The OODA Loop

The OODA Loop, developed by fighter pilot John Boyd, became one of the most important concepts in developing military strategy of the past century. According to Boyd, decision-making can be broken down into four basic principals named the OODA Loop.

The following shows Boyd’s concept for military tactics and business strategy and how you can apply it to golf.


O: Observe: Collect the data. Figure out exactly where you are and what’s happening.

We do this every time we hit a shot, without really thinking about it.  We evaluate the distance we need to hit the shot, the direction or shape of shot, the lie the ball is sitting in, the club we need to hit to complete the task, and outside conditions like wind & temperature. We even evaluate the situation in terms of who we are playing against.  

O: Orient: Analyze/synthesize the data to form an accurate picture. 

Once we have all the data, we crunch it. We create an accurate picture of what is needed and we develop options that will guide our decision making process.

D: Decide: Select an action from possible options.

We then evaluate the options, select the shot we are going to hit, and the club we will use to hit it.

A: Action: Execute the action, and return to step one.

We hit the shot, evaluate the outcome and then return to step one and start again.

In many ways, this simple but extremely effective method is the cornerstone to how great players develop their strategy. They always have a game plan and then execute it.  Too often in amateur golf, the golfer reacts to the situation without collecting all the data.  I often see golfers make mistakes with club selection without really thinking through the correct shot based on the information and their ability to hit the shot. They often react to what others are doing.  How many times have you pulled out driver because your playing partners hit driver, but you knew the high percentage shot was to hit a three wood or hybrid?

In theory, someone could use the OODA principal against you and bate you into hitting a poor shot. This is especially true in a match play situation.  At last years' Ryder Cup, Luke Donald beat Bubba Watson.  Yet on paper, you would think the long hitting Bubba would have a huge advantage.  Donald was, at times, 60 yards behind Bubba off the tee. That’s when Bubba wasn’t behind trees or up against fences.

Luke, however, did what Luke does best. He hit the ball in play, on the green, and relied on his strength, which at that time was putting, to beat Bubba.  Bubba succumbed to the throngs of fans who wanted to see the long drives, but hitting out of the rough proved difficult and left him scrambling to try and match Luke.  Luke won the match 2 and 1.  Luke’s ability to apply his OODA principal won him that match. 

Think about this concept when you play golf and read more about it at

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