The Parallels Between Golf & Entrepreneurship

For those golf fans out there, this past weekend is one of the most iconic golf tournaments of the year.  I would venture to say that even if you don’t follow golf, you are still aware of the Masters, which is played in the beautiful Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia.  

Golf is something my late father and I bonded on, whether we were watching or playing.  Dad was an avid golfer for the challenge that it provided, the fellowship that it brought for his brothers and friends, the business that progressed, and, ultimately, the vehicle it is for raising money for various non-profits.  In the 15 years leading up to his death from ALS, he raised $12M for charities through golf tournaments all over the US.

Throughout his 64 years, he golfed in over 40 countries worldwide, including many iconic golf courses, but by far, his favorite tournament was the Masters, and he attended many times.  He loved the Masters because it drew on tradition; there are breathtaking moments that are etched into the history books and remembered for countless generations.  When he passed on April 4, 2014, it was only appropriate that his funeral ended up being on the same day as the first round of the Masters.  Therefore every year around the anniversary of his passing, I know it’s close to the Masters, and I watch as much as I can.  I’ve even started the tradition of watching with my tiny humans as a way to remember their grandfather.

The game of golf is one of strategy, being locked into the right mindset, exhibiting a level of confidence and resilience like none other, navigating pivots, and remaining poised under pressure – golf is a lot like entrepreneurship.  As I draw on this comparison, I think those of us who are entrepreneurs can learn a lot from the game of golf as well as how the best players in the world have both bad days and good days.

And much like golf, entrepreneurship is beginning to open its doors (and greens) to those who haven’t participated in the past. While some doors are opening slowly, others are being kicked in by women, people of color, and others who want to live the dream of creating something that provides impact to their community and audience.

While the Masters is one space in golf slow to open its door, there are still valuable lessons and comparisons I noticed this past weekend while watching some of the most elite male golfers vy for the coveted green jacket.

This year, the 88th Masters is being deemed as one of the most challenging weather-wise for players, given the rain, but more pressing was the wind.  Players were coming off the course, and their bodies were feeling as if they had been playing in a boxing match; their minds were exhausted from having to think and strategize how to move a 1.62 oz ball through the air with 40-mile-an-hour gusts, dodging trees, bunkers the size of half a basketball court, and don’t forget, the water.  

Players were having to strategize, execute, pause, re-evaluate, pivot, and re-execute from hole to hole, but some even had to do this stroke to stroke.  What may have worked on one hole didn’t necessarily work on the next hole.  Even with each passing day, as the hole positions change, your strategy and plan have to change.  It’s a real lesson in agility and flexibility – a lesson in how you can navigate the pivots and a mental lesson in how to stay in the right mindset no matter what is being thrown at you.  

How often isn’t this what happens in entrepreneurship?  What works one day may not work the next.  Perhaps it’s a product or a service when you embarked on this journey; it may have looked very different when you started than how it looks now.  Did you pivot with those changes?  Did you embrace what market or customer discovery showed us?  There are certainly highs, lows, and maybe even lower than lows.  So how can we maintain that strong mindset that says no matter what comes my way, I will finish this day, I will finish this hole, I will finish this round?

Do you ever see a professional golfer doing it alone?  They always have a caddie.  That caddie has a number of jobs.  They are there to strategize alongside the golfer on each shot on each hole, manually calculate weather and distance measurements, provide the emotional and mental encouragement that’s needed, and even physical support such as carrying the bag, holding an umbrella, reminding them to eat and drink, and identifying what that golfer needs to be the best version of themselves in order to execute.  The relationship between a golfer and caddie is a strong one.  The caddie is someone who the golfer trusts; it’s someone they can rely on no matter the situation they find themselves in.  

As I mentor many entrepreneurs, I hear a common theme and misconception that they have to do it all alone, and that they can’t ask for help. This is far from the truth.  You must ask for help.  There is no way to do it alone.  Mentally, physically, and emotionally, we are wired to do these hard things with support and with a team.  Perhaps it’s your GSD Factor Clan or your GSD Factor Insiders Board.  Surround yourself with those people who can be your caddie.

The game of golf, like entrepreneurship, doesn’t choose favorites; it doesn’t choose based on popularity or celebrity status.  If you humbly approach that tiny ball, visualize the shot, lock in that mindset, and diligently continue to show up, the ball will eventually reach the hole. Eventually, you may even wear your own version of the green jacket.