I love playing golf for many reasons. Sometimes I play for fun and just the love of being outside, hitting the ball and being with friends. Often I compete, which is the real measure of what I am made of on and off the golf course.
As the years I’ve been playing pile on, I expect to experience a drastic improvement in my game. I start each season exclaiming “This will be my year! I’m going to win my flight”. But invariably I make the same mistakes year after year, with my score and handicap hovering at the same number. Similarly in business I go year to year with flat sales and never really get the big break I think I deserve. Why is that?
Last year I decided to take control by tracking my game and keeping notes after every round. As I did, I discovered striking similarities between the way I conduct business and play golf. By analyzing my game, I faced a self-evaluation and found a very revealing window into my strengths and faults not only as a golfer, but as a business person!
Taking the time to plan and strategize I have a “go for it attitude” on the golf course. One of my weaknesses has been course management. As much as I like to win, I was never willing to sacrifice the fun of letting it rip on the tee box, even if it meant the placement for my next shot was less than optimal.
In the game, as in business, I constantly find myself in situations that require sacrificing short-term fun for the long-term goal. One year, I was playing really well in a championship and coming into the 9th hole I was feeling confident. Unfortunately I hit my drive into the trees. I got to my ball and had two choices. Either sacrifice some yardage and hit a short sideways shot out of the trees or “pray for a miracle” and go for it to the green through the trees. I decided to go for it and my ball hit the tree and richocheted backwards 50 yards leaving me in a worse position. I ended up posting a 10 on that hole.
Studying this situation post-game (I lost of course), caused me to reflect on how I handle new business opportunities. When a request for quote, or an rfp comes my way, often times my “go for it” “pray for a miracle” attitude leads me to spend a lot of time responding to something that really isn’t a good fit for my firm.
While a “go for it” attitude is important in business, it’s also important to weigh options and measure risk/reward.
The will to win On the flip side, playing golf competitively teaches me to truly believe that I can win. I practice mental toughness, because there is no room for doubt on the golf course, just as confidence is key when making a pitch to a new client.
Note the dreaded 8th hole at Doral Arrowwood in Rye Brook. With the best of drives, you are left with a carry of 120 yards over a pond filled with bullrushes and water snakes to a green that is very tightly tucked between sand to the left, water to the right and a creek at the back. There is absolutely no room for self doubt and the slightest negative thought will land your ball in the water. Laser-focus, picking the spot on the green, and swinging confidently are a must.
That’s why golf is such a great game—especially for women. In business we need that big desire to win and can’t be afraid of competition. But we also need to be smart and strategic. By playing what some think is a time-consuming silly game, we get to practice strategy, self-management, and mental toughness—all crucial characteristics to being successful in business, outside on the golf course. A new season is starting and this year really will be “my year”!
Sherry Bruck is currently president of Executive Women’s Golf Association (EWGA) Westchester chapter. www.ewgawestchester.com. EWGA is a national, not for profit organization formed in 1991 with over 20,000 members in the U.S. and Canada. The Westchester chapter was formed in 1998 and has over 200 members. Bruck is also owner and president of Harquin Creative Group (www.harquin.com), a full-service marketing communications company and can be reached via email firstname.lastname@example.org.