5 Lessons Any Entrepreneur Can Learn from Golf

Satish Machani, a third-generation family businessman, has used his entrepreneurial drive to bring tremendous growth and innovation to his legacy springs manufacturing business Stumpp, Schuele & Somappa. With forays into defence and electronic automobiles, Satish Machani has spearheaded the firm’s commitment to ‘Make in India’ and taken its reach globally.


As an avid golf enthusiast, he relates his learnings from his love of the game to the challenges of entrepreneurship. 

I enjoy golf and play once a week religiously at KGA, and have been doing so for the past ten years. There’s just something about the game that keeps you captivated and coming back for more. It’s a game of true skill, grit and strategy. I love it because it’s a game you play against yourself. So you truly have to stay true to your vision, and set goals that you know you can achieve. It’s about what You and only You know you can achieve. Even your failures can teach you and motivate you to keep going back and put in the effort to get better and better at your game. 

Many of the common practices and traits that golf demands of you can also be applied in daily life and even to entrepreneurship. Here are a few.

1. What matters is what happens over 18 holes.

I think the first thing is the fact that a game of golf is over 18 holes, and each hole has its own challenges. Some of them are called par-3, they’re shorter holes. Most of them are par-4s, and some of the holes are par-5s. So, each hole is played with different distances as well as different degrees of difficulty. Scoring well in one hole automatically does not mean you score well in the next hole, so you need to make sure that you plan for the full 18 holes, where you want to be at the end of 18 holes, which is what your handicap is. 

For example, if you take somebody like me, my handicap is 15. I always like to play 15 and below, that’s my goal. So when I start a game, I measure my progression hole by hole. You may have a very good hole, which does not mean the next hole will be a good hole as well, so you have to make sure that you have that full score of 18 holes in mind, and then pace yourself with every hole that you play. Even when you’ve had a bad hole, you can’t remember only that. You have to forget that and start the next hole of afresh. 

Just like entrepreneurship, you’re going to have some bad missteps. You’re going to make some decisions which are not right all the time. The idea is to learn from it, and not make the same mistakes in the future.

The game of golf, much like entrepreneurship, is played over a long time. 18 holes mean, short successes or short failures both don’t matter. What matters is what happens over 18 holes. This means that you have to stay patient. Enjoy your good holes and your wins. Remember your bad holes, but also learn not to dwell on them and keep your eye on the bigger picture. 

2. Knowing your handicaps and keeping your eye on the final goal

In golf, it’s very important to know what your handicap is and play to your strengths. If I make a double bogey by playing 6 instead of four shots, I would need to gain those lost shots back.

If I’ve lost a shot at a par-4, for the next shot, I would like to get a four or a five. With a maximum of five, I would be happy. For example, if in a par 4, I am okay with a par 4 shots or maybe a bogie 5 shot. But instead if I make a 6 or 7, I have to plan to gain back those extra shots so I can play close to my handicap which is my goal.

Similarly, in entrepreneurship, it’s important to know what your handicaps are and play to your strengths. You have to have a clear goal of where you want to be, it could mean you say

“I want to reach x amount of sales, or x amount of market share, or I want my product to be identified with this.” You have to set the goals at the beginning of your journey itself before you start. 

Just like in golf when you start your game. You know what you want to reach, and you know approximately what your destination is. And once you set that, then you start planning your game. Along the way, you may have also made some bad calls or mistakes that you have to make up for. Maybe you’ve had a bad year in your business. You will have to put that aside and look at the next year and see how you can make up your losses all throughout the year. 

The idea is that you’ll have small goals, mini-goals, which eventually lead to a larger final objective. In the short term, sometimes things don’t go exactly as you planned it. But the idea is that if it really does not go as per planned, try and make it up going forward. 


3. The best players are not the longest hitters but the smartest hitters.

Every hole in the game of golf has hazards. You can play an even better game once you know your hazards within your given hole, and navigate intelligently through those hazards, you’ll come out unscathed. 

In a golf course, you have hazards and bunkers. Nobody wants to go there. I have to plan to avoid these bunkers or water hazards.. If you go into the water, it’s a penalty shot. If you plan well you’ll make sure that you don’t go into the water. Every hole has hazards and pitfalls that may cost you dearly, so planning to avoid these pitfalls is vital to your game. 

Translating this to entrepreneurship, you will always have challenges as you go along. The main intent is how you navigate these challenges. First of all we can try to avoid these challenges completely, but even if we go there, we have to know how to come out without much damage. Even though every hole has challenges and hazards, you’ll have to smartly navigate to come out of these challenges without much damage..

