What Can Golf Success Teach You About Tax Planning

There are more parallels than you might first imagine – and for both, it’s critical to take expert advice to guide you, improve your skills and help you achieve long-term success

Golf has undoubtedly experienced an incredible upswing in popularity, despite – or perhaps because of – the enforced coronavirus restrictions. In May, the governing body, the R&A, revealed that there was an incredible 2.3 million extra golfers in 20201.

Indeed, the total adult golfers on a full-length course – nine or 18 holes – rose by 2.1 million players to 5.2 million – the highest figure recorded this century. Over one-third (36%) were returning or new golfers, with 16% starting or trying golf for the first time because of the pandemic2.

Goal setting and long-term planning

There are, in fact, plenty of parallels between performing well on the golf course and being smart about tax. For both, goal setting and planning for the long term – usually with the guidance of an expert – are critical to reaping big rewards.

For example, to be a great golfer today, you need to have a workable, personalised plan; be patient; play the long game; and be receptive to expert advice and coaching. With a proactive and knowledgeable partner with whom you can collaborate, the likelihood of victory increases significantly.

The same could be said about tax planning, according to Tony Clark, Senior Propositions Manager at St. James’s Place. “Tax is core to most people’s financial planning,” he says, “so if you are trying to manage it on your own, there is a good chance you’ll miss something – perhaps concerning tax allowances and reliefs – and hit the equivalent of a bunker.

But a trusted adviser, like a good caddie, knows where the obstacles are, can help you cut through and show you what is essential, so you make expert decisions.

“With tax and golf, you should be thinking about the next three or more moves. You need your eye on the current shot but also can’t lose sight of where you are heading and the end goal.” Extending the analogy, Clark suggests that if you play a terrible hole in golf, you have to put it out of your mind, move on and trust your game plan when approaching the next tee.

Don’t panic: stick to the personalised strategy

Stoke-on-Trent-based PGA Professional Gareth Shaw, who is part of the member education team at The PGA, agrees that sticking to an expertly tailored strategy is imperative, as with tax planning.

“If you have a poor hole, you shouldn’t panic,” he says. “You have to play your own game, stick to your personalised plan. If you see the club pro taking out their three wood and driving the ball to the middle of the green, it doesn’t mean you should do the same – perhaps stick with your three iron. It’s key to follow your own route to success and play within your capabilities and to your strengths.”

Shaw, who has worked in the golf industry for over 15 years, stresses that both smart tax planning and improving your golf game “all starts with a realistic, personalised plan and good advice”. He adds, “It comes down to having a structure and understanding the lie of the land in terms of rules and regulations.

“The best thing you can do is partner up with a proactive, trusted expert who understands what your short, medium, and long-term objectives are and has your best interests at heart. Learn from them, face to face, and don’t expect them to do it all. Take on board what they are saying to improve your game quicker. You don’t want to be hitting the financial version of double bogey after double bogey.”

Given that scoring two over par on consecutive holes would assuredly spoil a good walk, and hitting the tax-planning equivalent could severely harm one’s finances, it makes good sense to seek out and collaborate with a trusted expert to help you out of the rough.

If you would like help identifying simple but effective tax-saving opportunities, talk to a St. James’s Place Partner about completing a Tax Health Check.

Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage.

The levels and bases of taxation, and reliefs from taxation, can change at any time and are generally dependent on individual circumstances.

1,2 2020 GB&I Golf Participation Report, R&A, 25 May 2021