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The Art of Damage Mitigation: Lessons from Golf and Investment Portfolios Thumbnail

The Art of Damage Mitigation: Lessons from Golf and Investment Portfolios

I read a fascinating article recently on the difference between professional golfers and “scratch” golfers (people who shoot par on a regular basis). I was expecting the major difference to be that the pros can hit it 350 yards and bend their shots in ways that seem to defy the laws of physics, but that wasn’t the difference. According to this article from golfmonthly.com, a PGA tour professional shoots 3.64 birdies[i] per round, and a scratch golfer shoots 2.2 birdies per round. 

You’re telling me the difference between paying $100 a round and being paid millions a year is a single birdie? Well, not exactly. The difference is damage minimization. While the pro may only have 1.4 birdies more per round on average, they also score 2.1 less bogeys[ii], and approximately half the double-bogeys as the scratch golfer. This means that, on average, the professional golfer scores about 5 strokes better per round.

In both golf and investing, progress is not solely determined by the number of successes, but also by the ability to limit losses and protect against downside risks. Just as professional golfers separate themselves from amateurs through effective damage mitigation techniques, astute investors understand the importance of protecting the downside and avoiding the pitfalls of greed. The intention of this blog is to compare similarities between damage mitigation in golf and investment portfolios, highlighting the significance of safeguarding against losses and maintaining a prudent approach.

I. The Power of Damage Mitigation in Golf:

Like investing, golf requires a deep understanding of the game. Professional golfers meticulously analyze the course, anticipate challenges, and make strategic decisions to mitigate potential damage. Golfers know that a single bad shot won't ruin their entire round if they maintain their composure. They focus on the bigger picture and are adept at minimizing errors by carefully selecting shots and employing risk-reward strategies. They avoid unnecessary risks that could lead to catastrophic outcomes. Seldom will we see a professional golfer on TV try to squeeze a ball through a group of trees, over water, all while trying to strike the ball out of tall fescue (I did that twice over the weekend). More likely, they will make a safe, calculated shot that allows them to take a higher quality approach that is more in line with their original gameplan.

Similarly, investors must comprehend market dynamics, assess risks, and develop a well-thought-out investment strategy. They need to take a long-term perspective, understanding that short-term losses are inevitable but can be mitigated by staying focused on their financial goals. Investors must make informed decisions, diversify their portfolios, and avoid chasing gains that would put the portfolio at greater overall risk. By minimizing errors and adapting to ever-changing landscapes, they can protect their portfolios from severe damage.

II. Protecting the Downside in Investment Portfolios:

Just as golfers carry multiple clubs to tackle various situations on the course, investors should diversify their portfolios across different asset classes. Diversification helps spread risks and reduce the impact of any one investment decision. By investing in a mix of stocks, bonds, real estate, and other assets, investors create a robust portfolio that can weather market volatility. 

Just as golfers assess the risks associated with each shot, especially the more difficult shots like playing out of the bunker, the woods, or three fairways across state lines, investors must evaluate and manage risk in their portfolios. This involves understanding the risk-reward trade-off for each investment and implementing risk management strategies to further protect against unforeseen market downturns.

III. The Importance of Discipline and Patience:

Both golf and investing require emotional control. In golf, letting frustration or impatience affect your game can lead to poor decision making and costly mistakes. Similarly, in investing, emotions like fear and greed can drive impulsive actions, resulting in significant financial losses. Volatility and news headlines can lead investors to make irrational decisions driven by the desire to share in current upward trends, as well as avoid downward ones. Setting realistic expectations about investment goals can prevent individuals from taking unnecessary risks. By focusing on consistent, long-term growth, investors protect themselves from impulsive actions that may lead to substantial losses. Disciplined investors exercise patience, adhere to their investment strategy, and avoid making decisions based on short-term market fluctuations.

Golfers adapt their game to changing course conditions and adjust their strategies accordingly. Likewise, investors should be adaptable and willing to reassess their investment strategy as market conditions evolve. Staying informed, regularly reviewing, rebalancing portfolios, and speaking with your Advisor when needed can help investors adapt to changing economic landscapes.

The similarities between the two are remarkable. By drawing inspiration from golfers who strive to avoid costly mistakes, investors can adopt a defensive mindset, assess risks, diversify portfolios, and make prudent decisions. By emphasizing the importance of mitigating losses and maintaining emotional control, investors can preserve capital, pursue long-term growth, and navigate market volatility with confidence. Investors should aim to avoid undue risks in their portfolios and enjoy the journey toward financial prosperity. Remember, protecting the downside is not just about avoiding setbacks; it’s about building a resilient foundation for lasting financial well-being, and staying true to your gameplan.

 Sincerely,Dylan Farnella

Associate Financial Advisor 

About Wolf Group Capital Advisors

At Wolf Group Capital Advisors, a comprehensive wealth management firm and Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) based in Fairfax, VA, nothing is more important than the fiduciary responsibility we have in managing your wealth. Taking the utmost care, we focus on providing advice tailored to your specific circumstances. With more than two decades advising U.S. expatriates and non-US citizens employed by international organizations, we are qualified in investment strategies addressing global issues. Empathy and curiosity—combined with our experience in life planning and investment management—enable you to explore a wider set of possibilities that can lead to a fulfilling life you’ve worked hard to attain.


The information presented is not an offer or a solicitation to buy or sell securities. The information contained in this presentation has been compiled from third-party sources and is believed to be reliable; however, its accuracy is not guaranteed and should not be relied upon in any way whatsoever. This presentation may not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and does not give investment recommendations. Any opinion included in this report constitutes our judgment as of the date of this report and is subject to change without notice.

Diversification and asset allocation do not ensure a profit or guarantee against loss.

Additional information, including management fees and expenses, is provided on our Form ADV Part 2 available upon request or at the SEC’s Investment Adviser Public Disclosure website. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.


[i] A birdie in golf is completing an individual golf hole one stroke under par

[ii] A bogey in golf is completing an individual golf hole one stroke over par