Learning from Golf and Family

April 2, 2013

Learning from Golf and Family: Honesty is Non-Negotiable

“Golf is such that honesty is non-negotiable. You score yourself. You are frequently the only person who will know if the ball moved before you hit it or not. If integrity is not part of your make-up, the game will degenerate into chaos before long.”–G. Migliaccio

giorgio-migliaccio.I was talking to a friend the other day and the chat — as it invariably does — came round to golf. It got me thinking about what we can take from golf that can be translated to business. Of course, after that, and thanks to this same friend, I thought about how these lessons resonate with family.

You know how we so often hear about poor so and so, the “golf widow”! Really! There is more to golf than the obsession that takes the husband away the whole day — and then some; at the 19th hole. Here’s why I should be allowed to play it: as much and for as long as I want to.

Technical Competence

Arnold Palmer

Arnold D.Palmer–The King of Modern Golf

To be a golfer of sorts, you need certain competencies and skills. At a basic level, you need to know how to swing the club, whether it is a driver, a fairway wood or an iron. Then, you need to learn how to hit a draw or a fade.

While we can try to teach ourselves, the reality is that all of us need to see a coach. It’s the same with business; you need certain competencies — management and leadership, strategy, finance, marketing, HR skills.

Family is no different, although the challenge is more demanding. There is no readily available school that teaches you how to be a good parent or spouse. Still, there are key skills we all need to have good relationships: empathy, caring, patience, active listening, compassion, sharing, discipline, and more. 

Most of these we get from our early role models — parents, peers, teachers — and others we learn along the way. But it’s fair to say that without these technical skills we wouldn’t be very successful in relationships. As with golf, you need to develop and update these skills continuously.

Psychological Competence

It’s said in golf that whether someone will have a good round or not is determined well before they step on to the first tee; it’s played out in the player’s mind. We need to understand the psyche of the game of golf; we need to manage ourselves over 18 holes.

We need to deal with the good, by avoiding arrogance or becoming blasé. The moment you think you’re on top, you will start making silly mistakes.

We also need to deal with the bad; to put the bad hole behind us and concentrate on the holes ahead. Learn from the bad hole and apply the lessons to the holes ahead.


Family is one of the most wonderful institutions we have, but if we have a negative mind set it can be dysfunctional and destructive. Henry Ford put it this way: “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right!” It is as applicable in golf as it is in family life.

Deal with the environment

In golf this entails the wind and rain, as well as the lay and course of the fairways; the shapes, and lay and speed of the greens. They change all the time. They call for how you shape the ball, and which of your 14 clubs you need to do it with. 

This is equally true for families. Events and changes in the day-to-day environment have knock-on impacts. Changes in employment or redundancies could affect the children’s schooling, split relationships, put pressure on finances.

You need to be vigilant, to develop strategies as circumstances demand, and to be tactical in your implementation to counter the unexpected.

Be values-driven

Here we refer to values such as integrity and character. Golf is such that honesty is non-negotiable. You score yourself. You are frequently the only person who will know if the ball moved before you hit it or not. If integrity is not part of your make-up, the game will degenerate into chaos before long.

Swinging Seve

Already I see signs of people playing to win above all else. The tragedy is that the prizes of golf at the amateur level are such that it does not explain this liberal interpretation of the rules.

Not that the nature of the prize should play a role! The saying goes: “To lie to others is immoral — to lie to yourself is pathetic!”

Integrity and trust are the foundations of any strong family unit. It’s too easy to give in to temptation, especially now with the Internet such a pervasive element in our lives. But as a family, we make a commitment to stand by and support each other, and that means being honest and feeling safe enough to share our issues and problems.

Respect and Humility

These are important in golf. You need to show up on time, dressed appropriately. When the other player is playing, you stay still, out of the person’s line of sight. You do not chat while your playing partner is addressing the ball. You do not keep the players behind you waiting.

You repair your pitch marks and your divot holes. You show respect — to your team and to the field as a whole.

In the family, you pay respect to your parents, children, and extended family. You show respect to the community you live in. Like respect, humility is a key trait in success. No arrogant person will have any long-term sustainable relationships.

So there you have it; golf and the family. Where we are short in any aspect, remember the 1 Per Cent way to bite-sized action?

Where else can we draw lessons from, and what do you think? Drop me a line, or post a comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

* Giorgio is a proud family man, devoted dad, golf hack, extroverted introvert and all-round nice chap. As director of Coaching Services Australia, Giorgio helps people create careers they love, facilitates team communication as well as help small businesses make money. Follow him at @CoachGiorgio or contact him at info@coachingservices.com.au.

One thought on “Learning from Golf and Family

  1. Golf is a character builder. It demands technical and psychological competence and lots of patience and passion. It is my favorite past time.I am lucky to have Dr Kamsiah as my wife as she understands that I need to be with the boys on the golf course.–Din Merican

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