- A golf course is a special place. It’s a safe space. A golf course is that rarity in our world: a no-judgment zone, a place where you can be yourself, and perhaps even discover yourself, by focusing on the game. It is a meditative place, a place that centers you. The latest estimate is that there are something like 33 million active golfers in the United States. Odds are you know one of them. Ask that person whether this is a special place. My guess is that they will tell you that it is the perfect place to reset. If you are worried about how poorly you might play, or how you will look, let me just say the following: Play anyway. Build up your courage muscle. Learning to put things like fear of embarrassment aside is an important part of your personal growth. I am here to tell you that I have played with some major, major golf pros, and sometimes I was initially concerned about how I would look to them as I played. You know what? It was no big deal. I just played my game. They played theirs. We connected. The ease with which you will find yourself moving beyond irrational fears like”how will I look” is part of the experience that makes a golf course suc a special place. Nothing in life is as intimidating as we first imagine. And I can tell you from personal experience that a golf course is a great place to learn that lesson – and strengthen your courage muscle.
- A golf course sets you up for success. That’s because a golf course is a great place to build and strengthen relationships. I am talking here about all kinds of relationships: family, business, and everything in between. There is a popular stereotype about the golf course being a place where executives close deals. That has not been my experience, and I’ve played a lot of golf with a lot of different executives over the years. What I have experienced is that it is easier for people who play golf with one another to connect with each other, be real with each other, and show vulnerability. So from that standpoint, yes, the golf course is the best possible place to take business contacts. You will definitely reap higher benefits on the golf course than you would from the same number of horse spent taking someone out to dinner. You will connect with people on a golf course in a way you cannot in any other setting. And strong, enduring connections are what set you up for success. (Side note: The golf course is also a great place to learn who you don’t want to do business with!)
- A golf course sets your kids up for success. No joke! In addition to helping them learn how to create the deep, enduring connections described above, a love of golf sets your kids up for success in countless other ways. For example: by making it easier for them to get a scholarship to a great college or university. Think about it. Which do you think is easier to get: a football scholarship or a golf scholarship? Kris E. Wilson, CEO of The Littlest Golfer, may have put it best: “The first thing golf teaches is humility, the second; empathy, and the third patience.” Aren’t those the values you want your kids to live on a daily basis?
A golf course makes parenting far easier. This one surprises people, but it is absolutely accurate. I’m talking about younger children now: those aged between about eight and fifteen. If you’re a parent with kids in this age range and you are looking for a long-overdue day off, let me point you toward an overlooked, top-quality babysitter your kids will love that also puts your kids on the fast track for success in later life: your local golf course. Google “First Tee” and “PGA Junior League” for more information on the relevant programs–or contact PGA REACH and we will point you in the right direction.
- A golf course is fun. That is reason enough to be there! Sure it can be frustrating sometimes. But every hole is an opportunity to reset. The reason golf is fun is simple: working to improve your game makes working on yourself more enjoyable. Golf can be a team sport, yes, but ultimately it is about you: your mindset, your ability to focus, your willingness to adopt a mindset that supports yourself and others. You may be thinking that mastering those things takes work. What if mastering them was really all about play?
- Getting better on the golf course helps you get better elsewhere in your life. No, you’re probably not going to be Lee Elder coming out of the gate. The fundamentals matter, in golf as in life. So you’re going to have a learning path. You’re going to work with a pro who can coach you on those fundamentals. With the help of that coach, you’re going to set clear goals, and you’re going to do what you need to do to achieve those goals. You’re going to practice. You’re going to learn. And you’tre going to improve. Then you’re going to set new goals. Guess what! This is a pattern you can implement elsewhere in life – in leadership, in sales, in innovation, in any area that matters to you.
- Lessons you learn on the golf course connect directly to lessons you learn about yourself. In addition to learning about the strengths and weaknesses of others while you are out on the links, you will inevitably learn important lessons about your own strengths and weaknesses on the golf course. I have learned countless lessons about how to manage myself on the golf course. You will, too.
- A golf course is great for your family. Golf gives you an opportunity for quality family time you can’t get anywhere else. Move beyond the mini-golf! Take your family to the next level! I promise you, you won’t want to go back.
- A golf course empowers you to reclaim your agency – your ability to truly OWN the choices that determine the direction and quality of your life. Early on, I claimed my agency in the world of business by refusing to be an outsider – and by getting in the game. One of the most important ways I got in the game was by learning to play golf! When I first started playing, I did not have the love of golf as a sport that I do now. I thought I “had to” play golf to advance my career and to feel more included, because I saw that important connections were happening on the golf course. I played – poorly at first – as means to an end: the aim of making myself more visible. I soon fell in love with the game for its own sake. I also learned that saying “Hey, I would love to play with you sometime” was a great way to say, “I would love to get to know you better – you’re someone I want to spend time with.” That powerful invitation allowed me to create and expand relationships that mattered and get a clearer sense of what was important to other people– and it also gave me a clearer sense of what I could learn from them. Long story short: golf helped me strengthen my courage muscle, get myself in the game, and put myself in the driver’s seat of my own life. Golf can do the same for you.
Today, in my role as a trustee of PGA REACH and co-chair of PGA WORKS, my goal is to promote more inclusion in the game and diversify the golf industry’s workforce. I love this role. The more I engage with golf and golfers, the more opportunity for meaningful personal and organizational change I witness. With every drive and every putt, we strengthen the courage muscle, and we shift the paradigm.
Let me also point out that a golf course really can change the trajectory of a young person’s life. This is the whole point of the PGA WORKS Fellowship program. It provides the opportunity for a one-year, paid immersion in an entry-level employment experience that offers a taste of what a career in the golf industry can provide. To learn more about the Fellowship program, or to find out about sponsoring a PGA WORKS Fellow, drop me a line!
If you are a woman or a member of a minority group and you are not yet golfing, my message to you is simple: get in the game! If you are a woman who is ready, willing, and eager to do that, I hope you will connect with us via the PGA REACH website (pgareach.org), or connect with me on LinkedIn. I would love to get you in the game.