What Tiger Woods Can Teach You About Running a Business


If you play much golf, you've probably heard the saying "Drive For Show, Put For Dough." For those of you who don't play, it means that driving the ball far on your first shot off the tee isn't really the key to winning in golf.

The funny thing is, if you ever go to a driving range, 90% of what you see is people with their drivers trying to smack the ball as far as possible. I've played with some of these people that drive 280 yards, but then they 3 and 4 put holes and end up shooting in triple digits. For some reason though, it's important to golfers that they be able to drive the ball far. To have the longest tee shot makes them feel good, even if they don't have the lowest score.

Now, most people know that Tiger Woods is one of the greatest golfers alive. A few years ago, my uncle got a chance to play on a Florida course frequented by Woods.

Driving by the range to begin the round, my uncle noticed that Tiger was on the driving range with a single club when they took off for 18 holes. Nearly 4 hours later, the round was finished and Tiger was still on the range. The guy driving the cart with my uncle knew Tiger and drove up to say hello. They chatted for a few minutes and realized that the whole time they had been playing, Tiger had been practicing with the same club – a 7-iron. A pile of balls out on the range showed that he had been within 10 yards of his target on every shot, but that wasn't good enough. He was trying to get even better. One club. Four hours. That's why he's one of the world's best.

There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all. — Peter Drucker

In business, I think we often know the things we should do, but instead we try to do the things we want to do. We like the random fun things. We want to plan, brainstorm, hold meetings, all the stuff that doesn't require any discipline or focus. Unfortunately it's also all the stuff that doesn't make us better at what we are ultimately trying to do. We know we should be putting, but we want to take out the big driver and have a good time. Then we complain about our score.

It's hard to be the best. To do it, you have to be willing to go above and beyond what everyone else is doing. You have to spend 4 hours at the range with a single club, if that's what it takes. Is it fun? Of course not. But if you can make the short term sacrifices in order to reap those long-term successes, you'll experience a joy that most people never do.

  • Great post! The other lesson from this Tiger story is “focus matters.” Not only does Tiger work on the right stuff, he also works incredibly intensely. That is one of the lessons that comes from so many sports greats — not only are they ridiculously talented, they also tend to work harder than everyone else around them.

  • Tiger (and other master practitioners) can teach us more than just focus.

    They can teach us that you should work on the less glamorous parts of your game. Tiger practices the short game because it’s important, even if it’s not as much fun as banging drives off the tee.

    They can teach us that a program will help you develop more effectively. Tiger doesn’t just work on that 7 iron. He makes sure he works on every part of his game, including the diet and exercise and sleep that set up his performances.

    They can teach us that specific targets matter. I’m betting that Tiger was not just working on that 7 iron in a general way. More likely he had a specific goal he wanted to achieve.

  • Sam

    Good post. So what’s the business equivalent of hitting your 7-iron a few hundred times? Poring over the books?

    I ask because I (and a lot of other business owners as well!) like to spend time on “self improvement”; e.g. reading a book on business or in my field and taking notes. What are the less sexy things on which I should focus?

  • Amit

    Hey gr8 work ppl……keep it up