Sports gives one an opportunity to learn, practice and demonstrate physical and mental skills. Team sports like soccer also help build social skills like teamwork, communication and leadership. I believe you can read a lot about a personality of an individual from most sports, particularly Golf.
This article will make the most sense for a Golfer. That said, if you are curious to read on, here’s a quick side bar for the non-Golfer. Golfers can safely skip this part in italics.
A Golf course has 18 holes of different distances and varying complexity. A hole may be laden with water hazards, sand bunkers, ravines, etc. Even the green where you finish up might be undulating and have varying speed levels. The goal is to shoot the lowest score.
Both individual and team sports are often adversarial and need comparable skill levels. Thanks to the handicap scoring system in Golf, one can compete across skill levels. I have been playing for several years and am an 18-handicapper. So for a typical par 72 course, I need to shoot 90 or lower to better my own score. The beauty of the handicap system is that everyone has to beat their own ‘par’ score. So I could shoot an 88 and beat someone who’s a much better player with a 5-handicap. How so? On a handicap adjusted basis, I would have shot -2 (88-90) and my skilled opponent shot +1 (78-77).
Reading a Personality on the Golf Course
In Golf, like in life, you are really competing with yourself.
There will be good holes and not so good ones. You need to constantly better yourself; in a way, you need to beat yourself. You will see why I think this is important. So, lets see how we would read a Golfer’s real-life personality through a round on the course.
Assumptions: My thoughts are based on amateur, weekend golfers. Of course, these are anecdotal but observed over dozens of rounds. This also assumes the Golfer under observation is playing their ‘usual’, once-a-week game.
Or, are they the aggressive type to pull out the driver and try and whack it cold? Are they conservative and pick a higher percentage club like a wood or even an iron? Did they hit a long drive straight down the middle, or did they end up in the rough or the woods?
I’m not saying preparing thoroughly is the only way. Some folks do better without preparing. They keep their mind free and just go do it. Others need to go through a ritual even to read their morning newspaper. The follow on game is a good indicator of someone’s preparation for golf or for any project.
nasty, downhill, breaking putt.
More importantly, they need to know their skill level and their limitations. Shot selection and execution based on their skill level is key. One also needs to account and adjust for the the performance through the round.Once you’ve seen the Golfer play a few holes, you get some idea of their skill level. The club and approach they chose is indicative of their personality. Do they know their limits? Yet, if their game is ‘on’, are they willing to challenge it to significantly better their score? Instead, if they have been spraying the ball all over the course, are they still praying to hit Gold? It could also be the case that a player has a high skill level and just misplayed a shot or two. Such a player will need to show the courage of their conviction to execute an allegedly risky shot again. Alternatively, a high handicapper may need to drop to a conservative club to get back into the groove.Observing this behavior helps understand how well someone knows themselves, their strengths and their weaknesses. Are they consistently able to execute what they seem to be thinking? You also get a sense for if someone has both a killer instinct to go for it and yet the empathy to step back if required.
The way Golfers behave under pressure on the course is in similar to how they deal with life.
Great golfers (like great professionals) are always in the moment.
They are focussed only on the next shot to be executed. Its not easy to do so, hole after hole, esp. in competitive situations. This is a simple but great indicator of their real life personality and how they deal with adversity.
Great golfers are grateful of luck but do NOT conf use it with their skills.
Golf is a game of high integrity. You record your own score. Notwithstanding some pre-agreed upon exceptions (e.g. preferred lie), is the Golfer fair? Are they rigorously following the rules of the game?
You often spend 4-5 hours on the course together with your playing group. You want someone who is fun, fair and competitive. Would you like to hang out with them in real life? Would you like to work in your business team? That’s the true test of someone’s personality!
Now its your turn. Have you noticed any of these on a Golf course? Would you now? Please do share your thoughts, comments, critiques on this piece.
I’m grateful to my regular golf partners Bharat Tewari, Sandeep Bhasin and Anindo Roy. They are the most fun foursome I can imagine playing Golf with. They are competitive and encouraging both on the course, and off it. They were supportive of me writing this piece! Thanks mates.
(Amit is a Managing Partner at Prime Venture Partners, a seed stage VC firm based out of Bangalore, India. Prime invests in category creating, early stage companies founded by rock star teams. Amit has held leadership positions at Makemytrip, Google and IBM. He is also deeply engaged with the early stage ecosystem in India and actively volunteers with iSpirt, TiE and NASSCOM. He tweets regularly @amitsomani and is trying to become an active, late blooming blogger).
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