Golf and Career Vs Emotions

Whether we are at work or the golf course, emotions play a massive role in our success (or failure). At critical points, emotions control our decision-making process, changing our behavior and ultimately altering the result. So how does a game of golf relate to our career?

Like many others around the world, in recent times, I have started playing golf. It was one of the safer sports to take part in during the pandemic, but like any other sport, golf also needs a certain level of talent to play at a competitive level. Although my abilities, like many of us, are at a beginner level, because you are playing with a handicap system, anyone can be competitive. In a nutshell, golf is played against ourselves, and we try to better ourselves each time we play.

Irrespective of the talent we have, we have to control our emotions in order to be successful. That is, no matter how much we practice, our emotions can take charge at critical points during the game, causing us to make a wrong decision, and consequently causing us to play an imperfect stroke.

This is not so different from when we are at work. We can make poor decisions in our career, or life in general, because our emotions get in the way. Let us consider a few situations during a golf game, and how they relate to our day-to-day life.

Tee Off

I was excited and chose the longest club from my bag. I walked up to the tee-box and tried to hit the ball as hard as I could. From experience, I know there are limitations to my stroke, yet I wanted to muscle it. It was merely to prove that I could hit further and better than any other.

In reality, what I was trying to achieve was beyond my capabilities. I ended up hitting a poor shot, slicing the ball fifty yards to the right of where I was aiming at—an apparent battle of emotions vs. skill.

When we try to do things that are beyond our capabilities, we often fall short. Then, since we are well short of the expected result, we get frustrated. We feel that we are not successful, because we are not achieving. To complete one game of golf, we need to tee-off eighteen times. If we can keep our emotions in check at each of those times, we may start each hole feeling successful. We have a plan, and we execute the first step of that plan.

Whether it's golf (as we tee off) or in life, we need to have a plan, and there is an expected outcome related to our skillset.

Similarly, we need to have a plan for our careers, and there are specific goals we set out to achieve during that journey. At the start of our careers, job, or project, we must have a solid plan devised based on our skills. Trying to overachieve, or take on a path that we don't have the skillset to complete, will end in disappointment. We may be able to forget the golf game, but careers are not that forgiving.

Par 3

On the golf course, there are hazards everywhere, including water in between the tee-box and green, and bunkers to the left of the green. These hazards make it difficult to attack the pin. If I hit a safer stroke towards the right of the pin, I may be setting up for a long putt.

My friend teed off, and the ball went into the water. Then the second friend swung, and the ball landed right next to the pin. Now, I am in an emotional dilemma: should I play like the second friend and attack, or go the defensive route to be safe? Adding to the complexity, the water hazard is also playing in my head. However confident that I was to make the distance, doubt crept into my mind because of my first friend's performance. Therefore, I picked up a stronger club and hit it hard to avoid the water. Unfortunately, the ball went to the left and rolled into the bunker, giving me a difficult second shot.

I had doubted my abilities because of another person's performance. Then, rather than going with my original plan, I deviated and tried to imitate another person. What I ended up with was far from what I had anticipated. Worst of all, now I had to deal with another difficult situation. Once again, emotions dominated my decision-making and affected the outcome.

Even in our careers, we should not be affected by what others do or achieve, because they have their own paths and goals in life.

The next lesson is never to doubt your personal skills and abilities.

When it comes to achieving your own goals and following your career paths, always play to your strengths. If there are a lack of them, you can always seek ways to improve those areas. The key lesson here is that we need to understand our limitations.

2nd Shot

After a decent tee off, I was hoping to land the second shot on the green. I was still one hundred and twenty yards away from the green, a relatively easy shot for me, so I had the confidence to make it. I waited for my fellow golfers to take their strokes, of which none of them managed to land a ball on the green. This gave me the urge to show how it's done. With so much confidence, I swung the club. Unfortunately, after taking a massive chunk out of the ground, the ball rolled on for about thirty yards.

I had done it again. All I cared about was showing off my talents to others. My overconfidence and arrogance had gotten in the way. In the end, I had to make another stroke to get on the green, making it difficult to get a par (for those who are not familiar with golf, par represents the number of strokes that an expert golfer would take to complete a hole).

There are times we need the confidence and aggressiveness to achieve our goals. But when there is a plan, stick to it. Adding that extra bit of pressure on ourselves to show off pushes us beyond our emotional stability. Then we are in uncharted territory. We all need to show off our talents, but that will come through with the final result.

Be patient, and never be overconfident and arrogant in your approach--this is a better way to show your focus on a given task or goal.


The ball landed five feet away from the hole. The green had a slight inclination, but there was a good chance I could get a birdie (one stroke less than the assigned strokes for that particular hole). I checked the direction and carefully lined up the ball. After going through the usual routine, ever so gently, I swung the putter. The ball rolled slowly and came to a stop one foot before the hole. With so much frustration, I walked up and tried to tap the ball into the hole. I completely misjudged the line, and the ball rolled a few inches past the hole. With one additional stroke than expected, I managed to get the ball into the hole, but I had failed to get a birdie.

Putting for the birdie, I was in a better situation than I had originally planned. Even with two shots, I would have had a par. With so much expectation of myself to overachieve, I forgot that I could be happy with a par. Unfortunately, I could not control my emotions. With the loss of an