10 business lessons from the 2015 U.S. Open

If you’re like most Seattleites, you were excited to see the 2015 U.S. Open unfurl in our hometown. Chambers Bay is now known to the world, and with the new tagline of “brown is the new green”.

With all of the conversation surrounding the Chambers Bay course design, the difficult conditions, and that spectacular finish, the USGA certainly provided some good drama.

We all know that golf is a game of focus, patience, and confidence, but the mental energy required to play well at this course is unbelievable. Let’s see what we can learn from these golf pros and the tournament at large.

What lessons can businesses learn from the U.S. Open?

1. Bring your A game when you need it

Jordan Spieth showed brilliance under pressure on the final day, when he ultimately pulled through for the win. His composure and confidence in every tournament he plays in is one of the reasons he has won his second major this year.  It certainly wasn’t an easy win for Spieth with Dustin Johnson and Louis Oosthuizen fighting until the end, as well as Adam Scott’s spectacular final round 64. He didn’t have his best stuff for most of the week – but he had it when he needed it.

In business it’s important to know when to let others take the lead and when it’s time to step up your game. You might not always be in front, but you want to end up in front when it matters.

2. Winners can sometimes feel like losers

Just because you were at the top once, doesn’t mean you always will be (Hello, Tiger Woods). One of the big challenges for the U.S. Open players is getting used to the fact that finishing at par on this course is actually quite difficult. Players at this level are very used to shooting well below par, so to play a course where shooting for par is actually where you should set your goal is mentally challenging by itself.

It’s extremely important to set expectation levels effectively when the odds/difficulty are an order of magnitude higher, leaning heavily on what you know and then taking risks where its appropriate.

Businesses need to constantly re-examine their goals. When hitting the green is no guarantee of success, sometimes staying “at par” might just be good enough.

3. Stay positive at all times

What do you do when you’re stuck in a sand trap (or are just plain stuck)? With a positive mindset and the determination to not give up, you can manage to get back on track. Despite Jordan Spieth’s tough times on a few of the holes late in the game, he maintained his focused and didn’t let the disappointment consume him.

Running a business isn’t easy and things won’t always go as expected. Obstacles will appear. It’s important to have the strength to stay positive during the dark hours. In order to be truly successful, you have to make mistakes along the way. It’s learning from these mistakes that gets you to the next stage and pushes you to succeed. Do what the pros do, and trust your swing!

4. Rely on your hard work

There’s no doubt that these U.S. Open golfers are a talented and hard-working bunch. It takes serious commitment to reach this level, and it takes even more effort to stay at the top. But, when you train day in and day out, you can come to rely on your skillset and have the confidence you need to succeed. When you hit troubled times you’ll be prepared to go the extra mile to recover.

5. Don’t complain or blame

Weather and course conditions are not under our control. The real pros don’t complain – they embrace the conditions and accept the challenge. Don’t forget, the same conditions apply for everybody! It’s largely how you react and adapt that determines the outcome.

Never blame your caddie for your poor performance. In business we depend on a host of people to collaborate and make things happen. It’s important to keep the trust and communication open with our team members in order to achieve success together.

I always get a good laugh out of this age-old golf joke:

A golfer walks off the 18th green, hands his putter to his caddie and says, “Kid, you’ve got to be the worst caddie in the world.”

The caddie replies, “Sir, that would be too much of a coincidence.”

6. Evolve your game

Embrace your training and keep refining your craft – it is a never-ending process.

At the final hole Dustin Johnson had a chance to win it. When he missed that shot, he still had the chance to tie it. He missed again, and ultimately came in third place. Some people say he choked. Regardless of what was going through his mind at that time, you can bet that he is already putting this tough lesson to good use.

In business we have to prepare for the unknowns and manage risk. Ask yourself how you plan to turn your organization’s weaknesses and challenges into a major strength. Take your past failings and learn from them. Some of the best lessons are learned the hard way.

7. Thank your volunteers

Throughout the course, volunteers did an incredible job at guiding spectators from hole to hole, answering questions, and taking care of issues. Businesses should recognize and incentivize their supporters in any way they can. They are the front-facing arm or your organization, and can make a huge difference as to how your event/company is publicly received.

8. Learn from the crowd

Have a plan, and try not to get frustrated. The crowd that came prepared got the most out of their U.S. Open experience. They knew which groups they wanted to follow, and then mapped out the points on the course where they could watch them. They worried less about chasing a specific group around the course, and more about enjoying the game as it unfolded.

In business, it’s imperative to have a Plan B (and C). You won’t run the risk of disappointment if you are prepared with an alternate way of obtaining a similar outcome. Be inspired by the competitive space, and don’t forget to have fun!

9. Know when it’s time to adapt

Over the past decade there’s been a drop in the number of younger golfers. According to KemperSports CEO Steve Skinner “This generation doesn’t do things for four, four-and-a-half hours at a time,” referring to the Millennial generation. Golf courses are adapting and are now offering more instant gratification on the greens, adding 6 hole rounds for the pre & post workday, foot-golf (kicking a soccer ball into a large hole), and craft beer tastings on the greens. Some abandoned golf courses are being transformed into solar farms. The businesses that can adapt will find the most success in the long run.

10. It’s ok to “take a mulligan”, but only once


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