Balancing the golfing act

Like many of us, I started experimenting with new hobbies in the year 2020 and so began my passion for the game of golf. I was lucky that my son shared my passion (he is now the captain of his high school golf team) so we were able to play together, challenging and pushing each other to get better. We have both continued to learn and improve over time, with my journey starting from an over 30-handicap (no surprise!) to an under 9-handicap. We now actively play tournaments over our heavily packed weekends as we continue to work towards an under 5-handicap.

Being from India, I always thought cricket was a more fun and difficult sport until I started playing golf. The more I learn, the more difficult this game gets, and it invites you to push your limits while having fun too. Wins and setbacks are part and parcel of the game, even when you birdie hole 16 on TPC Scottsdale (and feel on top of the world) or score a triple bogie on hole 17 of TPC Sawgrass in the very next game.

Along the way, I have noticed many similarities between golf and business. I thought I’d share some of my observations along with a few memories as I try to keep the balance between business, golf, and life.

Here we go….

Quitting is not an option. Stay positive. This game can be extremely frustrating especially when you have not been learning this game from the age of seven. As Arnold Palmer said, “Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated. It satisfies the soul and frustrates the intellect.” When John Rahm or Scottie Scheffler misses a one-foot putt, I feel better, thinking that I am not alone, even the best can have the worst of moments. Like in business, focusing on small wins to celebrate, staying positive and learning from mistakes that can be avoided to minimise the misses helped see a continued improvement in the game.  

Just like course management in golf, strategic planning is crucial for leaders. Assessing the situation with better course management skills, setting clear goals, and developing a plan to achieve them is key to driving success in both golf and business. Minimising the misses is the name of the game.

In golf, quick decision-making is essential with endless variables to contend with including layout, hazards, elevation, weather, etc. The same holds true for business leaders who face decisions every day with a combination of known/controllable and unknown/uncontrollable variables at play. Making informed and timely decisions is crucial to achieving business objectives and staying ahead in the competitive landscape.

Adaptability is a trait golfers develop to navigate changing course conditions, and it's equally important for leaders to be adaptable in ever-changing business environments. I prefer to explore new and difficult courses to challenge myself and learn from experiences in an unknown setup. Being open to innovative ideas and adjusting strategies as needed helps us stay competitive and drive success.

Golfers also display integrity and values. There are nine core values that are very well-known in the professional community of golfers, and these are honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and judgement. Similarly, we need to inspire and guide our teams, build a positive work culture, and lead by example to achieve organisational goals. I have seen no other sport in which players call penalties on themselves when appearing from creeks and woods. Honesty at its best!

Focus on your next. Making the best of the bad lie of the course and focusing on how best to control the damage is key in golf. Resilience is a quality golfers cultivate to overcome setbacks, and it is something that business leaders also need. Bouncing back from failures, learning from them, and staying the course to reach our goals are crucial for success.

Legendary golfer Ben Hogan once said, “The most important shot in golf is the next one.” Instead of getting bogged down in your mistakes, learn from your failings, reach for your sand wedge, and knock the next shot from the trap onto the green.
Similarly, in business, if considerable time and effort are lost in developing a product or capability that doesn’t work, it is best to learn lessons and move on to the next one rather than dragging out a failed endeavour.
I continue to incorporate these lessons into our work culture and game. Wishing all my fellow golfers a fantastic day on the greens! Tee up for success in both golf and life. Do reach out if you are looking for a game of golf in or around the bay area. It would be great to catch up.

This article was first published on LinkedIn

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