The key to doing this is smart planning. Let’s say to avoid a hazard, I need to hit a shot that carries more than 200 meters, and my percentage shot cannot carry that distance. The smart thing to do would be to play under that distance, which is a higher percentage, and then in your next shot you carry the hazard with ease.

You have to remember that that’s a limitation. Normally, I can’t cross 200. I have to know that. It’s better to play a comfortable shot, which is about 180, and go over that pitfall easily, rather than trying to be gung ho and a hero, going all out and making big mistakes.

“You don’t need to be a hero. You need to know your limitations. And play well within those limitations. The best players are not the longest hitters. The best players are all the smarter ones. They plan their game.”


MD – Stumpp Schuele Somappa Springs

However, many people just come to just hit as long as they can, and they keep playing. They keep making the same mistake over and over again. This is one of the reasons why older people generally start taking to golf because it’s a smart game.4. Golf is a proactive not reactive game

In sports other than golf, you are required to react to what’s being thrown at you. In golf, you’re in absolute control of what you can do and it is completely up to you what you do. Nobody else’s game can affect your own. 

For example, in tennis, your strategy is purely depending on the opponent, if the opponent has hit a very, difficult shot at you, you have to react to that. In golf, the ball is stationary. You are in total control of what you want to do with the ball. You choose what you want to do with your shot without anybody else affecting your game. 

In entrepreneurship the circumstances change as well. Sometimes the market is good and sometimes it’s bad. However, you can plan for these situations, you don’t just have to react to what the world is throwing at you. The smartest entrepreneur is the one who’s in control of the outcome and is proactive rather than reactive to situations.


5. Never blame your caddy 

Golf is not a blame game – you and you alone are fully in charge of making the right judgements. Your own success or failure is not typically dependent on what somebody else does. What you can do is purely dependent on you.

When the final score is put up, you don’t complain about your clubs. You don’t complain about the course. At the end of a game you need to take full responsibility for what happens on the course and your score. I’ve seen so many players throw tantrums saying, “these clubs are not good”, or on another day they say, “The balls have been bad today. It’s too hot. It’s too muggy today” or, “I didn’t have a great breakfast.” Once you are in that course, you’ve got to complete the game with no complaints and finally you alone have to take full responsibility for what happens. It’s never a blaming game. 

Sometimes you alone have to read the green. But sometimes your caddy helps you read the green. If he thinks a putt is going to break to the right, it’s up to you to take his advice. Finally it’s your call as you have to play it. If the caddy’s advice wasn’t right, finally the responsibility is still yours and not the caddys.  This can cause many people to throw tantrums and yell at the caddy, “You gave me a wrong line!” You have to accept that caddies are there only to give you a reference. But finally, you are fully and solely responsible for the shot. You cannot blame your caddy.

Similarly in entrepreneurship you can’t blame others for the outcome, you can’t say “because my consultant gave me wrong advice, this happened” or, “Oh, I did not succeed, because I did not get the money at the right time. I did not succeed, because my customers did not give the orders that he promised he would give. I did not succeed because my CEO did not perform.”

In the end, you have to take the full responsibility for your outcomes, the people around you are only there to give you guidelines. After that, it’s your call. An entrepreneur’s success or failure is not solely dependent on what somebody else does. It depends more on what they want it to be.

In the end you have to take the full credit or the blame that comes with the decision that you make. You cannot put it on somebody else, whoever they may be. Let’s say it’s your CEO. Your CEO may have said, “Listen. So I think you should do this.” Now, the decision is yours. Now once you’ve agreed with him and took a call. A good leader takes full responsibility for the outcome, and the same goes with the caddies also. 

If the time comes and you say ”Hey, I think we both made a mistake.” Next time, the caddy works that much harder actually to make sure that he reads the line properly. Otherwise, if you keep criticising him, he will also lose interest. The attitude that you show on the course translates to results. A poor attitude, poor results. A good attitude gives good results. After all everybody makes mistakes right? But with a good attitude you can make it through any challenge. 

Entrepreneurship, like golf, is a long game. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Know your limitations, your capabilities and play within them. Never try to be somebody you’re not, play to your own strengths and plan smartly. Once you reach your potential, then set forth another goal. It’s a step-by-step approach, rather than trying to do everything in one go.

Every day is different in golf. Simply put, as a sportsman I will tell you, there are days when the ball goes exactly the way you want it to go. Then the other days, you think you’re doing exactly the same thing. It just won’t happen. You just have no explanation. But those are the days when you realize what works and what doesn’t, And it’s up to you to make sure you don’t keep doing it. There are always several different ways to achieve your goals so never be afraid to try something new.



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