There’s a well known thought process in baseball intended to help teams manage the highs and lows of a 162 game season. The idea is that every team is going win 60 games and lose 60 games during the season. The key is what teams do with those other 62 games. If a team manages to win 35 of those remaining games then thats a 95 win season. Not too shabby. The tricky part about this thinking is that teams never know what games fall into which bucket until the season is done. However, I do think it’s a solid was of managing a long season.
I’ve started to think through my rounds of golf in the same way. Most rounds I’ll make six pars and six bogeys. The other six holes are usually the ones that make or break a round. Sometimes I mix in a birdie or two, sometimes a pesky double bogey rears its ugly head once or twice. Other times those six holes will just be a cocktail of pars and bogeys. I don’t use the handicap index on the scorecard to try and forecast my three buckets of six holes, that’s too much homework and too much pressure standing on each tee box. But as I walk off greens I will think about what bucket the hole might fall in. It limits my frustration when I make a bogey or make a few in a row because I know I’m going to likely make six of them. It’s also helpful when I make a collection of pars because I know I’m chipping away at the mystery bucket of six holes.
I think any golfer could use this strategy. If someone is trying to break 80, my 6 pars, 6 bogeys, 6 “other” would work. But for someone trying to break 90, the three “buckets” could be six bogeys, six double bogeys, and six “other.” Most golfers trying to break 90 are going to make pars, bogeys, and double bogeys. A few pars in that “other” bucket are going to play a huge role in landing that score in the 80s. Heck, someone could break it into six bogeys, three double bogeys, and nine “other” to create a bit more breathing room.
Every golfer is going to record bogeys every round. Golfers make bogeys, no matter how good they are. Low single-digit handicaps can turn a double bogey into a bogey, and they can turn a bogey into a par. A person trying to break 90 is going to make double bogeys, but budgeting for double bogeys will help a player walk off the green a little less annoyed.
Golf is all about managing expectations. The ups and downs of the game come quick and fast, just like innings of a baseball game, things can feel free and easy one inning and then the next inning guys are bashing the ball all around the park and it looks like a merry-go-round on the base paths.
The 30 teams in the MLB are all going to manage those final 62 games a little differently. Some actually win none of them. Others win all of them and also turn some of their automatic 60 losses into wins. If you play 30 rounds a year, you’ll have the same type of experiences as each of those baseball teams. Sometimes that bucket of “other” scores will be all pars and birdies, leading to a great round, but other times it will be a mess of bogeys and double bogeys and you’ll wonder why you didn’t just stay at home and play with yourself.