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Life Lessons Learned on the Course: Golf, Life, and Business

As expected, the 116th U.S. Open and Father's Day 2016 delivered. It provided some emotional stories during Sunday’s final round telecast, culminating in a ruling that ultimately displayed the honor and character that golf is all about.

It was an especially heartwarming moment for fathers everywhere as our new U.S. Open Champion, Dustin Johnson, dropped the final putt seconds before his son Tatum ran into his arms.

Golf has long been known as the world’s most honorable and genuine game, and the skills and traits of honor, respect, honesty, and integrity learned on the golf course are also essential in business and have been for centuries.

True Test of Character

When I picked up my first club, my father and grandfather both told me that I would learn more about a man on the golf course than anywhere else.

Golf’s culture was founded on honesty. This trust in the spirit of the game is emphasized by just how easy it is to cheat. You can move your ball an inch to the left or right to improve your chances, or you can deliberately record the wrong score.

We have all been told that telling the truth may sometimes hurt and may actually be harder than lying, but it’s the right thing to do.

In golf as in business, deliberately doing the wrong thing can cost a company millions – and can cost you your career. Your actions don’t go unnoticed. Word can spread like wildfire, and eventually nobody will want to play golf (or do business) with you.

Valuable Time Getting to Know Your Client

Where else can you spend four hours with that CEO you've wanted to connect with or targeted client you’ve been after for months? 

In a typical four-hour round, very little time – in fact only minutes – are spent actually “golfing your ball”. The same goes for “talking shop”. Most of your time is spent socially, learning about what makes that man or woman tick, discovering where they came from and what they do outside the office (besides play golf, of course.)

When you're on the course, don’t bring up business issues. That’s not what the game of golf is about. The time is for personal relationship building and networking. Business can take care of itself when your client or customer is ready to engage.

On the course, there are three guarantees:

  1. You will immediately get a view into your client’s character
  2. You will undoubtedly build a level of trust that only you can account for and your client will respect
  3. You have laid the groundwork for a friendship that may last forever

Not Just for Rich Men Anymore

Back in the day, golf was considered only for men – and among them, only the elite. Those days are long gone, and boundaries have been shattered. Today both corporate and blue collar men and women can enjoy a day on the golf course with friends, family and business partners.

Both in and out of the office, golf gives anyone the opportunity to be social and talk both shop and sport. Trust me, business leaders love that stuff. I can’t encourage business professionals enough to get out there and develop their golf skills.

Competitive Nature, Yet Cool Under Pressure

Name a business leader or golfer anywhere in the world that isn’t both competitive and cool under pressure. I can’t think of any. Maintaining a cool head, whether losing or winning, is essential in both golf and business.

Demonstrating strong character and building trust by telling the truth and doing the right thing is what leaders do. That’s what U.S. Open Champions do. That’s what Fathers do.

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