Tee Off: Business Lessons Highlighted by the Game of Golf



There are multiple strategic business principles that are exemplified by the sport of golf. Both successful businesses and successful golfers have a defined process that is vital to their success.


Timely and decisive decision making is the best example of a key similarity between golfers and business managers. Decisions are always a combination of both risk and reward factors. In identical situations, sometimes risk dominates the decision, i.e., is the golfer leading the tournament or is the company currently profitable? It is very difficult to improve a business without taking significant risks. Managers cannot be afraid of failure; failures are learning events that will help the success of the next decision to take the mandatory risk for improvement.

“It is very difficult to improve a business without taking significant risks. Managers cannot be afraid of failure; failures are learning events that will help the success of the next decision to take the mandatory risk for improvement.”

All successful golfers have a plan that has both macro and micro components. Similar to businesses, there is a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly plan. The plan must be flexible enough to adjust to daily change and adaptable to items that are out of the control of both the golfer and the business, e.g., the COVID-19 pandemic. Concentration and focus are cornerstones of successful plans.


Golf is portrayed as a sport of individuals. In fact, golf highlights the criticality of teamwork for a business. The professional golfer’s team, at a minimum, has a multi-faceted group comprised of the family, the golf coach, the caddy, the fitness trainer, the dietician, the psychologist and the business manager. In business, it is critical to have the right attitude, high expectations and the ability to deal with adversity. Among other issues, the business manager has to control time management for the team. Excellent time management is another key to successful businesses.


"In business, it is critical to have the right attitude, high expectations and the ability to deal with adversity. Among other issues, the business manager has to control time management for the team."

Commitment to regular, consistent practice is a common trait among successful golfers and successful businesses. Practice focuses on specific skills such as putting and driving and involves a full team approach. High quality, passionate teachers, and trainers are required in business to teach skills such as finance, communication, selling, business development, purchasing, plant operations, recruiting and other disciplines. Repetition and skill assessments are part of the practice process.


Successful plan execution is easily measured for a golfer each week. It is more difficult for a business because of time factors and whether the success parameter is solely financial performance. In business, events such as effective meetings, effective sales visits, effective marketing, effective plant operations and effective customer experiences are all dependent on the process. Successful execution is a result of the process.


Let’s enjoy and learn from the game of golf. As Arnold Palmer once said, “Winning isn’t everything but wanting it is.”

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