Greg Norman: All I Know About Winning in Golf, Business and Life

Greg Norman
Angus Murray
A shark may seem out of place in the mountains, but not when it's Greg Norman, who looks right at home in his rustic, palatial Colorado estate.

The trek to Greg Norman's getaway in northwest Colorado is a roundabout one. The retreat is tucked away in a remote, evergreen-covered corner of this rugged state, an area so isolated that GPS is little help. An unmarked dirt road runs from the highway to his front door, uncoiling like the rattlesnakes that lurk in the brush. Driving for some 30 minutes, you feel lost. Definitely lost. Then his Rocky Mountain Xanadu appears: a 14,000-square-foot "cabin," two miles of fly-fishing nirvana, and wildlife at every turn. Norman's ranch is as beautiful and seemingly as vast as the snowcapped Rockies that encircle it. It's difficult to fathom how he parlayed "only" 20 PGA Tour wins into this.

Of course, the Shark was chasing much more than just trophies. Like Arnold Palmer before him, Greg Norman oozed charisma, both on and off the course. He bestrode fairways with a swashbuckling, take-no-prisoners (and look good doing it) style that made everyone notice. Prize money? That was chump change. Norman saw a worldwide brand as the ultimate reward, and he has gone on to amass a fortune that has been estimated at $400 million. Sure, there were bumps along the road. Take the well-publicized divorce from his first wife in 2006 that halved his assets (au revoir, $103 million); the heartbreaking near misses in eight majors; his clash with the PGA Tour over his World Tour brainchild, which he calls the low point of his career. But you don't become an icon by surrendering to adversity. "Failure makes you stronger," says Norman, 58, now three years into his third marriage (with interior designer Kirsten Kutner, 45). How strong? Great White Shark Enterprises operates 16 profitable ventures in areas ranging from real-estate development to turf research to prime beef sales. Like his ravenous namesake, the Great White Shark is far from satisfied. He's got big plans. Welcome to the success secrets of a man in full -- the guiding thoughts that helped a kid from Mount Isa, Australia, ascend from a $32-a-week job in a pro shop to the pinnacle of the golf world, and build his brand into a booming international business.

Do Your Homework

I became a good businessman because I was a good golfer. Golf taught me how to practice, formulate a strategy and then execute it -- a due-diligence process that also fuels good business decisions. Some people are naturals at business. I'm not, but I had a great education through golf.

Patience Is Underrated

I signed my first contract with Reebok in 1989. Paul Fireman, Reebok's CEO, had a dream for me, but eventually structured the deal so I could function as my own brand. That was huge. The more independent you can be in life, the better. But since I didn't have a lot of marketing or branding knowledge at the time, I was patient. I didn't go for the quick buck. I focused only on how big it could become. I'm lucky in that I have pretty good long-term vision. Why do I have it? I don't know. But here we are decades later -- and I've only reached 20 percent of what this company is capable of achieving.

I was a different person on the course. I wasn't as patient, because I didn't have to be. I knew everything about the game and was super-confident in my abilities. I played by the sword and died by it. Would I have changed some things about my game knowing what success in business has taught me? It's something that I'd consider. But don't get me wrong -- I have zero regrets.

Winning Is About Heart

A lot of people ask how I'd stack up against today's players if I had use of modern equipment. Listen, it's not about the gear. Winning is about what's in your heart and in your head. Equipment dictates how to play the game in an era, but the physical and mental skills are the same. And I had them. I never feared anything or anyone on the course, and I wasn't afraid to fail. So I think I'd do pretty well against Snead, Hogan, Tiger and Phil -- whoever. Tiger's a tough guy, but I was a tough guy on the course, too. I probably would have beat him.

Never Blame Your Tools

The best are always going to be the best, no matter what you chuck in their bag. Send five guys out on Augusta National with hickory-shafted clubs and gutta-percha balls, and the guy with the most talent will always win. Technology allows you to extract certain things from your equipment, but how you extract it is dependent upon your ability to swing the club. Science can only take you so far.

The Secret's in the Shaft

When I was young I read a lot of articles by Ben Hogan. He wrote pages on the stiffness and torque he used in his shafts. I remember thinking, Sh-t! I need to figure this out. I spent a lot of time trying different shafts and, when I found a good match, making sure the spine was set in the same place on every club. I got it right, so I can't figure out why today's pros can't do likewise. Take Rory [McIlory]. It's absurd to say he has gear issues. It's so easy to re-create the same specs and feel from one set to the next. Something else is going on [with him].

Play Within Your Limits

The biggest difference between weekend players and pros? Let's say we're both 100 yards from the pin -- a sand wedge for me and a gap wedge for you. I'll use my pitching wedge and swing at 70 percent. You'll hit your gap wedge at 100 percent. And you'll lose. Weekend players go for broke while pros look for a way to play the minimum.

Play with Precision

When I was playing my best, my caddie, Bruce Edwards, would give me half yardages -- as in, "Greg, you've got 147 and a half yards to the pin." Sounds extreme, but a half-yard is 18 inches, which often means the difference between "good chance" and "no chance" on the ensuing putt. Spend time getting to know your distances and how to be precise with them on the fly. You may not realize it, but the distance you hit the ball changes with the atmosphere. Those humid early-morning rounds? You're going to lose yards. Similarly, the ball will jump when it's hot or dry. Guys can drive it 300 yards today without blinking an eye, but it's still a precision game.

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