In most areas of my life, I try to take a measured long-term point of view, but when I play golf, I tend to take chances hoping to improve my score. One example of my over aggressiveness comes from a round I played a few months ago.

I was staring down my second shot on a par five, deciding if I should lay up (taking a shorter and easier shot) or try to reach the green. The easier shot I could probably execute 8 out of 10 times. Going for the green required me to hit a 3 wood as well as I can, over a lake and onto a very small green. The last time I played this course, I had executed this exact shot on the same hole, so I assumed I could do it again. I’m sure you can predict where this shot ended up: wet and gone forever, and I had a penalty stroke to add insult to injury!

As my ball splashed into the lake, my playing partner questioned my decision to take this difficult, and in his opinion, unnecessary, risk. As I reflect on it now, looking for the spectacular in the short term did not help my final score for the round.

I probably will not stop taking risks on the golf course as a result of this round, but I will try to choose more carefully the risks I do take. Taking on more risk might yield better long term results, but we need to be prudent and have a very good understanding of our personal risk tolerance. Asking the following questions can be helpful: Is this a good time to take this particular risk? What am I trying to accomplish by taking this risk? Am I willing and able to absorb the loss if this risk does not produce the results expected? These questions could lead to more balls on the green than in the water, and better long-term investing results.