The Longest Ball—Using Golf Strategy for Leadership and Team Development

By District of Columbia Bar

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By Rose Harper

Founder, The Grass Ceiling

So, there you are on the course and you are playing “best ball”/”Captain’s choice” where everyone on the team hits the ball off of the first tee, then the Team Captain gets to select which ball everyone will play from. 

The longest ball may have fallen into the rough or woods with cleaner shots being yards behind the balls that went the furthest but with obstacles. It is in this moment that you can learn a lot about the captain of the team and the teammates by the choices and conversations that occur next.

Does the captain take into account everyone’s skill and comfort levels with the game, or does he/or she choose the ball that they are comfortable playing through (often the longest ball that went the farthest but lies behind obstacles). This is one example of the strong parallels between leadership on the golf course and in the boardroom. 

As workplace inclusion continues to be an important topic for organizations across all sectors, organizations continue to invest in costly and time-consuming diversity and leadership training; however, perhaps one of the places where we can have the biggest impact on both of those areas is in one of the most loved and played games in the world: golf.

For organizations who want to focus on leadership, diversity, eliminating bias, and increasing diversity, starting to look at how their organization and leaders are conducting themselves on the fairways can have broader implications in the boardroom.

If you haven’t already made your organization's golf strategy part of your leadership development and diversity strategy here are some great ways to start:

- Ensure any memberships or golf expense policies are equitably distributed across diverse slate of leaders.

- Make sure that invitations to customers and internal employees don’t exclude women and minorities. People are more likely to make assumptions that someone doesn't play if they are a member of a historically underrepresented population.

- Engage thought leaders who specialize in the Art of the Game and its relation to business to coach your leaders on their golf course conduct and leadership. Understanding how your behavior impacts team dynamics can enhance workplace performance.

- Strategically host events with diverse foursomes. Avoid gender-separated tournaments and enjoy the process of finding ways to encourage people to build relationships across difference at your events.

Golf is a game where good business practices and the qualities of good sportsmanship converge to build excellent relationships. Inclusion of women and minorities as active participants in the game of golf can optimize your internal and external ROI not to mention increase the enjoyment for everyone involved on the course and off. 

Rose Harper is an entrepreneur, philanthropist, lecturer, sport event manager, contributing writer to golf publications and a passionate golfer. Her legendary contributions to the game of golf include founding the PGA Tour Wives Association, initiating Golf Digest’s Minority Summit and reformatting PGA player credentials. Rose established a minority-joint venture designteam with Arnold Palmer and Gary Player to provide a golf course feasibility study for the Nation’s Capital, and organized the first ever multi-racial golf event in the history of South Africa. In 1995, Rose founded her consulting company, The Grass Ceiling, Inc., as a business empowerment firm specializing in demonstrating how the game of golf can serve as an effective platform for business development. Rose Harper is the author of two golf-related books: The Art of the Deal: Golf – Access to Success (2014), and The Golfer’s Cookbook (1975).