in the late 90s, early 2000s, we thought he was playing golf hypnotized. And it’s really, this interview with Jada, she asked him, so when did you start meditating and Tigers to answer, he kind of laughed, and he said, when I was born.

And getting people to start seeing that we can talk about meditation. I’m going ahead just by answering my, what has me optimistic question right now? Dang it. But essentially just the fact that I used to feel like I was selling avocado and sprout sandwiches out in California anytime I would talk about meditation and now I feel really comfortable with all that and you’re starting to see it a lot more in the mainstream. So with golf, it really is about understanding that you don’t know what shot is coming next. The fact that we can make a math based decision in order to, again, codify the decision making process, and then for a lunatic like myself, hey dude, you actually can stop being a lunatic, you just have to have something like Sam Harris’s Waking Up and then an actual meditation practice where when you find yourself under the gun, you can finally take a deep breath, recognize that ruminating thought pattern, make a coherent math based decision and stop fritting away so many shots, which again is what most of us do in our lives on a daily basis.


Michael Tollin — Why The Last Dance Dominated COVID-19 Sports Entertainment