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Golf Lessons

Golfer In The Middle of a Swing

As another major golf event came to a close at the PGA Championship in Louisville, I thought about all the great lessons I’ve learned from playing the game for nearly 50 years. Golf is one of sport’s most elaborate classrooms. The game can teach a person many valuable life skills. The First Tee program is based on just such a premise with their nine core values – Respect, Courtesy, Responsibility, Honesty, Sportsmanship, Confidence, Judgement, Perseverance, and Integrity. It would be hard to argue that there is a better list of life skills than that one, all that apply to the game of golf.

If you don’t play or are not overly familiar with the game, know that golf is a very rules-based sport that can be completely maddening for even the world’s best players. Golf has a lot of governance to it, structure, and a really stern set of procedures for nearly every possible situation out on the course. While social golf is the more fun version of the game, tournament play can be a bit stressful at times. On the flip side, that structure and the discipline required to become a good player offer great opportunity to learn a lot that can be applied to life in general. Here are a few…..

  • Commitment – There is no easy button in golf. You have to put in the time to hone the craft that is golf.

  • Honor – In golf if you break the rules you get disqualified. You may be able to bend the rules sometimes in business, not in golf. It’s black and white, no gray.

  • Tradition – A lot like baseball, golf is steeped in tradition. Records are closely held. The nuances of the game once learned, are quite important. Golf has a spirit to it that is a bit unique in sports. Traditions are important, in sports and in life.

So how can golf’s lessons apply to business? We offer up three thoughts…..

  • Teamwork – Golf is a team game. Even if you are playing as an individual competitor, you need support from a lot of people. Your family, your swing coach, and your boss (to give you time off to practice and compete) to name a few. In the amateur ranks, high school and college competitions are most often 5-player teams as well. For a golfer to reach their full potential, numerous people need to support the journey. This is true in business as well. For any organization to achieve meaningful results, a lot of individuals need to row the boat together in the same direction.

  • Competition – Like any business, golf is very competitive. You are always trying to be the best in whatever you do. Golf is no different. Every time you punch the clock, make that sales pitch, or get a project to the finish line, you are trying to “win.” Each time a golfer puts their ball on the tee at the first hole, a new day of competition begins.

  • Goals – Golf is a bit unique in that not only do you try to better all of your opponents, you also compete against yourself. Every golfer has a goal (or list of goals) they want to achieve. Again like business, golfers goal set with what are usua lly data driven benchmarks Break 80, lower their handicap under 10, make their first hole-in-one (I’m still waiting on that last one). Businesses often have goals linked to sales, profitability, client retention, and new client acquisition. Organizations, like golfers, are measuring success internally, against itself.

On Sunday, American Xander Schauffele hoisted the Wannamaker Trophy for his first major championship. It was a record breaking performance for a victory that was long overdue for Xander. When asked about his thoughts in the post round interview, the three words he used?

Patience. Perseverance. Teamwork.

Well done Xander, well done.

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