June 29, 2015
Dramatic change. It’s one of the most difficult tasks to manage for us humans.
It seems we’re attracted to comfort zones and the status quo for many reasons, undoubtedly because there’s always a certain level of discomfort when it comes to fear of the unknown. And that certainly applies as well to the world of professional golf.
Take a virtually unheard of place called Chambers Bay on Puget Sound in the state of Washington, for example. Up until this month, at no point in the 115-year history of the always challenging U.S Open was the championship ever played on the fairways, bunkers and greens of a golf course in the U.S. Pacific Northwest.
Out of 114 U.S. Opens since 1895, when it was first contested at Newport (RI) Country Club, more than a third of those competitions have been held in the Mid-Atlantic region. For some, the move to the Northwest was long overdue. For others, it looked like a huge gamble.
For the United States Golf Association (USGA), making such a bold move to select Chambers Bay–a formidable and untested golf course full of gray sand and surrounded by the Olympic Mountains–to host the 2015 U.S. Open provides an excellent opportunity to reflect on a few important business lessons from such a controversial decision.
5 Business Lesson Parallels We Can All Learn From
Here are five strong parallels between this year’s U.S. Open Championship and business in general that stood out to us. You might even be able to come up with an entirely different list.
Here’s our take:
Don’t Be Afraid of Risk
Even though Chambers Bay is not a private venue, but a county-owned and open to the public golf course, it impressed the USGA so much when it was opened in 2007 that the organization quickly designated it a future U.S. Open site. That certainly took courage to make such a far-reaching call so many years before the actual event. However, the USGA was not afraid to lean forward into such a decision.
Be Bold to Stand Out From the Competition
Chambers Bay has brought British links-style play directly to the western shores of the U.S. With its tree-less landscape (aside from one lone fir pine tree behind the 15th green), striking elevation changes and massive bunkers (complete with wooden steps due to their immense depth), the course has a distinct look and feel. The lone fir on 15 is even used as an iconic landmark and seems to proudly convey the message, “I alone represent Chambers Bay, a course that is different from all of the rest.”
Don’t Settle for the Status Quo
The U.S. Open is famous for being played at plush, fabled and exclusive clubs that are synonymous with the event: Shinnecock, Winged Foot, Oakmont, Merion and Baltusrol. Chambers Bay certainly broke that mold many times over and has for all intents and purposes, made its indelible mark on U.S. Open history. Virtually any photo from any angle at Chambers Bay paints that picture extremely well.
Dismiss the Critics and Doubters
The USGA’s decision to select Chambers Bay as the site for the 2015 U.S. Open had its share of critics and doubting Thomas’s. Negative comments abounded, from criticizing the course designer as having one leg shorter than the other and that those players missing the cut were actually happy to go home, to the course’s 7,900-yard layout being irresponsible for water usage. However, the final round at Chambers Bay did produce a crowded and exciting leaderboard with a number of players narrowly off the pace. Sunday’s final round action posted a 4.2 household television rating, averaging 6.7 million viewers on FOX broadcast network, a 46 percent increase over the U.S. Open’s final round in 2014 (4.6 million) at Pinehurst Resort.
Think Outside of the Box
Golf tournament purists may still like Pebble Beach or Oakmont, but that’s OK according to the USGA’s Executive Director, Mike Davis. The intention with Chambers Bay was a departure from the norm, a bold stroke from which the PGA Tour can only benefit for years to come. Chambers Bay, with its fine fescue, drought-resistant grass, as well as sandy tees, fairways and greens, provided a firm and fast venue for a golf balls to bounce, roll far and do all kinds of unpredictable things around the greens and cups.
The 2015 U.S. Open Championship at Chambers Bay will go down in golf tournament history as one of the most memorable ever played. From the varied levels of talent among the diverse field of contenders, to the unpredictable and risk-filled nature of the golf course itself, the USGA’s decision to hold the Championship at Chambers Bay is proof of that.
As for the business lessons from the most recent Open? They’ve inspired us to become even better at our games–in yard management and dock management software and in golf–as well.