I played varsity golf in high school and a little bit of club golf at college, but haven't played competitive golf since - nearly 20 years. In fact I haven't played much golf at all since then - each year playing less and less until last year, when I only played 2 rounds. When I moved down South I wanted to get back into playing, and joined a country club. This weekend I played in our Club Championship. I got absolutely smoked. It was difficult to deal with and felt even a bit humiliating (even though I knew I would be going in). I needed it.
To be fair, I had no business playing in this event. Besides me, the highest handicap was about a 3. I'm a 12 (or at least I was before this weekend). Half the people I paired with were ex golf pros. But, for some reason, I really missed playing competitive golf.
Competitive golf is so much different than playing casual golf. You play by the real rules, drive from the tips, and the pin placements are difficult. In my case - it's also characterized by playing with excellent golfers who take their game seriously.
I forgot the incredible attention to detail and focus that serious competitive golfers exhibit - from sizing up shots, aim points, club selection, course management down to the little things they notice. You can't really pick it up on TV watching the pros, and nothing is in itself some grand revelation that you don't already know about - but it's their attention to all these things that is palpable when playing. I remember when I first started playing competitively in high school. It was a shock to the system - like there are people who are playing a completely different game. Soon I learned how to play like that as well, and it actually became more difficult to just relax and play a friendly round over time. I was equally shocked again since Saturday.
I haven't stopped thinking about it since yesterday. This level of focus and attention to detail is certainly not unique to golf and you usually come across it in whatever hobby and/or profession you enjoy. If you're not sure you have then you haven't yet. You know it when you see it. I played and and saw the game like this, and thought I still did. I did not. It's a wild shock to get twice.
While golf is an individual game, this made me think about leading teams and organizations, and building culture. It reminded me how easy it is to unknowingly lose your attention and focus when doing something with lower levels of expectations. The goals you set and how your communicate and reward performance is so important. Just like in golf, it's obvious and easy to say, but to do it in practice over time is incredibly difficult, for even the best leaders.
It also reminded me about recruiting. If you want your employees to have the same attention to detail as competitive golfers, you need to hire people who want to play the business equivalent of competitive golf and manage your people through the initial period of shock, all while ensuring each addition doesn't slowly erode at this element of culture.
The shock was exhilarating. The golf shock was also a reminder that I need to constantly be paying more attention to detail in any endeavor where I want to be successful and perform better. No matter how much you think you are, or even actually are, you need to because thats the whole point of it all. The golfer in me went home yesterday planned out my schedule around making sure I spent an hour 3x this week working on some key areas I need to improve, as well as exercise the self discipline to play tourney level rules when playing by myself or casual rounds with friends. The entrepreneur in me was excited to build a company with such a culture, and work on paying attention to my own attention to detail like that, while the shock was still strong.
I feel like you only get that shock a few times in your life, but should chase it constantly and never let the electricity go to waste.