My Lessons from the Golf Course

The great sport of golf is a wonderful yet very humbling (and sometimes cruel) game.  It is one of the few sports that we can play well into our… ‘more refined years’, and get better at over time despite being ‘past our prime’ in most other sports!

Golf is a game that I want to fully embrace in my life – being outdoors on the beautiful courses, the competition, the need for poise and calm under pressure, and the camaraderie with your fellow golfers.

More importantly – if we are open to it – golf can teach us many lessons about life and ourselves if we are willing to listen.

In the past, despite not putting in the hours upon hour of practice to build up a decent game, I would walk on the course and expect more from myself than was realistic.  As a result, my anger and frustration would cloud out all the good stuff happening around me on the course, and those 18 holes would turn into my own personal mental hell.

I promised myself that the next time I walked on the course, things would be different…

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This past weekend, my wife and kids headed to upstate New York to visit my parents.  As luck would have it, my dad was signed up for a captain and crew golf tournament and needed a forth.  I jumped at the opportunity despite not playing for a while… a long while.

The day before our wedding, my wife and I planned a golf outing with our close friends and family since we were having the reception at a country club with a fantastic golf course.  That was the last time I played a legitimate round of golf… we will be married for 7 years in September – just to create some context.  Look out surrounding fairways, here I come!!

So there I was – excited and a bit nervous to walk back onto the course.  Really, I just didn’t want to embarrass myself – talk about setting the bar low.

Like old times, dad brought me to the driving range and we both got after it – getting ourselves loose for our round the next morning.

It was great – on multiple levels.

First, I actually got into a pretty nice groove at the range.  I’ve never hit more straight shots than I did that evening – especially with my driver.

More importantly, I had a chance to spend some quality time with my dad, and get coached up again like old times – whether it was on the golf course, football field, baseball diamond, or track.  I felt like a kid again, and his support helped build me up for the round ahead just like he did in preparation for all the practices and games in my youth.

I walked out onto the course that next morning with 2 objectives – better objectives than ‘not embarrassing myself’:

  • Contribute a shot on both the front and back 9 holes (in captain and crew, you keep playing the best ball as you make your way towards the hole)
  • Open my mind to what I could learn from the game and from those 18 holes

Well, I went above and beyond my first goal, contributing a handful of shots – sometimes multiple on the same hole. [Insert pat on the back here]

And for opening my mind… well, let’s see what I learned.

Lessons from the golf course to improve your game in life

I picked up some great nuggets between the driving range and course that I hope can positively impact your life – I know they will impact mine.  Let’s dig in!

Keep your head down – We all put in the hard work day after, and swing after swing.  As a result, it becomes tempting to want to see the results and fruits of your labor before the time is right – perhaps even a moment too soon.

I’ve picked my head up way too many times over the years because I was  impatient and wanted to see where the ball was going.  As a direct result of that impatience, I sprayed the ball all over the course, into other fairways, or into the woods – never to be seen again.

We will always be excited to see the results of our work or swing.  So to ensure they are the best results possible, let’s build our patience and put in every last moment of focus on the task at hand until the ball is on its way.  Then let’s take a look and enjoy the result.

Trust the process – While I’ve played a variety of sports throughout my life, I certainty haven’t played the majority.  With that said, I still feel that the golf swing is the most complex aspect of any sport I’ve seen.  There are so many components of your swing to focus on, and if one is even a little out of whack, your ball could go anywhere other than where you actually want it to go.

Once you dial into your swing – everything from assessing your situation, taking your practice swings, making your approach to the ball and finally the swing – you must trust the process.  Sure, there are going to be different tactics whether you are playing from the rough or in a sand trap, however your mechanics and mentality going into each swing need to be the same – we must trust our swing and our process.

We will have bad swings whether in life or business – let’s not go back to the drawing board and rearchitect our swing or business strategy after one mistake.  Trust yourself, your swing and your process – then get back after it.

Finesse vs. Brute Force – During the tournament, a few of the longer holes had a best drive competition.  At each of those holes there were signs telling the golfers to “Grip it and Rip It”.  Very tempting… believe me.

However, this mentality is more likely to land your ball in another fairway than on the longest drive list.  As my dad kept telling me, the clubs are designed to send that ball where it needs to go IF you hit it right.

That grip it and rip it strategy is more likely to throw off some aspect of your swing and work against your desired outcome.  My point – pay attention to the details and the mechanics of what you need to do.  Understand what works for you and keep improving it – 1% better each and every time.

Don’t let the temptation of going after the longest drive derail you from the ultimate goal of reaching the pin as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Have a short memory – I honestly believe we are wired to dwell on and over-analyze the negative moments.  It sucks, and it’s something we need to work very hard on to overcome.

We will have bad shots in life – and when those bad shots happen we can either be consumed by them so that they negatively impact our next shot, OR shake it off and look at the opportunity to make something great happen on your next swing.

Maintain a short memory and keep your sights ahead and focused on the pin – there is nothing positive waiting for you when you look to the past.

Remember why you are out there – We aren’t professional golfers – at least the vast majority of us.  Therefore, when we are out there let’s remember why.  Maybe we are having a morning or afternoon outing with close friends, or doing business on the course while having some fun.

We aren’t playing to rise to the top of the FedEx Cup rankings.

Don’t take yourself too seriously. Instead, enjoy your time outdoors with friends and colleagues.  It is FAR better than being back in the office tied to a chair and cubicle.

Follow through –  Just as critical as your back-swing is your follow through.  I have no doubt we all work extremely hard on our craft.  We put in a ton of hard and grueling work behind the scenes to create the optimum work product or performance.

However, if we don’t follow through – whether on our swing or with our commitments to clients, customers, family, or friends – then the success we desire to achieve won’t happen.

Rely on your ‘crew’ – The biggest benefit I had which allowed me to really enjoy the round this past weekend was knowing that I could rely on the rest of our foursome to play brilliantly when I would make a bad shot.

Most often in life, we will have a team to support us – if we let them.  Even a professional golfer has his caddie on the course to advise him on the strategy and proper club for each and every swing – not to mention all the supporting coaches off the course.

Let’s not ever feel like we have to go it alone, and let’s surround ourselves with great teams to encourage us in our strengths and fill in the gaps around our weaknesses.

A popular concept in the professional / personal development space is that you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.  Let’s take that to heart and surround ourselves with a high quality crew that will push us to be our best – that also means if you are the best golfer in your foursome, then it’s time to find a new foursome!

Wrapping Up

I learned a great deal from my time at the range and on the course.  Let’s make an effort to open ourselves up to learning from all different types of experiences in our lives.  The lessons are out there – we just need to be willing to listen.

Big thanks to my dad for all the great life and golf lessons, and for letting me come out and play.  Looking forward to our next round!

Discussion Question:  Which one of these lessons can you apply to your life right now?  How can it help you make a positive impact or change?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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