August 10, 2023

Go back to the golf course and work on your putz


What’s the most frustrating part about golf?

It’s not the sun or the walking or the goofy pants or seeing your shanked ball shatter the protective screen on cart and plunk another player on the head, leaving him with a brain hemorrhage.

Golf is hard because the worse you do, the longer it takes.

Pros refer to this as the pace of place, which is a widely debated issue in the golf community. Every player, course and organization has differing views on what constitutes an acceptable pace of play.

Now, according to the national golf association:

A round of golf is meant to be played at a prompt pace. The official manual says each player should recognize that his or her pace of play is likely to affect how long it will take other players to play their rounds, including both those in the player’s own group and those in following groups.

It makes sense. Ask anyone who’s ever played eighteen holes on a crowded course. The faster the pace of play, the more fun and enjoyable of an experience than one that seems to take forever.

What’s fascinating is when you apply this same term to the business world. Because similarly, every culture has their own pace of play.

Many startups, for example, operate where high velocity is the norm. There’s a high expectation of output. Their product accelerates with lightning fast speed, as new features and iterations are shipped daily, if not weekly.

I’ve worked for companies like these before, and the experience is truly invigorating. And as long as teams aren’t asked to work crazy hours or have unreasonable expectations around work life balance, high velocity is typically a good thing.

On the other hand, a few of my employers have moved like molasses.

One agency I used to work for took a month to execute anything. Usually because they had a top down approach.

Another startup boss of mine insisted on having a hand in all creative projects. He slackened the pace of play to the speed of a dead snail.

And then there was my employer who raised a round of funding from some pretty impressive investors, but it took us seven months just to draft a press release.

Notice I said draft, not publish. That’s bonkers.

What’s the pace of play like at your organization? And what are you doing to improve it?

I’m not suggesting that velocity is a panacea for growth, but the probability of success dramatically goes up when your team has a high expectation of output.

Let’s take a few strokes from the golf world itself. I’ve studied a number of course manuals from around the globe, and here are several insights your company might consider.

First, hit some balls at the range.

Before you go into work, spend some time loosening up. Whether that means exercising, meditating, reciting affirmations or listening to death metal on the commute to the office, find a routine to help you feel more confident. That way, when you walk in the front door, you’ll be more likely to hit a decent opening shot.

Second, provide clear course signage.

Make sure everyone on your team knows what shots are coming up next. Flag areas of your work that are potential sticking points so everyone can approach safely with context, perspective and understanding. Personally, I send agendas ahead of time for meetings, just so there’s no question in my team’s mind about what we’re going to talk about during meetings.

Third, shorten the preshot routine.

Be ready to hit when it’s your turn. Make sure that your all of your documents, technology and accessories are in good working order. Have everything queued up, even the resources you might not need. If you’re spending half of your call trying to find the right email or slide deck, the pace of play will suffer.

As my high school golf coach used to tell us, bring a range of clubs with you, that way you always have the right one.

And always make sure to check your balls after each shot.

Fourth, don’t be afraid to declare a ball lost.

Drop a provisional, accept the penalty stroke and move on. If one of your executions goes awry, chalk it up to a failure and bounce back quickly Don’t spend too much time smashing your club into the dirt. Mistakes happen, nobody’s perfect, and resilience is all about speed,

And just because you are entitled to three minutes of search time doesn’t mean you should use it. Nothing slows down play more than a hole that’s difficult to finish, and the same goes with projects. Done is better than perfect.

Fifth, don’t spend five minutes over reading your putts.

Chances are, your first instinct is correct. Trust it and swing away. Better to hit a lots of decent shots and maintain a steady pace of play than hit one perfect shot while the impatient foursome behind you is shouting bloody murder at the top of their lungs.

In conclusion, let’s look at some pace of play data.

Rolex did an extensive international survey on how golfers view pace of play and how it affected their enjoyment of the sport. The survey received nearly sixty thousand responses from golfers in over a hundred countries.

And one of the key findings was that sixty percent of golfers said they would enjoy golf more if they played in less time. The faster the pace of play, the more fun and enjoyable of an experience.

Compare that with the round of golf that seems to take forever, no thanks. One respondent to the survey claimed that a player’s memory of waiting before playing every shot ruins the playing experience because it cheapens the product and destroys the player’s perception of value.

Same goes for organizations. When operate where high velocity is the norm and there’s high expectation of output, everybody benefits. Speed elevates the perception of value inside and outside the company.

Sure, we all have our own differing views on what constitutes an acceptable pace of play. But one thing’s for sure, speed gives you more opportunities to iterate, more opportunities to learn and therefore, more opportunities to win.

Sure sounds better than sitting around working on your putz.

What would be the ideal pace of play at your company?