The Easiest Way to Reduce Financial Stress and Drop Your Handicap

golf-wallpaper-2400x1350Last year Rory McIlroy finished in the top 10 in 12 of 17 events and won 2 Major Championships establishing himself as a legend in the making. Those who have had the privilege of watching Rory play in person notice what an incredible ball striker he is and immediately fall in love with the distinct sound of his perfectly struck irons as they compress the ball into the turf at impact. Unfortunately, you’ll presumably never be able to produce that sound yourself. The good news is you don’t have to.

The most impressive statistic contributing to Rory’s successful 2014 is that he was able to navigate 1,224 of professional golf’s trickiest greens with only 23 total three putts.  To put this in perspective, that’s only one 3 putt every three rounds.

I’m not sharing any revelatory news in saying that PGA tour players are excellent putters and you need to get better if you want to lower your scores. But WHY are PGA tour players better? And what is the fastest way for you to putt more like them?

The Real Three-Putt Culprit

Tour players make a high percentage of their putts from 5 feet and in. However, the best players in the world have spent their entire lives practicing short putts and you probably won’t improve quickly in that area.

Fortunately, there is an easier way to get better. There is no simpler path to immediate lower scores than dialing in putting distance control. Most people blame their 3 putts on their missed short putts, but the real culprit is the poor distance control of the first putt that left you with something more than a tap-in.

In the same way, people who feel as though money is tight often blame it on their frivolous spending at restaurants or drinking too many cups of Starbucks coffee rather than looking at the decisions made in the past leaving them with too little discretionary spending money each month. The Starbucks isn’t the problem, it’s the fact that you have a huge monthly car payment or bought too expensive of a house.

Avoid the Most Stressful Shot in Golf

Another reason to avoid the 3 footer is that it’s the most stressful shot in golf. In my competitive days I would be utterly exhausted after a round of poor pace where I had to grind over 3 footers on every green. For example, let’s say you two putt 13 greens per round. If the second putt is outside of “gimme range,” you are not only increasing your chances of missing the putt, but you are unnecessarily adding stress and depleting mental energy 13 additional times. By having control over the pace of his putts, Rory not only reduces his 3 putts, he also conserves more mental energy each round than his competitors. At the top level, every bit counts.

With proper pace, your second putt will always be closer to the hole. The closer your ball is to the hole, the more likely you will make the next one. Simple. Fortunately, as humans beings we have an incredible ability to react to changing distances and not much practice is required for improvement.

All you need is 15 minutes before each round of golf. While your buddies are banging driver after driver on the range, head over to the practice green and hit putts from gradually longer distances trying to stop each ball where the fringe meets the green. Focus intensely on where you want the ball to end up and let your natural ability take over. This will help you hone in on the speed of the green and leave you tap-ins all day.

Creating Some Breathing Room

There are many roads to improvement in both your golf and financial life, but some of those roads are shorter than others. Just like the path to immediate improvement in golf is to develop putting distance control, the fastest way to improve your mental and financial well-being is expense control.

No area of your financial life has a bigger impact on your general happiness than cash flow. When money is tight, it feels suffocating.

Tight cash flow causes bickering among spouses and a general cringe feeling every time you have to whip out your wallet to pay for something discretionary. If you find yourself worrying about money and nitpicking at your spouse for their frivolous spending, it’s time for a quick expense check-up.

First, list out all of your monthly recurring bills and add the total. As you look at this number, picture it growing a gigantic pair of ugly hands reaching out to choke you. The larger the gap between your fixed monthly bills and your net monthly income, the more freedom you will feel.

Once you’ve made this list, you may have to ask yourself the question, “Am I willing to feel choked in order to keep our premium cable/gym membership/luxury car, etc?” You likely will notice a few monthly expenses that can either be trimmer or eliminated – who knows, you may even want to move to a smaller house!

Get Your Expenses Within Gimme Range

Your financial life is one of trade-offs. By listing out your fixed expenses, you’ll be encouraged to ask yourself the questions of whether certain bills are worth feeling choked over. Decreasing your fixed expenses will have the most immediate impact in your overall financial well-being, and by doing so you’ll feel as if you just played a round of golf with no 3 foot comeback putts.

So stop worrying about the extra cups of Starbucks and take inventory of the kung-fu gripped fixed expenses causing you to worry about the small stuff in the first place. While you’re at it, stop blaming your three putts on the missed 3 footers and take some time to improve the poor pace control leaving you outside tap-in range.

You may not want to part with some of your stuff as you seek to decrease your expenses, but remember, a tap-in is much less stressful than a 3 footer.