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Trading: Par for the course

Lately, I’ve watched lots of golf videos. I consider this the internet’s nosy/cheeky/suggestive way of reminding me I’m an average, fair-weather golfer, with Summer approaching and the US Open on the TV this weekend.

I like these videos because I don’t play often enough but I’m curious how to improve my game, to ensure I enjoy myself when I do get on the course. Because, over the years, I’ve noticed that just thinking about your game can be time well spent. After all, pros have psychologists to help with their mental game. Not quite the same, but you get the picture.

The video which struck me most was on “course management”. Everyone loves smashing a driver. But can they guarantee hitting the fairway? A pro challenged Mr Average to play a typical hole (par 4, 380yds) as he would do normally (e.g. driver, iron, wedge, putter).

Mr Average drove it long (200yds), but into the rough. He scuffed it out of the rough, not much further along the fairway. A long iron – still aiming for max distance – got him left of the green, but in front of a bunker. An overplayed wedge sent him to the back of the green, miles from the hole. Three putts were required to finish the hole.

The pro, however, would only use clubs with a max distance of 150yds – a 9 iron in his case. So he hit his 9 iron, twice, staying just off centre fairway. A wedge to the centre of the green. One putt for par. Result: 7 strokes vs 4.

When they swapped, Mr Average took his 150yd club (7 iron; favourite club, like me). Much like the pro, he hit it twice, both times staying on the fairway. A wedge put him front of the green and he two-putted.

The pro took a long iron off the tee, a mid-iron to get on the green and then two-putted. Result: 5 strokes vs 4. Just one stroke difference. In fact, adjusted for handicap, Mr Average achieved par, putting him level with the Pro.

How does this relate to trading? You don’t always need to look for maximum distance (upside) from every situation (trade), including the rough (calling the bottom). You can just as easily get from tee to flag without smashing the ball.

It may not look as impressive, but achieving par or nicking a birdie comes from playing percentages, playing efficiently, playing within your ability and making good decisions. It’s not about hitting the biggest club possible each time, hoping for the best, harking back to that one time you hit that club amazingly well.

Just use the club you know you can hit well in that situation.

It reminds me of when a friend and I played one Sunday, which was so busy we were grouped with a pair of elderly gentlemen. They may not have hit the ball far, but my word they were efficient, barely straying from the fairway. They kicked our butts, consistently making par while we struggled round.

Nowadays, when I do play, I tend to ignore the big clubs in my bag (sometimes they stay in the shed). I prefer to stick with those I’m most comfortable with. I try to replicate that more efficient style of play. It’s far less tiring and, sometimes, amusing to watch your playing partner struggling in the rough.

So next time you trade shares, don’t just assume they’ll deliver you a 5/10/20% return, just because they did last time. Look at what you can reasonably expect from this situation. Because it’s different every time, in light of recent trading activity (new highs, new lows, trendlines, news, etc).

Be realistic with your stop loss or exit levels as well as your take profit levels. Like golf, if you want to beat your opponent, by all means go for it from time to time, hoping for the best. But the majority of the time it’s about being honest with yourself about what you can realistically achieve there and then.

Sometimes that little safety shot, being happy with a few percent is fine. Getting greedy, wanting more, is when it can cost you dearly, landing you in the sand – bunker not beach – or find the ball/stock in an awful unplayable/untradeable lie.

After all, it’s a long game (literally), not just about one hole or one trade.

Here endeth today’s golf-trading lesson.

Whatever you do trade, whether its FTSE Miners, Banks, Housebuilders or Oil names, get access to our research Gold Pass to receive hand-picked Ranges, Breakouts and Bounces, to help you identify exciting trade opportunities and make better trading decisions. Furthermore our traders are only happy to offer you a personalised service based on your trade type or sector preferences.

Whether you’re playing golf or, like me, just watching it on the TV, enjoy your weekend.

Mike van DulkenHead of Research, 14 June 2019

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This research is produced by Accendo Markets Limited. Research produced and disseminated by Accendo Markets is classified as non-independent research, and is therefore a marketing communication. This investment research has not been prepared in accordance with legal requirements designed to promote its independence and it is not subject to the prohibition on dealing ahead of the dissemination of investment research. This research does not constitute a personal recommendation or offer to enter into a transaction or an investment, and is produced and distributed for information purposes only.

Accendo Markets considers opinions and information contained within the research to be valid when published, and gives no warranty as to the investments referred to in this material. The income from the investments referred to may go down as well as up, and investors may realise losses on investments. The past performance of a particular investment is not necessarily a guide to its future performance. Prepared by Michael van Dulken, Head of Research

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