Much to the surprise of most people I know, I decided to take up golf ‘properly’ in April this year.
Someone who has known me since I was 5 even commented that ‘they didn’t see me as a golfer’! I wonder why that was. Is it because I am not terribly conformist in my ways of doing things, or that I am certainly not elitist in personality, or simply because I was not a middle aged man? Maybe all of the above. Who knows, but I was determined to prove them wrong – of course!
I’d hacked my way around a number of ‘Pay and Play’ courses over the past couple of years, without bothering with lessons, and to be honest, without having a clue of how to really play, and so I knew I had to approach this differently this time. So with my usual focus and determination I made the scary first visit to the local golf club, and put a plan together with the Pro to help me realise my ambition to improve (significantly).
I’ve now had 10 lessons, played 8 rounds of 18 holes, and have my first ever official handicap of 33, which I thought was awful but apparently one of the best ‘first handicaps’ in the women’s club’s history so I’ll accept it! But the other thing that struck me during this time is how golf is teaching me some Life lessons too that relate closely to my business self.
So in the week of the Ryder Cup starting, and the FedEx Cup ending with the PGA Tour Championship and a resurgent and victorious Tiger Woods demonstrating what hard work and determination can achieve, I thought I’d share these with you.
- Theoretical knowledge only supports practical application
I now understand that a lot of golf is actually Physics, and as such you can watch a lot of self-help videos, read top tips from the Pro’s library, and scour endless books on golfing theory, to appreciate the interaction between ball, club head, and physical stance. However it only counts for something if you can put it into practice on the course. You do not want to be accused of ‘All the gear and no idea’! Theory should support practice, and is there to help further improvement as your game develops. And practice reinforces learning, so time spent on the range and putting green will start to pay off – although it doesn’t feel like it at the time.
- Don’t assume everyone is better than you
One of the biggest barriers to getting started in golf is the limiting self belief that everyone who plays at the club is a really good golfer. Huge insight coming up – they are not! They may have the fancy electric golf trolleys and set of the latest Ping clubs (see point 1), but I’ve seen some players (men and women) fail to get the ball off the tee. My 3 Wood has frequently gone further than many of my co-players’ Drivers, only for me to lose it on the green with a 3-putt.
The key thing is to just get on with your own game. In a normal round of 18 holes that isn’t part of a competition, golf is a sport where you compete against the course and your own past performance rather than the person you are playing the round with. That promotes an acceptance of continuous improvement and lifelong learning for anyone who wants to play better in future.
However, I’ve also seen that experience counts for a great deal, and helps overcome imperfection in technique through knowledge and a canny knack of reading the greens that simply cannot be taught. I’ve seen some swings by older players that would make even the most seasoned Pro weep, but they always seem to hit a par or better, so who’s going to tell them to improve?
Consistency and bravery are also vital. Witness Justin Rose’s tremendous win in the season long FedEx Cup putting in for a birdie on the very last hole to take the big prize of $10million.
- The best team players aren’t always the best players
When I joined I was asked whether I was a ‘social’ golfer or a ‘competitive’ one, and my answer was ‘Both’! It seemed very odd that you would have to choose between being a friendly team-oriented person and an ambitious player that wanted to win in competitions. However having played for a few months now I do recognise that there are some individuals that are not the best players but are great when part of a team. As the captains of the Ryder Cup teams know, sometimes you pick players for their wider galvanising impact on the whole team and not just on their own personal performance. After all, Ian Poulter might not have won a Major in his career, but he is known as ‘Mr Ryder Cup’ in recognition of his team value and passion, and this is what has secured him (and his dodgy outfits) a place year after year.
- Tomorrow’s another day
If nothing else, golf teaches you resilience and determination. It’s the only reason that you will keep on going back week after week to try and break through the 100/90/80 shot barrier. You have to learn to leave frustration and disappointment behind after every stroke, every hole double bogeyed, every lost ball (8 in a round is my current record). To dwell on the past will distract you on the next shot. Golf is a game you play in your mind as much as on the course. Confidence is critical. If you don’t believe that you can hit the ball straight and long, you probably won’t.
- You can’t blame the clubs
Whether you are a novice or experienced golfer you understand one thing: you can’t blame the clubs for your performance. You have to take responsibility for the bad rounds as much as the credit for the good ones. My clubs are 8 years old, designed for men, little used, and clearly light years away from today’s technology, but I take the view that if I can improve my game with what I have now, I might get even better with a newer set. But equally, just like installing a new IT system, it could cause my game to fall over and rapidly decline, so I think I’ll wait!
So in the meantime I will continue to drag my mismatched set around in an unbelievably heavy bag using my pull along £5 golf trolley that I found in a local charity shop.
- Forming wider personal connections
The old cliché that business is ‘done’ on the golf course is not so true these days, especially with the high level of scrutiny applied by companies to all supplier sponsored events. However, it is where relationships can be built or developed further. Golf is a great Connector and has a unifying force that, just as with skiing, allows shared experiences to be discussed and debated long after the round is finished.
Creating personal connections is a real benefit of playing, whether you do it for pleasure or business, or both, like me. I will have the pleasure of attending a ‘FORE Business’ event this Wednesday which mixes golf with local networking, and sounds like the perfect combination for meeting new people. I will of course be the only woman there, such is the nature not only of organised networking activities but also sadly golf, so there will be a certain degree of ‘novelty value’ no doubt. But despite this being a little intimidating, occasionally you have to go into the lion’s den and hope they don’t eat you. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Let’s just hope I don’t out-drive my playing partners!
There are some aspects of golf that do more closely reflect the less attractive side of the business world too.
- On average there are only 20% of golf club members who are female.
- There is a rather ‘Old Boys’ attitude amongst some men that women should give way to them in terms of course availability, but thankfully this is changing – slowly.
- There is a clear gender pay gap between male and female Professionals, particularly on Tour.
- Male golfers have the highest profile amongst the public; how many of you have heard of Professional female golfers beyond Michelle Wie, Laura Davies and Georgia Hall?
Let’s hope that the call this week by the World Golf Federation to “transform the game from the gin & tonic 19th hole to an accessible sport fit for the 21st century” is heeded by more clubs and that the number of women who can enjoy playing golf significantly increases over the next 5 years.
If anyone is interested in joining me at a FORE Business event please message me directly, but as a final thought, this is what Tiger Woods said after 1,876 days without a tournament win and 4 back surgeries…
“I am 42 years old with a fused lower spine, and just really happy that I have ground out a chance to win golf tournaments again”.
Have a great week.
Lead Consultant & Founder – Primaverita