Golf Teaches the Value of Goal-Setting Better than Any Other Sport


The author Brian Tracy calls goal setting, “The master skill of success in life.”

No sport is better able to teach us the value of goal-setting than golf. Every time we go out, we strive to pull off a certain shot or make a specific number on any given hole, nine or round. Goals can also be set for specific aspects like how many fairways, greens or putts we hit or how low we can get our handicap. For youngsters, this skill alone can be a life changer. For armed with specific goals, any task can be broken down to bite-sized steps and achieved.

When young, I and my three closest friends kept a little pocket notebook in which we noted down everything. Who had the lowest score or longest drive on any given hole. The best nine, the best round, fewest putts and just about anything we could measure. As we started to improve, we all had goals. Who could win the junior then senior club championships? Who could make the county/state junior team, (all of us did) and later the adult team?

Every summer’s day was measured in holes, pars, birdies and scores. This focus on achieving goals carried through into our adult lives and helped us achieve success.

How a Herd of Cattle Fueled the Greatest Streak in the History of Golf

Byron Nelson had a much more practical reason for playing golf than merely winning tournaments. His principal motivation was to earn enough prize money to buy a cattle ranch. Nelson dreamt of being a rancher but his wife, Louise, was less enthusiastic. She was concerned with the practical fact that neither of them knew a thing about ranching. They both had grown up in the 30s’ depression when their neighbors had lost their jobs and businesses, Louise was especially fearful of getting into debt. So it was decided that Byron could have his ranch with Louise’s full support, just so long as he paid cash for it.

This simple goal led to one of the greatest golfing feats of all time. In 1945, armed with his dream and smooth swing, the man known as ‘Lord Byron’totally destroyed the opposition. Nelson won no fewer than 18 tournaments, came second in seven more and enjoyed a phenomenal stretch during which he recorded an astonishing 11 victories in a row before ending the sequence when he came sixth at the Memphis Open.

With a scoring average of 68.3 and over 100 sub-par rounds, Nelson had rewritten the record books. Among his feats was; the most wins in a single year, the most consecutive wins, the lowest winning score and lowest scoring average. Several of these records still stand and may never be broken. Setting clear goals at the start of the season surely contributed to Nelson’s remarkable achievements.

“Each drive, each shot, each chip and each putt was aimed at getting that ranch. Each win meant another cow, another acre, another part of the down payment,” Byron Nelson

By the end of the 1945 season, Nelson had saved enough money to fulfill his dream and he played just one more year of serious golf before fading into semi-retirement. Even then, the ranch remained his motivating goal. When his book, Winning Golf, was published, it quickly sold well over 150,000 copies. Nelson characteristically remarked to his wife that the 25 cents per book he received from the publisher would buy 500 head of cattle.

Golf teaches you that progress in school, business and life, is achieved in incremental stages and that an important goal is worth working to achieve. To help reach your goals, golf teaches the value of seeking help from others. With golf this takes the form of professional coaching. It also teaches you to regularly measure progress. With golf, the measure is your handicap or scores. In business, the old expression, ‘What gets measured gets done,’ still hold true today.

I’m 52 years old and have a handicap of six. My goal this year is to get back down to scratch.


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