Driving it Home: Golf as a Metaphor of Communication Strategy.

So right out the gate, I’m not a golfer. I have played maybe once in my entire life, and am quite content with this miniscule contact with the sport.

But I couldn’t help it when I came across this humdrum looking article about golf methodology by Jack Nicklaus, no less.

Golf is the art of Strategic Communication, visualized.

Illustration by Chris O’Riley via Golfdigest.com

It occured to me how the golf hole and the measuring one does prior to the swing is a perfect metaphor for choosing words and deeds, especially in trying and complex circumstances.

Via Alexander Osterwalder License

Imagine for a moment the barriers — the hazards, the woods and in the far distance, the hole. Communicators have to tussle with the idea of getting past ‘noise’ — the concatenation of all the competing messaging, the internal monologue of listeners, atmospheric disturbances and the speaker’s own doubts. The message — the shot itself — has to be precise, taking into account all the variables, wind direction and speed (“what is on people’s minds?” “how strong are their feelings?”) the methods at hand (“what club shall I use?” “how far must the ball go?”) the track record (“what’s par for this hole?”) and indeed the margin for error.


Messaging requires an ability to have both the deft even unspoken touch of a putter, as much as the brute force of a wood or targeted strength of an iron.

Short, ‘fat-free’ phrasing hits home much quicker sometimes, a favorite of marketers counting the short attention spans of audiences and the high per-second cost of advertising in general.

This is especially useful in B2C work — large audiences though targeted, behave in like mind as a group, moving individually all toward the same goal, because the links are constructed to guide movement in a finite number of directions, reducing the number of strategies to be availed of.

Lengthier, in-depth, repeated messaging, like navigating past the woods or digging out of the bunker, needs multiple contacts of minimal indiviudal value that still add up to a nudge onto the green, in sight of victory.

Consulting and Coaching exemplify this latter method.

These Communication professions rely less on big swings and more on light reinforcing, repetive, small impact touches, more affirming identity than revolutionizing psyche.

Use Strong structures in Communication, minimalist word choice, strategic number of contacts, affirm the listener.

It’s toughest when you actually reach the green. Ask any persuader of ideas — during that last mile the intended audience is weighing out decisions, and silence is a strong ally to the fastest and smoothest talker, like the quiet and firm concentration for a ten-foot putt.

Best advice here — To Achieve the Goal, Become one with the Goal.

You see, in both parts of this comparison, the key is reducing distance, be it in the sense of physical ground to cover or attitudanal differences to bridge.

I feel differently about something than you do — that’s because I believe we are different. If I can be made to believe we are the same, I will feel the same about the goal as you do.

That’s why professionals love the term alignment. The objects and players that were apart are now together, and quite perfectly, the flag is raised, for there isn’t quite a better victory than just ‘getting it’.

Hole in One. Being One. United.