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Survey Says: Golfers, Like Investors, Go By The Numbers

It's summertime, and for golf lovers, there's no better way to spend time than on the links. As for how the game is played, a recent study shows that golfers are more aggressive on the course then they are with their finances.

Why would you care? Because 26 million Americans---or one in 11--play the sport, pumping billions of dollars into the game, according to the National Golf Foundation, an industry group.

This month marks American Century's 14th annual American Century Championship golf tournament. In conjunction with this celebrity golf tournament, a national survey of 400 Golf Digest subscribers was conducted earlier this year to see if there was any correlation between golfer's attitudes towards their investments and their golf game.

"Given the current state of the economy and the market's volatility over the past several years, it's not altogether surprising that golfers perceive themselves as less aggressive with their money than they are with their approach to golf, " says Michael Barr, a senior vice preside of corporate marketing at American Century. " Since the boom years of the late 1990s, the market has moved from an easy chip-and-putt course to a more challenging one filled with major championship rough, traps and hazards."

Interviews for this survey were conducted by telephone to golfers aged 25 to 50-plus, who played an average of 4.7 rounds of golf each month. Given that each round of golf lasts about 3.5 hours, golfers spent about 16 hours each month playing the game and less than nine hours a month managing their investments.

Ninety-three percent of those interviewed were male (next year, let's hope American Century asks women golfers what they think). Understanding that gender bias, here are some of the survey's findings:

* Sixty-five percent of those interviewed said that they enjoyed instructional books, magazines and videos designed to help them improve their game and 56 percent actually seek advice from golf pros to help them do so.

* Fifty-three percent said that they consider themselves to be aggressive golfers; 41 percent said that their score "doesn't matter" if they were hitting the ball well; 19 percent would rather "hit a big one off the tee than sink a 25-putt"; and 10 percent thought that when "driving the ball, distance is more important than accuracy."

* Seventy-one percent said their approach to investing was to go "slow and steady"; 70 percent believe in the buy and hold investment philosophy; 68 percent weren't going to make a lot of changes to their portfolio holdings to capitalize on market trends; and a whopping 67 percent expect their portfolios "to outperform market averages."

* Sixty-two percent said it was important to minimize risk in order to keep the assets they have; 54 percent will seek advice from investment pros; and 28 percent consider themselves to be aggressive investors.

*Only 21 percent of the golfers were willing to take "substantial risks" with their investments in hopes of gaining large returns; 36 percent said they enjoyed doing investment research and that same percentage said that "in a downturn in the market they would capitalize on the opportunity to make new investments."

In the end, both the game of the greens on Wall Street and those on the course came down to a battle of wits with 49 percent of respondents agreeing with the phrase, "It's not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game"; and 47 percent saying, "Winning isn't everything....It's the only thing."


Dian Vujovich is a nationally syndicated mutual fund columnist, author of a number of books including Straight Talk About Mutual Funds (McGraw-Hill), and publisher of this web site.

To read more articles, please visit the column archive.

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