Like Golf, Only Faster

Hunkered down, hiding out from the Coronavirus, I have been watching a lot of my old race videos. In addition to chiding myself, stomping my right foot on an imaginary pedal, saying, “You should be flat! Get back on the gas!,” I came to the realization that driving fast on a racetrack is a bit like golf, only faster. Stay with me, here. I think I can make it make sense to you too.

Early in my journalism career, I worked at a women’s golf magazine. As is the case for so many of the magazines I once worked for, it no longer exists, but its purpose was much the same as it is for Speed News. We exist to help readers enjoy their passion more.

While I was there, I was bitten by the golf bug pretty hard. Despite my wicked slice, I went to the driving range a lot, and we had a little nine-hole course just a few miles from home where a buddy and I could play a round after work and still be finished before dark.

When you play golf, you have to play each shot “where it lies.” You’re not supposed to kick the ball to a better spot. No fudging your lie when no one’s looking. If one of your shots is off target, your next shot needs to correct it in pursuit of dropping the ball into the cup.

Of course, there are always distractions such as your buddy’s score, or the heat, or your mood, and on and on. The best golfers can put all those distractions aside. Every round is just them against the course. They play each stroke as though nothing is on the line and no one is watching.

The same mental game unfolds as we drive a fast lap on our favorite racetrack. Each corner exit affects the entry to the next. During qualifying, we focus on executing each turn as perfectly as we can, and if we turn in just a bit too early, we need to correct it on the exit and hope it doesn’t affect the next turn.

The challenge lies with setting those same fast laps when you’re dicing with 20 other cars on track during a race. There’s a lot on the line and everybody is watching, and there are other cars between you and your pursuit of a different kind of cup. That doesn’t happen in golf.

Just like in golf, the best drivers put all those distractions aside. They drive unfettered by the cacophony and chaos around them. They drive with a focus on the task at hand. The best drivers thrive under the most chaotic conditions, which I suppose is where the analogy of golf and racing comes apart.

To an outsider, golf and racing can look easy, but anyone who’s ever picked up a club or tried to turn a fast lap on a racetrack knows better. As we sit out the spread of the virus, we all might stand to learn a few things from some of our old videos. Maybe I’ll work on my swing again, too. I wonder if I still have that wicked slice.


  1. Years ago I met Arnold Palmer and we were discussing the similarities between Skeet shooting and golf and the mental game of staying focused and not allowing ones self to be distracted. He said years prior he was playing in a very important match and he was about to make a very important birdie to will all the marbles. The gallery all remained silent as he was lining up and all of a sudden off to the side of the course there loud sirens and then lots of traffic. The crowd gasped and Arnie took a step back and just watched as a funeral procession passed. Then he had a huge smile but then he took the shot and made it and the crowd roared. Afterwards while receiving his trophy a sports writer yelled out, “Arnie, during that clutch put on the 18th hole, that distraction would have really messed most players up. What in the heck were you thinking that made you smile?” Arnie said, “ I just told him, “If she were still alive we would have been married 45 years this week.” The bottom line is, don’t see distractions as an “Oh my god” negative moment. Always make a distraction a positive go get’em opportunity.

  2. An Excellent article drawing comparisons of two unlikely similar sports. I am a 40+ year member of the PGA of America and former player on the PGA Tour. I played my share of competitive golf at nearly every level. I have always been a car guy and grew up in the south drag racing on Saturday nights (at the track) with my brother and friends. When was no longer competitive in golf, I through I would try something new, NASA HPDE… Well it didn’t take long to be hooked and the adrenaline rush was standing on the first tee at a Major Championship. I am only in HPDE 3, but I fully agree that trying to improve your time on the track is like trying play just a little better round of golf. If I were going to put a golf handicap to my driving, I am about an 18 handicapper, but working to get better and that is where the fun lies. It is mental and requires focus. The two are so similar that it makes me wonder why… I always called golf “The Great Distraction” because when you playing golf, you engrossed in the game, whether good or bad, and the rest of the world does not exist. You are totally focused on the game at hand. I find a day at the track the same, a total distraction from the rest of life. A track day requires your full attention, focus and concentration. And when done, I am exhausted. I love it. I am glad you made the comparison between the two. They are so much alike and both are wonderful activities filled with great times and great people. I hope the I run in to you sometime at the track. I am always looking to learn and would love to hear how you think your way around a circuit. Like I always said in golf:
    The most important and most difficult shot in the world… is your next one. In driving the hardest corner in the world to negotiate is your next one…

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