Golf – a metaphor for life and business

Recently I was asked by a president of a company doing business in the golf industry how I would go about writing a marketing plan that would ensure his success. I said I would start by reading his business plan.

“Oh, I don’t have a business plan actually written down,” he said “I know where I want the company to go, but it’s all in my head.”

Imagine if professional golfers treated their businesses like that!

Fifty years ago, 99% of pro golfers eyeballed their distances from shot to shot during practice rounds. But in 1961, while preparing to play Oakmont, Jack Nicklaus knew that wasn’t enough and paced off every hole, creating one of the first “yardage books” in professional golf.

Today, annotated with meticulous notes, yardage books have become coveted course bibles for tour players and caddies. They are so well guarded that it was pretty big news in 2007 when Tiger Wood lent Annika the yardage book he used to win the 2005 British Open.

A pro golfer’s game plan is worth millions and is their business plan for success. I recently read that Arnold Palmer prepared for The Masters by playing the course backwards. Simple idea and yet brilliant.

High handicappers stand on the tee box and hope to hit a fairway; whereas pros start at the pin and figure out what shot they need to get as close as possible to their target. Starting at the pin, they know from which location they want to putt.
Once they know which shot will maximize their chance success on the green, they walk to that location, document their plan and look back down the fairway to ask themselves, “Now, how do I want to get to this spot?” This continues from target to target until they end up at the tee box.

Throughout this planning process, champions are keenly aware of everything that could affect their club selection and target – wind direction and speed, hazards, slope, grain, trees, rough, etc.

How many executives plan their businesses this way? Sure, it’s easy to hope forward, but what you really need to do is plan backwards.

Start where you want to end up in 3 years (i.e. identify your business goal) and work your way backwards, always asking the question, “What had to happen for me to end up at my target?”

There is more than one way to get from A to B, but one must be keenly aware of everything that could impact that next shot at success – market conditions, the economy, the competition, partners, world affairs, technology advancements, timing…there are so many issues that need to be considered – conditions that are as volatile as the winds at Amen Corner.

Golf – it’s a metaphor for life and business. Plan it backwards and play it forwards, one step at a time.

It’s a success plan for golf, life and business success that won’t be just a shot in the dark.


Article first published as Golf is a Metaphor for Life and Business on Technorati.

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  1. This is an excellent article. Thank you for a new perspective.

  2. Golf Lessons at MADPL

    Very much the law of attraction principle at work here – focus on where you want to be and the “how” will be revealed to you. You put this point across brilliantly in your golfing analogy to business planning.

  3. Thanks so much for your comments! It is quite amazing how much golf and business have in common.

    I just wish golf was my business 🙂


  4. Great post it’s interesting to see how much they have in common. I especially like your golf metaphor at the end!

  5. Thanks “Discover Golf” 🙂

    I really do appreciate you taking the time to comment.

    I just heard today (in all places, the hairdresser’s) that “shot in the dark” is a really good wine. I expect it’s from BC, but not sure.

    I’m heading to the liquor store in the AM to see if I can find it. 🙂

    Thanks so much again!

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