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Golf

How playing golf can help you build key business acumen

How playing golf can help you build key business acumen

Jordan Spieth watches his tee shot on the fifth hole during the final round of the 2015 U.S. Open.

Image credit: USGA | J.D. Cuban
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Being a relaxed sport, golf is great for relationship building. It presents wonderful life lessons like tenacity, constant learning, honesty and achievement orientation. All these can be tapped to generate sound business acumen.

Golf is said to be a game that is played with a small ball that has to go into a small hole with the help of equipments that are most ill-designed for the purpose. Business is no different. There are no perfect solutions. You are supposed to do something that seems impossible. You know that you do not have the proper resources, capital and talented team, but you have to do it. So, you find a way.

Jatin Ahuja, President, Big Boy Toyz, and an avid golfer while being asked about the similarities between golf and business, said, “My teeing time helps me unite my senses, accumulate my strength and strategise while keeping my eyes on the hole.”

Both golf and business are all about having a strong mental game, and the discipline is synonymous to both. Golf is a unique sport since you are your own umpire and referee. Vaibhav Dayal, Co-founder and Managing Director, V Resorts, says, “In golf, a player keeps his own score, and there is no second eye to monitor moves. It is played with an immense level of integrity and personal honesty.”

Lessons Spread Across Course

Golf provides a high level of challenge, instant feedback on one’s performance, and an opportunity for course correction, so you can give it another renewed shot. “Golf shows you that there is no perfect strategy, and all you can do is giving it your best shot. Then, you assess the result, figure out what you need to do to improve the execution and then take another shot at greater success,” says Saurabh Saklani, Co-founder and Director, inme.

By far, the biggest lesson that can be taken out from golf is that of tenacity. “You can improve, you can always turnaround a potential disaster into sweet success, but you need to stay focused, committed and ready to change – all valuable business lessons,” adds Saklani.

While all sports present their own learning moments, Golf, by its very nature, provides a sustained learning experience with regular ebbs and flows. Playing two good holes of golf (read: two good quarters of business performance) is often followed by two terrible holes, where people start questioning their skills and abilities. In other words, someone who excels at golf would probably possess an innate desire to learn and re-learn.

The idea that despite your best efforts, the result is not always in your control is a humbling thought and immediately makes one open to both honest introspection and respect others’ views and ideas to build learning, which is essential for building new businesses. Golf teaches one to shed baggage, re-think, re-invigorate, re-strategise and execute with a hope of success.

Networking Possibilities

Saklani gives due respect to his sport love for acting aide in his business revenue generation. One of his first big clients for his corporate business was a French bank that was setting up its operations in India. The India operation was headed by someone with whom he had developed a close association while playing golf in France. “We had already established a level of trust and understanding, which helped us in securing the contract,” says Saklani.

He also recounts having recruited some of the top talents of his firm from golf courses. From a corporate standpoint, we all know that golf is not merely a leisure sport; it is an informal set-up where business gets done. Keeping this in mind, an entrepreneur should invest his time on a golf course to network and develop relationships rather than selling his brand or closing a deal. It is important to note that in business people make investments in people, so use the game of golf to demonstrate your skill and competency that will ultimately lead to associations. Finding the balance between treating golf as business and leisure is where one can find success.

Being overly eager to talk shop can annoy your associate and affect the focus on his game. One needs to be thoughtful and engage in meaningful conversation to increase the chances of taking golf course associations to the boardroom. “Golf is ideal for networking because it allows room for interaction between shots and the whole experience of walking together for a few hours on the course adds to an automatic sense of camaraderie,” adds Sakhlani.

On similar lines, Yashish Dahiya, CEO, Policybazaar.com, recollects having long conversations with the heads of brands in insurance to discuss the feasibility of a concept that he wanted to bring in to his enterprise. “The semi-formal set-up of a golf course allows me to interact about several opportunities at length. Also, professionals and businessmen alike are more open with the opinions and reviews in this setup in comparison to a boardroom, which can be of great value to any entrepreneurial venture,” says Dahiya.

Having a fairly contrarian view on this, Suchit Bachalli, VP and Co-founder, Unilog Content Solutions, believes that networking can happen at an exhibition, conference or even a bar. Why should anyone pick golf for the sole purpose of business networking? “I will not appreciate if someone at the golf course came up to me and wanted business out of me. I do not think spending money over a golf membership for the sole expectation that it will give you access to a network is the right motivation towards playing the sport,” says Bachalli.

What others don’t offer

Golf is considered the best form of corporate entertainment because it gives you tremendous networking opportunities. Golf as a sport can be played by anyone. There is no bar to age. So you can be a young entrepreneur in your twenties and connect with an investor in his mid fifties over a game of golf. “Finally, in golf, you only spend a small portion of a four-hour game actually hitting the ball, so there is plenty of time to talk business. This is not there in sports like football, cricket, badminton and swimming,” adds Dahiya.

Golf is precisely the only sport which includes lots of patience, focus, abstract thinking and a good shot. Other sports usually do not give time to discuss and share ideas whereas golf gives you space and comfort without any kind of disturbance. “What better ambience than Golf course and F&B area to discuss the plan of action while being in action already,” believes Ahuja.

Playing On a Light Pocket

Contrary to the usual view of golf being an elite, expensive sport; most clubs offer special deals to play on the greens. The golf clubs on weekdays charge nominal fees for the game. Entrepreneurs no longer need to shy away from the game for the fear of shelling big bucks. Golf club memberships are not mandatory to play the sport and enjoy benefits from potential positive outcomes.

Banks, these days offer credit cards through which you can play golf for free. On questioning golf club managers on the rise and fall of golf club memberships and its reflection on the nation’s economy, almost all were one in their responses. For them, luxury, addiction and passion are not dependent on nation’s economy. People play the sport for their own strong reasons and not for any ulterior motive. The benefits, however, are generally rewarding and act like bonus points that lead to positive coincidences.

Golf Really Pays

Golf is considered to be a fun way of doing business with its peaceful set-up and soothing landscape since a number of businesses happen out of mutual understanding between parties and not by PowerPoint presentations.

Edition: December 2016

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