When it comes to sports and their connection to the business landscape, golf has no equal. The relationship between the corporate world and the sport of golf is one that has been continually consummated for over a century.
There are a myriad of reasons why this relationship has worked so well and golf has reached the pinnacle of corporate entertainment, chief among them:
- People of any age can play it. This may be golf’s biggest advantage in the corporate environment; the 65 year old CEO can play around with the 28-year-old rising star with no problem. Not many other sporting activities offer that kind of flexibility.
- Golf’s complex — yet incredibly functional — handicap system allows competition to flourish between golfers of all skill levels.
- And perhaps most importantly, a round of golf last around four hours, at least three of which can be spent discussing business, wooing a client, or brokering a deal. Few things set the table better for a prospective customer than a good gold outing and an 18-hole sales pitch that ends with the customer winning (an age-old tactic). This has been known to lead to a handshake “done-deal” upon return to the clubhouse.
Others have argued that golf is so well suited to the corporate world because the requisite skills for success on the course – competitiveness, strategic vision, ability to keep cool under intense pressure – are the same qualities that produce achievement in the professional world.
The following quote attributed to the great Jack Nicklaus illustrates this point perfectly:
“Ask yourself how many shots you would have saved if you never lost your temper, never got down on yourself, always developed a strategy before you hit, and always played within your own capabilities.”
The “Golden Bear” was clearly talking about his sport of choice here, but the same principles apply to the business world. Those that maintain a steely resolve amidst adversity, calculate strategy and tactics before each move, and understand the nature of their personal and professional abilities, are the ones that climb to the top of the corporate ladder just like they rise to the top of the golf leaderboard.
And it’s been theorized that because the bond between business leadership and golf is so strong, that behavior and achievement in one is a good sign of ability in the other. For instance, optimal golf demeanor demands quick decision making abilities, personal integrity and mental fortitude. How one displays these characteristics on the course can be extrapolated to how they will perform at the office.
To wit: A golfer that agonizes over a club selection, only to throw a hissy fit when his choice proves poor and when he makes a lousy shot he’s ready with an excuse and then tries to kick his ball out of the rough when nobody is looking – when this guy goes to work and the corporate heat is turned up, you can expect him to act in a similar fashion: making haphazard decisions and then blaming others or outright cheating to avoid culpability.
You don’t want this guy as a golf partner or as a partner in your law firm, right?
There is often a tendency for sports lovers to make their games a metaphor for life, and as clichéd as these comparisons often are, sometimes they are apt:
“Every day you miss playing or practicing is one day longer it takes to be good” – Ben Hogan, golf legend
True in golf. True in business. True in life.