Golf is very difficult. In fact, the average score for decades remains at 100, even with all the advanced equipment and the interest in the game according to the National Golf Federation. Rounds of golf do commonly lead to networking and meeting potential business partners, but what business lessons can the game itself teach us?
Let’s play one hole and determine a number of take-aways you may experience that may relate to running your business.
You are standing on the first T-Box looking down a narrow fairway. This hole is a 280 yard par 4. You see the green straight ahead. There are bunkers to the left side of the fairway and along the green, and there is a growth of trees to the right about 180 yards from the T-Box.
With such a narrow fairway you have to decide whether to play it safer with a 4 iron or take a chance with a driver. Hitting the fairway with the driver would give you a better chance of making it to the green in two and a possibility of making a birdie or an assured par. On the other hand, your play with the irons is more consistent.
Your decision to use the driver resulted in a slight fade into the band of trees on the right of the fairway. Now your thoughts go to: what went wrong? Your stance was right; you focused on the area on the fairway you wanted the ball to go. You knew that a 1 degree error in your stance could have a 30 yard variance, left or right from your aim.
As you walk toward the trees where your errand shot landed, you notice that the skies are clouding over and a significant pick-up in the breeze.
You arrive where the ball landed, and notice that you have a clear shot to the green between two large oak trees about 20 feet apart. This time you choose to chip onto the fairway with your pitching wedge. As you set to hit, you look over to those two inviting oaks. A thought suddenly enters your mind of Bubba Watson and his tremendous finish at the second hole of a sudden-death playoff at the 2012 Masters in Augusta, defeating Louis Oosthuizen.
Bubba was in a similar situation only his view was to the fairway with the green totally out of sight. The left-hander decided to hit a sharp hook high over the trees to his right, which he executed perfectly landing on the green and eventually winning the tournament.
As that thought of Bubba leaves your mind, you take your pitch shot and land safely on the fairway. Your third shot, a lay-up, lands on the green ten feet from the pin. As you begin lining up your put, the wind kicks up even stronger and it begins to rain. You “read” the slope and condition of the green determining the speed and direction to stoke your golf ball. The ball should move from left to right, and with the rain the speed will be slower than on a dry green. Direction and speed are key and each impacts where the ball goes. You take your putting stance and take the shot. The ball thankfully follows the path you envisioned, starting off to the left and then the slope of the green takes the ball to the right. Success! The ball lands in the cup for a par.
Well, now you look over to the leader board. Two players birdied the first hole, twenty parred, and four bogeyed.
Indeed, a lot transpired both on the fairway and in your mind and it’s only the first hole!
Let’s recap and break down our play on the first hole into seven lessons as it may relate to our businesses and strategies.
- When starting a project or a new business, adopt your own “stance” but insure your aim is at the desired target. Use or hire the right talent and garner the best resources to maximize success. If you have better success with an iron on a narrow fairway, why use the driver? That leads to Lesson #2:
- Understand what the risks are and hedge against them in proportion to the outcome desired.
- Measure and analyze what goes right or wrong but learn from the exercise. Ben Hogan once said, “The most important shot in golf is the next one”.
- Know your limitations with resources and don’t forget that time is probably the most important. How you play the first round is mostly quite different from how the last round is played.
- Your greatest opponent may not be the competition but rather other factors, such as the government, the weather or yourself. Incorporate the unexpected in your thinking.
- Work hard as well as smart at your game to increase your chances of success. Bubba’s incredible shot at the 2012 Masters was probably not the first time he played a shot like that. Arnold Palmer once said, “I have a tip that can take 5 strokes off anyone’s game: It’s called an eraser.”
- Recognize a continuous need for improvement, and the realization that perfection is a goal not a reality. “Golf is a puzzle without an answer. I’ve played the game for 50 years, and I still haven’t the slightest idea of how to play.” – Gary Player.