Hooked On Golf Blog

How much do you really know about Greg Norman? I thought I knew just about everything until I read Greg’s book The Way Of The Shark: Lessons on Golf, Business, and Life.

If you’re like me here’s all you thought there was to know about Greg Norman:

1. He won the British Open twice.
2. He was the #1 golfer in the world for roughly 330 weeks.
3. He has high end apparel brand.
4. He has a golf course design business.
5. He lost the Masters to Nick Faldo after bringing a six shot lead into Sunday in 1996.
6. He’s Australian.

There’s much more…

First things first on this golf book review. I need to shorten the title since I’ll be referring to it a bunch of times. So from now on I’ll refer to the book as “WOTS, short “Way Of The Shark.” If you’ve read the book or you read the book, you’ll laugh at the fact that I’m abbreviating like this. Greg seems to like abbreviations as they’re all over in the book.

Lessons In Golf

Greg Norman won over 90 tournaments world wide. He started out in his home country of Australia, excelled and dominated there, and then moved to Europe and then the USA. Little did he know this at the time, but this would be the Shark’s method of operation many times over in the business world as well.

The Shark’s most notable victories obviously were his two majors, both British Opens (1986, 1993).

Unfortunately, many of Norman’s losses are possibly more famous than his wins. Norman seemed to have the worst luck sometimes. He’d seem to have a tournament locked up, only to have someone chip-in or hit some incredible shot to beat him.

In the 1987 Masters Norman thought all he had to do was two putt on #11 in a playoff to win when Larry Mize chipped in a nearly impossible shot from 110 feet.

The worst loss for the Shark was in the 1996 Masters. I watched all four rounds and was amazed by his 1st round 63. Little did many know, that the Shark almost didn’t play because his back was in bad shape the day before that 63. Fred Couples sent his back therapist to the Shark’s room to help him out, which helped Norman shoot that 63.

By Sunday, Greg had a six shot lead over Nick Faldo. I remember that day like it was yesterday. I wanted Greg to win the Masters SO bad and when I saw the look in his eyes on TV I knew he was in trouble. Norman’s game was off and he knew it. That’s why he had that look.

When Faldo holed his final putt to beat Greg, Faldo told the Shark, “I don’t know what to say. I just want to give you a hug.”

That loss proved be be probably the biggest “character builder” Norman had. It helped him put everything in perspective and really gave him a springboard for his entrepreneurial successes. Many people consider that the worst loss in golf, but for the Shark it turned out to be a big gain for him psychologically.

Lessons In Business

Most professional golfers who are just starting out need money. They usually sell themselves to “sponsors” to get funding for their travel, equipment and entry fees. The sponsors then get a hefty percentage back when the player succeeds.

One of the most impressive things about the Shark is that he never had a sponsor or investor. He did it all on his own with no backing. He first won small tournaments and rolled the winnings over to bankroll future tournaments. Once again, this would be a strategy he’d use in business.

In reading his book there are a few points which Greg really pounds home. One of the biggest is the story of his being shafted by his first agent. His dealings with his first agent soured and put him into tax trouble. It took Norman a long time to resolve this situation, but it provided him yet another lesson and building block in business.

Clashes

Another vibe you get (though perhaps not intentional), is that Norman is about as “alpha” as a guy can get. He’s THE man and he needs to run the show. Many times the Sharks’ partnerships resulted in an eventual power struggle or impasse.

One of the biggest clashes was/is between Norman and PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem. They’ve clashed on a few different subjects.

Remember the “World Golf Championships” or perhaps the “World Golf Tour?” Back in the day I thought they were one in the same but they weren’t. According to WOTS, Norman came up with the idea of a “World Tour” of golf which would overlap the PGA Tour schedule. He had the whole thing developed, scheduled, TV arranged etc… Finchem battled against this tour. Finchem shot it down with propaganda and by putting fear into tour players that they’d lose their tour cards if they played in the Shark’s tour.

The World Golf Tour was one of the very few entrepreneurial ideas Norman had which didn’t succeed in big fashion.

The Shark’s Ventures

Like I mentioned before, there are many more business ventures on the Shark’s resume than most people know. Yes, he’s a successful golf course designer. Yes he has an apparel brand which sells several hundred million dollars per year. But did you know that he has a turf farm which provides turf for courses, sporting fields and homes? Norman saw a need for more resilient turf to survive the swampy areas of Florida he was developing. He brought in a proprietary turf from Australia and formed his company GNTC (Greg Norman Turf Company) to fill a niche which nobody else could fill.

Another branch from the course design is real estate development. Norman has his hands in several different development companies which develop in the USA, Australia and several other locations worldwide.

In the “lifestyle” category the Shark’s ventures now include owning a restaurant (GNAG, Greg Norman’s Australian Grill), owning a prime beef company which has an alliance with Outback Steakhouse (GNAP, Greg Norman’s Australian Prime) and most recently his wineries (GNWE, Greg Norman Wine Estates). GNWE has vineyards in Australia and California. I have yet to try any GNWE wine, but I look forward to it.

Viral Business Growth

Norman’s businesses are all related in one way or another. He forms one business and then finds a need or niche related to that business which isn’t filled or provided. He then forms a new company and fills that niche, better than anyone else. That’s how the guy gets from golf to wineries. Makes sense now doesn’t it?

What’s NOT In WOTS

If you’re looking for juicy info about Norman’s personal life there’s not much. There are a couple of entertaining stories, like when President Bill Clinton broke his leg on Norman’s front porch. But you won’t read even the smallest nugget about Norman’s divorce.

Another funny omission… I don’t believe I saw one mention or nugget about Tiger Woods. Good for Greg!

I Met Greg Norman

A funny thing happened. I’d had this book for 13 months and read a few pages (yes I’m a slow reader). On the airplane ride to this year’s PGA Show I kicked butt and finished the rest of the book. Read a world record 250 pages in one sitting.

Then, the next day at the PGA Show I walked right into Greg and said hello! What are the odds? I told him hello and that I just read his book on the airplane. He asked if I liked it and I said yes. Then he was off. After all, if you’ve got so many businesses you don’t have that much time to talk to golf bloggers…

Conclusion

This is a very enlightening book. Many of the lessons in the book have been, and will be very useful for me in my own entrepreneurial aspirations. The book is well done, extremely well researched and indexed….just like Norman’s other business ventures.

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