Golf Lessons for Business... and Life


How the Owners of Giannetto’s Neighborhood Italian have Applied Eight Winning Traits in Golf to Enhance Business and Personal Lives

In a 2009 article in the New York Times, columnist Thomas Friedman compared golf to life. He wrote that of all sports, golf is the one that is most relatable to life. He explained, “Baseball, basketball and football are designed to give true bounces. Golf is played on an uneven terrain designed to surprise. Good and bad bounces are built into the essence of the game. And the reason golf is so much like life is that the game…like life…is all about how you react to those good and bad bounces.”

Golf is a lot like business, as well. So many outside variables influence it. Many are beyond its control. But most of the golf greats share certain qualities that help them succeed. These traits are universal, and will not only help a business succeed, but also contribute to a successful life. 

Like many successful golfers, Victor Giannetto knows a thing or two about navigating uneven terrain…but in the restaurant world.  In 1978, he was the first to bring Chicago-style stuffed pizza to Michiana, and opened Giannetto’s in Mishawaka. Over the years, he enjoyed many successes, and endured many challenges…rough-riding it through a particularly bad economy. Many restaurants folded, but Vic never gave up. If you asked him what traits carried him through all those years, he’d tell you “quality, quality, quality. Never skimp on quality…and never give up.”

Fast forward to today. Vic was presented with a new opportunity and joined forces with three owner partners. Randy Miller, financial and operations expert, and Tim and Emily Hill, marketing, image-building, design, and advertising experts. Each has 25-30 years of success in their specialized fields, and contributes a different spoke to the “business wheel” to make a stronger team. The new partnership believes they have a winning restaurant concept…offering a total-sensory premium dining experience that won’t break the bank for guests. Quality workmanship throughout Tim and Emily’s custom-designed interior, custom sound-system for background music, and premium menu options are just a few examples.

“There are certain traits and lessons in golf that can also be applied to business, as well as in life,” says Tim Hill. “In business we call them ‘core values,’ and they’re paramount to achieving success in any industry…and in life.”  Tim goes on to say, “Take Vic, for example. It was his 30-year commitment to using only premium ingredients that attracted us to presenting him with this venture. Had he been one of those guys who cut corners on quality, even in bad economic times, we would have never approached him. Vic valiantly stuck to his core values.”

Golf mimics the game of life and business. It reveals a person’s integrity, decision-making and mental fortitude. Golfing legend Bobby Jones once said, “Golf is a game played on a 5-inch course…the distance between your ears.”  

The following are eight traits imperative to achieving success not only on the golf course, but in business, and are used every day when making operational decisions at Giannetto’s. Also included are quotes from legendary golfers who have offered inspirational insights into their game…which apply to everyday business and personal life.


1  - The Drive for Excellence

Always give your best. The boundless capacity to improve the quality of what you have to offer – that’s excellence. It’s more of an attitude…a way of thinking. “For example,” Emily explains, “We meticulously selected our materials for the interior design. From the old-Chicago brick archways to the hand-scraped wood floors. Our attention to detail carries over to our food, as well, using only premium ingredients in our menu items. 

“When I go after something, I want to go after it with everything I have. I want to push myself to the edge.”
-Greg Norman


2 - A Winning Attitude

The human advantage over all other creatures on our planet is the ability to think and reason.  All successful people aggressively and positively use this to control their destiny…improving their game, business, and lives. Randy sums it up by adding, “focus on the positive, learn from the negative. It’s a combination of optimism, enthusiasm and competitiveness, with unwavering focus…each and every day.” 

“Don’t look for excuses to lose...look for excuses to win.”
-Chi Chi Rodriguez


3 - Integrity

The most important aspect in business, as in golf….and life…is HOW you play the game.

“Success in this game depends less on strength of mind and character.”
-Arnold Palmer


4 - Resilience and Flexibility

Even good shots can end up badly…and vice versa. View every problem as just another challenge. Whether it’s an unexpected downturn in the economy, or some other adversity, adapt strategies to win even when times are tough. “Unforeseen challenges happen every day in business. As in golf, you can’t change the golf course, but you CAN change the way you play,” explains Randy.

“Golf is the closest game to the game we call life. You get bad breaks from good shots and good breaks from bad shots...but you have to play the ball where it lies.”
-Bobby Jones


5 - Surround yourself with positive players

People often think golf is an individual sport and, on paper, it is. But it’s not really. There is no golfer on the PGA Tour who doesn’t rely on his personal trainer to stay in shape. His golf pro to keep his swing tweaked properly. Or his caddy to help him read greens and choose the proper club. 

Choose to employ positive people who improve your business and life by combining different areas of expertise, allowing that winning drive, and creating a positive vibe. Eliminate negative people who emit toxicity that poison your business and life.


6 - Take a calculated risk

You can have a vision for a business, but if you don’t act on it, it’s meaningless…an opportunity lost forever. Devise a sensible plan to make your vision a reality. Weigh all the pros and cons, do your research, then give a 100% commitment. Forge ahead in spite of the naysayers. It’s not comfortable to go against the grain, but, if you succeed, the rewards are so much higher!

In the case with Vic’s early restaurants, the new partners saw a quality product that could expand into new markets…opportunities not yet explored. They developed a strong viable business plan and are using their individual skill sets as a team toward making their vision a reality.


7 - Perseverance

If you think you’re going to jump into any business…simply by waltzing through a door labeled “success,” and achieving it…think again. The path to success is littered with obstacles. Sand traps. Water hazards. Deep woods. In the restaurant world it may show up as eliminating a popular menu item whose food cost is simply too high, or a cook or server you thought was going to be a superstar…but turned out to be a bust. The road to success contains these daily obstacles and requires the resolve to persevere…no matter how tough the course becomes.

“Resolve never to quit, never to give up, no matter what the situation.”
-Jack Nicklaus


8 - Never stop learning

Like golf, business is a perpetual game of learning. The most successful golfers never stop learning and are always refining their craft. 

This is also true in business. Trying different strategies is the only way to find out what works. Analyzing failed strategies help lead to future successful ones.

It’s the same in life. Trying new ideas helps develop the mind and body. Improvement only occurs when we challenge ourselves both physically and mentally.  The ones who claim to know it all are the ones who have stopped learning. Always continue to learn from those around you. Always drive to improve. As mom always said, “every day’s a school day.”

“If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate.”
-Tom Watson


At Giannetto’s, we try to use all of these core values every day in everything we do. Just as in golf, opening a restaurant…or any business…takes the right team…from the owners to the staff… and the right core values. From financial adversity, delays, or taking on the challenges of designing the restaurant inside and out…business partners must be unwavering in maintaining quality by not compromising core values. Only then can you drive for success. 

And one more lesson to take away from golf, business and life: don’t forget to enjoy your round.

“As you walk down the fairway of life, you must smell the roses, for you only get to play one round.”
-Ben Hogan