Competition LO18178

Richard Goodale (
Sat, 23 May 98 17:03:42 GMT

Replying to LO18139 --

Fred, et. al.

First, a few thoughts about competition and golf. I play golf and compete
at it--always both at the same time. This is to say that, even when I am
just out with friends, or by myself, for a few holes of casual golf I am
trying to hit each shot as best as I possibly I can. As such, I am
always, in effect, "competing with myself," as you say. And, I am always
conscious that golf is a game (or hope to strive to always think of it as
so)--that one should always try to stop and smell the flowers and enjoy
the experience, regardless of the nature or scope or current state of the

I cannot, however, comprehend the possibility of playing the game without
competition, or competing at the game without also experiencing a sense of
play. In the first case (play without competition) one might as well take
one's implements (clubs and balls) into a virgin field and swing away
aimlessly to ones heart's content. You wouldn't need a golf course. You
wouldn't even need a hole (viz. Michael Murphy's "Golf in the Kingdom" for
an appropriately zen-like description of the significance of the "hole" in
golf.) Alternatively, in the second case (competition without play), why
go through the exercise at all? If an activity does not give you
pleasure, why do it?

(Yes, you sticklers out there, I am loosely equating "play" with
"pleasure." The more I think about it, the more I like the equation.)

When my golfing activity is more at the competitive side of the continuum
(i.e. the 15-20 scratch competitions I play at each year both individually
and as a representative of my clubs), I would characterize the experiences
as very much "healthy" competition. Given the nature and rules of the
game, unless you are exceptionally good at golf (i.e. scratch or better
handicap) you will almost inevitably "lose" any Open competition you
enter. But, you can very much learn....if you want to. You can learn
from playing with and watching better players. You can learn from
observing how you and they react in certain situations. And, most
importantly, you can learn when the competition is over, when you talk
over the competition with your fellow competitors back on the practice
ground, or in the bar, or wherever. Golf is relatively unique in my
experience (Rugby and Yachting being the other possible exceptions) as a
competitive sporting activity where "rivals" routinely meet to socialise
and exchange "competitive" information after the competition is over.

One final anecdote on golf and competition. I was an 8 handicap golfer
for many years until I started to play a regular Sunday game, for relative
high money stakes, with three better players (3-5 handicap) at my club in
California in the mid-80's. I lost a good bit of money the first year I
played in that game, but I also got my handicap down to 4-5 in a short
period of time, and better than held my own in that game thereafter. I
learned a hell of a lot about how to play golf, very quickly, through the
crucible of that regular Sunday competition. I can't remember ever having
learned any where near as much anywhere near as quickly in any of the many
"cooperative" learning experiences in which I have been involved. And the
learning "stuck." I still play off 4-5 15 years later (and older).

One more anecdote for "et. al." re: the orchestra as a paradigm of a
learning organisation. My experience in this general area is as a choral
singer, in my youth. I got in, just barely, through a series of highly
competitive auditions, to my university's Glee Club. As one of the
marginally capable singers in the group I was always striving to bring my
singing up towards the standards of the group as a whole. I was helped in
this regard primarily by competitive rather than cooperative measures.
The group as a whole wanted to be able to create the best sound possible.
During rehearsals or performances, when the marginal singers, such as
myself, started to waver in pitch, the better singers around us would look
at us--very subtly, but firmly--and raise their voices in the proper pitch
--very subtly, but firmly--until we got back into line. The action was
both cooperative and competitive. We all know that we needed to sing
together, as best we could, and (I think) we all knew that a
competitive/cooperative real time adjustment mechanism was the best way to
achieve that.

A final reflection on this anecdote. In a glee club/chorus you don't
necessarily want a Domnigo, or Carreras or Pavoratti. What you want are a
few leading, but not starring, singers ("first chairs?") and a bunch of
troopers, like myself, of adequately qualified, but varying abilities.
Would a world class orchestra really want a Heifetz at first chair? I'm
not sure.

Just some thoughts as I reminesce on my poor performance in the Open golf
tournament in which I played today, the great "craic" that me and my
fellow competitors had as we sat in the clubhouse looking over the Firth
of Forth to Edninburgh after the round; and as I prepare for a Memorial
Day barbecue tomoorrow with some visiting family and friends.



Richard Goodale
Managing Partner
The Dornoch Partnership
"Discovery, Creativity, Leadership"


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