Personal Development Uncategorized

How golf taught me to go big in life and in my career

Go Big

Golf has been the driving force behind my career (pardon pun). It has taught me so many life lessons, and below I’ll share the most character defining moments that helped me to go big in life and in my career.

Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated. – Arnold Palmer

I have been fortunate to have started the game at the young age of 9 and went on to Captain the FDU Knights in College. Golf has taught me so many life lessons that have carried over to a successful career – mostly how go big in life. Below are some of the most valuable life lessons I have taken from the game and how you can apply them to help you grow in your life and in your career.

How to Go Big in Life and In Your Career


Golf is a humbling game, probably more so than any other sport on this planet. It is one of the only sports where you are in complete control of the outcome.

There are no excuses. You play the same course as everyone else in the field. You choose what equipment to play. You choose which club to hit (unless you have a caddy, but I would argue you choose to hire and listen to your caddy). You are the final say in what decisions you make and the outcomes that come along with them.

How someone chooses to accept the results of their decisions is often a great reflection of their character. It wasn’t until late in my golf career that I finally realized how humbling this game was and how humility would be in my professional career and in life.

I can think of a number of times when I was growing up when I had thrown clubs, swore, and sadly even broken a club. It’s embarrassing to admit, but part of growing up.

In my early college career, I struggled. I would blame my coaches and look for excuses. The honest answer is I wasn’t putting in the work I needed to in order to succeed, I was more focused on complaining than growing.

As I came into the Spring of my senior year at FDU I began to appreciate how amazing an experience I had, and the privilege it was to play NCAA golf. Our team went to play a quad match (a small one-day tournament against local schools) in early March. The wind was blowing 25 mph, with a mix of sleet, snow and rain. The old me would have complained, but those feelings of gratitude had set in – I had been humbled. I ended up shooting 73 on the day and went on to win by a shot.

That lesson is something I carried with me into my professional career. I limit my complaining and look to find solutions, not problems. I challenge myself to learn new things daily and put in the right work. I have a greater respect for those around me, especially those willing to share their life lessons with me.


Psychological resilience is defined as an individual’s ability to properly adapt to stress and adversity (thanks Wikipedia).

Anyone who has played golf certainly understand the stress and adversity golf can inflict on someone’s mental state. The game is constantly putting you in situations where you are under pressure and looking to see how you will respond.

As I mentioned above, I see a direct correlation to my golf game as I do in my own personal development. Earlier in my life I would get frustrated early in rounds if I struggled early, or did not get off to a great start. Now, I embrace those ‘rough starts’ and look at them as challenges to overcome.

Just last summer I was playing in a match play tournament (for those who are not golfers, that means you play by hole, not total score). I was down 4 holes with only 7 holes. That meant that for my opponent all he would have to do is tie me on three more holes and he would win. However, for me, I had to win 5 of 7 holes to win the match. I’m sure you can tell where this story is going by the nature of the article.

On the 12th tee I hit the ball in the fairway and I said to myself, “Ok, I need to win 2 out of the next 3 holes to have a chance, then do that one more time to force a playoff. I can do that.” I made birdie on the 12th to win and get myself back in the game. I had changed my mental state and was now incredibly focused.

I went on to win the next 4 holes to take the lead. On 17 I made bogey and we went into the 18th hole tied. I had been here before, not just today, but many times before. This time was different. I had been humbled and knew that I had come back from being 4 shots down. I was confident I could win the match and I did. I had hit my approach shot close to the hole and after my opponent missed his par putt he conceded the match.

I know I took the long way to get to the point, but that lesson was one of the most profound examples I had personally about resilience.

[Must Read: Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life]

[Audio Version: Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life]

No matter the situation, you keep fighting until the battle is over. I knew how to break down the challenge into smaller, more manageable chunks that made what was a daunting comeback into something more achievable. I had found a way to adapt to the stress by minimizing it.

This same practice is how I overcome any challenge in life. Simply break it down into manageable chunks. Once you master this, anything is possible.

How to ‘Go Big’

Tin Cup is one of the greatest golf movies, maybe the best sports movie, for sharing how to “Go Big.” Roy McAvoy (played by Kevin Costner) is tied for the lead at the US Open and decides instead of making a par, he wanted to “Go for it” and make an eagle to finish at -20. He hits his ball in the water, followed by his next shot and finally on his 4th, and final attempt, he not only hits it over the water, he hits it in the hole for a 12. He lost the US Open, while hitting one of the most memorable shots in history.

Five years from now, nobody is going to remember who won the open, but they will remember your 12!

While the outcome in this story is not ideal, the story behind going for it is. Most people are so concerned with playing it safe that they never go for it. Those that do reap massive rewards. There’s a long list of people who went for it, but here’s a few that stand out to me:

  • Steve Jobs, Founder of Apple
  • Elon Musk, Co-founder of Pay Pal, Tesla (and others)
  • Richard Branson, Found of Virgin
  • Bill Gates, Founder of Microsoft
  • Jeff Bazos, Founder of Amazon

Every single one of these entrepreneurs went for it. Elon Musk risked everything he had made from selling Pay Pal to keep Tesla afloat.

How do you Go Big?

There will be times in your life when you miss that shot. Learn from those missed opportunities and apply that knowledge the next time you step in the tee.

You will face stress and adversity. Learn how to manage that by breaking it down into manageable chunks – you will bounce back

Finally, there’s always a chance that you might hit the ball in the water, but I can guarantee that if you don’t try to hit the shot you’ll never make it.

The biggest successes often come for the most difficult shots. Take your shot! Go Big.




Doug Foley
Doug Foley is a podcast host, content marketer, and problem solver. He is also the youngest of 7 brothers and sisters, a proud father of 2, and is on a mission to help people find their passion, take action, and build the life they want to live. He frequently writes about entrepreneurship, personal development, and motivation.
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