Golf and the Swinging Executive

While correlation ain’t causality, I’ve long been entertained by the relationship between a CEO’s golf handicap and their company’s return to shareholder. As Graef Crystal reminds us again this year, low-handicap CEOs turn in higher returns than higher handicap CEOs.

While correlation isn’t causality, as I said at the outset, and the differences are small enough that it could be due to luck alone, let’s assume the relationship holds. Why might it be the case? Compensation consultant Crystal argues as follows:

Here’s my pop-psychology take on the issue. Delivering superior corporate performance requires tight focus and discipline on the part of a CEO. And what do you know, lowering your handicap requires the same virtues.

But lower golf handicaps aren’t an unalloyed tool for good:

My analyses do contain just a hint of the possibility that while a relatively low handicap won’t hurt your corporate performance and may even help it, a super-low handicap may not improve things further and may even degrade them a bit.


  1. we did this in the original red herring. it was a lot of fun back then to do this

  2. Vijay Chandran says:

    Paul, Stan O Neal is an exception to this list isnt it. Will be be considered as an outliers in your analysis.