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Golf offers in-depth lessons in rigour and resilience, and which can double up in how the individual leads his professional life. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Arnold Palmer was a golfing legend who won seven majors despite being diagnosed with a rare disease in 1958. Doctors had told him at the time he would never play golf again, but Palmer refused to accept that diagnosis and returned to the game stronger than ever.

For amateurs, the game offers more than just a leisurely pastime. Golfers, through their direct experience on the fairway, can gain valuable insights that can be applied to every aspect of their lives, careers, and leadership skills. Here are some insights from golf that individuals can use to improve skills away from the greens.

Everyone has different motives

Golf is a lifestyle. It can also be self-development. It can be ‘wealth creation’ for champions, and for others a great opportunity to network. Every golfer is in the game for a different reason based on what motivates them, and the same is true for individuals in their careers.

Honing your golfing skills on the course holds up well when it comes to managing your professional side too. Debu Mishra, an advisor to board of directors and consultant, tells you how to get into the swing of things. Video: Debu Mishra | Editing: Irish Eden Belleza/Gulf News

Individuals may be motivated to ‘achieve bigger things’ or ‘progress upwards’. They may want to dive deep into a domain and build expertise. They may simply want to experience variety and achieve personal growth. All these choices are different and can lead to success. Knowing what one truly seeks from their career determines their path to contentment.

Direct experience trumps formal instruction

Golfers know that while simulators and concepts are useful to ease into the game, nothing compares to the learning that comes from playing on the fairway. In careers and leadership roles, a lifetime of education can only provide conceptual foundations, and it is practice, patience, and experimentation that create new knowledge and improve one’s abilities.

A range of competencies

Just as golfers acquire a range of clubs over time, individuals building a career and evolving into a leader must acquire multiple competencies to deal with different challenges. Early in one’s career, it is important to develop learning agility, communication skills, problem solving, time management, and teamwork. As one evolves into a leader, it becomes essential to add that big-picture thinking, decision-making, influencing, coaching and mentoring, and emotional intelligence to one’s portfolio.

Read the situation

Golfers must read the conditions of the course before every shot - the wind, the lay of the grass, the gradient. The same goes for leadership. The ability to read situations is critical to knowing which competency to use in particular situations.

It is essential to actively tune into changes in society, technologies, economic conditions, and one’s own capabilities to ensure that one does not miss out on factors that could impact one’s career and capabilities as a leader.

Seek diversity of experience

Just as golfers play on different courses to improve their game, individuals building a career and evolving into a leader must seek out diverse experiences. Every new challenge offers an opportunity to learn and grow.

By planning to build a diversity of experience, individuals can gain exposure to challenging markets, new industries, new teams, large and small setups, and new vocations that can teach them new aspects of becoming a leader.

Integrity is essential

Golf is where individuals must self-report their score, even when playing alone. This teaches golfers that integrity is about doing the right thing when no one is watching. As individuals progress in their careers and become leaders, being a leader means doing the right thing even when there is no one else to question one’s decisions.


Golf courses are designed to be challenging, and golfers must navigate roughs, bunkers, and water hazards that can set them back. Similarly, setbacks are inevitable in careers and leadership, and it is how individuals respond to them that makes the difference. The ability to bounce back from setbacks, learn from mistakes, and keep pushing forward, is a critical skill for success.

Ultimately, success in golf, careers, and leadership is determined by what mindset individuals approach the game. As Bobby Jones said it, “Golf is a game that is played on a five-inch course - the distance between your ears."