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This time on Tee Time Talk, we’re privileged to sit down with Nathan Farrugia, a versatile individual whose journey with golf reflects his diverse experiences as an author, entrepreneur, and record-breaking athlete. From his initial introduction to the sport to his ongoing involvement with our club, Nathan shares insights into the mental challenges of golf, its impact on personal growth, and its unexpected connections to leadership.

When did you start golfing and who introduced you to the game?

I started playing Golf around 2006 thanks to the insistence of Paul Stoner, the Chairman of the club, who was also a fellow Trustee at Inspire Foundation. He always seemed so relaxed, so I thought Golf must be a very easy game, walking around in greenery, while having a chat (sic!) Obviously I was very wrong when you apply the competitive element of golf, which I loved from the very beginning! Unfortunately work and travel demands meant that I stopped playing for about 8 years but picked it up again a few years ago and try to make time for it at least twice a month.

When and How did you come to be a member of this golf club?
I was a member from the get-go. It’s my home club and although I love to play in other countries, I really enjoy the course here. People ask whether I would find it boring, but actually the course is always changing. It’s a living thing, and when you factor in weather, wind, and your own state of mind, no two rounds of golf are ever the same!

How does golf contribute to your overall well-being, and what benefits do you see in being an active member of our golf club?
I love the atmosphere and familiarity of the club and its members. I often play with friends, but also love to just turn up and even play alone. When I am stressed or need time to think, that’s when I tend to switch between social golf and solo rounds respectively. I am very active in other sports, that are much more physically demanding, so for me golf is my ‘therapy’ as well as my mental calibrator.

As a record-breaking athlete who has successfully completed more than 15 extreme challenges, I’m curious to know your perspective on golf. Many might not see golf as an extreme sport, but it has its own challenges. Given your distinct perspective, what do you find challenging about golf, and what lessons or skills do you think it imparts that might not be immediately apparent?
The mental game is why I see golf as a sport, rather than a hobby. Despite the need to have some level of physical fitness if you want to compete or improve, the mental aspects of the game are key. Even in top physical form, I can miss a 3 foot putt because I’m not concentrating or I’m lacking conviction. Golf is like a ‘thermometer’ for my state of mind. If I’m in a good place, I play well; if I’m angry, upset or deflated, I play badly. So to me golf is the perfect exercise for mindfulness, self-awareness and patience. You can’t ‘push through’ a negative mindset in golf like you can in running, swimming or cycling; you have to deal with it.

Despite golf being perceived as an individual sport, there are instances where collaboration and teamwork are essential, especially in team events. Can you recount a specific instance where you had to collaborate with teammates during a golf tournament, and how did leadership skills come into play?
When playing in competitions, there are many times we play as teams of 2, which requires a selfless approach to the game. We help each other find the best shots and coach each other to play better. This is key for fostering team camaraderie and I love this part of the game. I also had the pleasure of working with the Malta team as Vice Captain last year against the expat team – our equivalent of the Ryder Cup, and I really enjoyed the 3 day tournament. Working to serve our top players so they can be at their best, as well as learning new skills from watching them play was a treat. Golf is a great way to learn servant leadership skills, which is by far the most predominant way leaders need to empower their teams in business today.

Do you perceive any connections between the sport of golf and the motivational elements in your career ? If so, what are these connections, and how can individuals or organisations benefit from integrating them into their approach to leadership, or business strategies?

Yes absolutely. As an individual, the aspects of self-awareness and patience are key to personal development, so applying this to work and life brings straightforward benefit. As an organization, taking your team on a team-building event at the club is a great way to have fun whilst practicing new physical and mental skills. However, at the end of the day, the benefit of golf for a CEO or leader is for their own self. I am a much calmer person under pressure now that I play golf, as I know that force, anger or aggression will work against me when trying to put that little white ball into the cup. It’s a metaphor for when trying to solve a wicked problem at work!

Learn more about his work: Nathan Farrugia is the owner of VISTAGE Malta & UAE, the global leader in peer CEO and Owner networks (www.vistage.mt), and the founder of UpYourLevel, a leadership development and coaching organization for executives (www.upyourlevel.com).