Newsflash: “The Golf Business Is Different Now.” But does that blanket statement really tell the story? No, it doesn’t. It seems that around mid-March 2020, the world was fundamentally disrupted. An untold number of facets of our lives are no longer taken for granted until we get comfortable with the “new normal.”

One unexpected result of the pandemic was a resurgence in demand. If someone told us that a private club in Oregon would do 3x its normal guest fee revenue in April (compared to budget), we would laugh at them, long and hard. If that same person told us that facilities in Washington State would be closed to golfers for over six weeks, we would have kept laughing in disbelief. During the closure, no one was laughing in Washington. On one hand, we saw golf professionals dealing with rounds sunup to sundown, frustrated by having to serve and operate with bare bones staffing levels and near burnout. Conversely, we saw golf courses on the other side of the state line equally frustrated because they couldn’t be open at all.

What does this new normal look like for our businesses in golf–our facilities, our clubs and even the golf alliances we come together around? Can the management methodologies we relied on in pre-COVID deliver the same outcomes after the spring of 2020? I suggest that if a department head or an executive wants to truly find success, they need to rely less on the “hard and tough nature of management” and more on the “soft skills of emotional intelligence.”

In the book Emotional Intelligence (1996) author Daniel Goleman first started to popularize the term. It’s generally described as: “An ability to realize, understand, recognize and manage our own emotions as well as the emotions of other people in our environment.” Further, this concept of emotional intelligence is not just about someone’s ability to perceive (their own emotions and those of others), but it also relates to the ability to influence others, so that we can help produce a change in behavior, or change an atmosphere in a situation (e.g. emotional intelligence is a requirement to “de-escalate a bad situation”).

It’s been said by researchers that the difference between any two employees with the same set of technical skills and abilities is the much less measurable components of emotional intelligence (or EQ vs IQ.) In fact, these same researchers found that a smarter team member or leader who lacked emotional intelligence was generally less effective when compared with any other team member or leader who was not as smart, but had more EQ.  Martin Luenendonk (the founder of Finance Club and co-founder of wrote, “Emotional intelligent people are the perfect candidates for leadership and the positions on the top of the ladder.”

Why is that, you may ask? It’s about people: the ones we serve as customers, the ones we lead as managers and the ones who choose to employ us. If you want to be “better than most” in the people part of this business, read on.

Twelve traits for emotional intelligence: (How are you doing in these areas? Good in some, others need improvement?)

  1. SELF-AWARENESS: The capability to be introspective allows one to examine and observe their own actions, words and behaviors objectively while at the same time examining the inner monologue and “thought life” driven by our experience. The goal is not to be unfairly hard on yourself. Instead, it is to reach a fair, accurate and unbiased conclusion about the individual in question – who, in this case, is yourself.
  2. SELF-DISCIPLINE/SELF-MANAGEMENT/SELF-REGULATION: Being aware of your emotions, what your triggers are, what inspires you, maddens you, etc. is not valuable without self-regulation. This ability to “stay within the lines of professionalism” when you instinctively want to react impulsively, is what maturity is all about. Having a sense of our own “internal state” is required before we can start to observe and be aware of how our actions and words affect other people both physically and emotionally.
  3. EMPATHY: This is the art of “considering how the world is occurring for the other person(s).” Being able to put yourself in another’s shoes is such a powerful aspect of EQ. Not to be a doormat, feeling waves of emotions because others do, but to make others feel valued and like they belong.
  4. POSITIVE OUTLOOK: Perseverance, fueled by a positive outlook, in the pursuit of objectives, even in the face of challenges and the hardship, is what differentiates successful leaders from those mired in mediocrity. As I’ve written about before, it’s about seeking out the opportunities within the threats and/or hardships. This requires focus to see the opportunities and not fixate on the threats.
  5. ACHIEVEMENT ORIENTATION: This is the wonderful and powerful combination of humility, self-awareness and a positive outlook. If you have this orientation, you might be thinking, “Yes, I have to get better here in this area, and over there too, so I need to be less bossy, less arrogant and less self-focused.” If you work harder than most on personal development, because you want to be better and more effective as a leader, you are on your way due to an achievement orientation.
  6. ADAPTABILITY: It’s about compromise, being willing to sacrifice one thing or experience to gain another thing or experience. Adaptability is a willingness to change. The willingness to risk discomfort or pain in order to get something more valuable is an expression of self-awareness.
  7. INFLUENCE: Luenendonk states, “This one’s really easy. If you’re keen on emotional fluctuations, both yours and your colleagues, if you’re aware of them at all times, you can understand them and feel them, it’s easy for you to do something to steer their changes.” These are subtle points of communication, and they require high social competency blended with a servant leader’s heart and some empathy.
  8. TEAMWORK: Naturally, leaders, managers and similar are in a great position to influence and direct others’ behaviors. Equally so, in order to be an effective influencer, every leader must be open and available to be influenced as well. The best will take these influences and “separate the wheat from the chaff” (or they’ll separate the positive influences while refining, tweaking or disposing of the negative influences).
  9. CONFLICT MANAGEMENT: Generally, as golf professionals, we have to be pretty good at this. Placating the customer or the employee, though, is not conflict management. Instead, it’s using emotional sensitivity to recognize and identify the emotions of the unhappy customer (as well as our own in that moment of stress) so we can de-escalate the emotional engagement before it blows up into a conflict. Would you like to be better at resolving problems? Apply Occam’s Razor theory which stated, back in the 12th Century, “Plurality must never be posited without necessity.” In other words, we will find that the answer requiring the least number of assumptions will most often be the correct one.
  10. COACH AND MENTOR: This is so important in our world now. A book can’t teach someone how to be likable or inspirational. It takes someone who cares and has a high EQ to coach how to act, how to think and how to be.” A coach or a mentor is more apt to guide versus just giving orders.
  11. ORGANIZATIONAL AWARENESS: How sharp is your mind? Are you observant? Do others’ actions and non-verbal communication give you a read on how they’re doing, or how they’re feeling? They should. Think about the last meeting (in person) where someone showed up significantly late. What was the message they sent? (You people don’t matter as much as me.) People with organizational awareness know how to observe and intentionally act to “balance out the collective dynamics of the organization” while understand there are several individuals (with dynamics of their own) who make up the whole of the organization.
  12. INSPIRATIONAL LEADERSHIP: Luenendonk again has a great quote. He states that, “Leadership is one thing and it can be perfected, but the ability to inspire is on the borderline of art.”
    1. What gets those you lead, those in your golf community you serve “started?” What engages them? What “shuts them down?”
    2. To answer this question, first you have to know them well enough. This takes study, effort and is necessary BEFORE you can pull the strings, flip the levers that will inspire and/or motivate them.
    3. Once you have them inspired, they have to feel safe, they need to “know trust” and feel valued and respected. As the leader, you take “Extreme Ownership” (Jocko Willink) and full responsibility for the team’s failures even though they willingly partake in taking the blame and the fall.

If you’re like me, you probably saw a few areas that you felt you’re handling well. You also probably feel like there are a few areas to improve on as well. Here’s the good news–as a PGA professional, you get to practice and improve on these areas every single day in our business. So, don’t be daunted in the pursuit, let’s get out there and start working on these practices – one interaction at a time.


Monte Koch, PGA Certified Professional/Player Development | Career Consultant
PGA Career Services | PGA of America
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Email: Cell: 206/335-5260

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