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10 Leadership Lessons I Learned from Golf

I grew up playing golf. Throughout elementary school, middle school, high school, and college, I spent countless days hacking that little white, dimpled, frustrating ball. It was a sport that I grew to love, and still love even now.

You may not think of the golf course as a beaker for leadership testing, but there’s a ton to learn, besides how to hit it long and straight. Which, between you and me, is a task much harder than leadership.

The leadership I’m putting into practice today is specific for pastoral leadership. At the end of the day, though, people are people. Being a leader takes on nuances from profession to profession, but there’s a ton of overlap.

10 Leadership Lessons I learned from Golf

1. Timing is everything.

Golf: The moment your wrist snaps, the club head releases, and your foot turns is crucial in getting any power.

Leadership: The moment you choose to have a key conversation is oftentimes just as important as the conversation itself.

2. What you do off the course is just as vital as what you do on the course.

Golf: Mentally prepping for a round is unbelievably important. “Golf is a game played on a 5 inch course – the distance between your ears.” – Bobby Jones

Leadership: The way you spend your time while you’re off-work builds your character way more than what you do while you’re working. Character is vital to leadership.

3. Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.

Golf: It’s easy to practice-in bad habits and muscle memory.

Leadership: Read the wrong books, follow the wrong people, put your energy towards the wrong things, spend your time battling the wrong issues…and you may as well have not “practiced” at all.

4. Practicing a lot will leave you with a sore back.

Golf: Even practicing the right way will leave you sore.

Leadership: Making the right decisions doesn’t mean you’ll have a problem-free solution. It just means you know where you’re headed.

5. Community pushes you to dig deeper.

Golf: When I played with someone else, instead of by myself, I found I was more willing to dig deeper instead of giving up.

Leadership: Leading with a healthy team pushes everyone to do more gut-wrenching, high quality work.

6. You have to practice from the bunker in prep for the bad days.

Golf: Practicing from the bunker was vital, because it doesn’t matter who you are…there will be days when you have to blast a few out of the sand.

Leadership: Understanding your own weaknesses is a key to being a good team member and leader.

7. There will always be someone who’s better than you.

Golf: Don’t be intimidated when you play against someone better than you. Stick with your game. Dance with the girl you came with.

Leadership: You’ll have team members that you lead that are more skilled, think more sharply, and communicate more clearly. Thank God that He’s gifted your team with them.

8. There’s no substitute for time spent on the course.

Golf: Practice all you want, but don’t forget to spend time on the course.

Leadership: Everything you need to know about leadership you will NOT learn from college, or in a textbook.

9. Nobody will practice for you.

Golf: If you want to be a better golfer, you’ve got to put in the hard work yourself.

Leadership: If you want to be a better leader, you’ve got to read the books, find the mentor(s), test out ideas, and stretch the box yourself.

10. The days you practice by yourself are crazy important.

Golf: The days when you’d rather go home early are the days when you most definitely should not.

Leadership: There are certain things that can only be done by you, in your office, by yourself. Don’t neglect these tasks. They’re good for your resolve.

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Matthew 20:25-28


Did I leave anything out?