by Jan Gardiner, CPA, GRC Solution Management, SAP

golfGRC Is a Game of Honor

I was sitting in my backyard yesterday, which overlooks a golf course in Anthem, Arizona, and my mind was wandering as I thought about the topic for my next blog. Just for the fun of it, I thought about some key aspects of golf that might be applicable to governance, risk, and compliance. If you are a golfer, you’ve probably heard some of this before—but I’m guessing you’ve never heard this applied to GRC.

Perhaps the US Golf Association (USGA) says it best in an excerpt from The Human Element:

“Golf is a game of honor. Players are expected to call penalties on themselves. The other competitors in a tournament “protect the field” by monitoring each other in a group and, at the end, placing an attesting signature on a scorecard. In that vein, “peer review” is the method by which players attest to the ability of those in a club, through monitoring playing and posting of scores. “

The game’s code of honor means that even a hint of cheating or dishonesty can tarnish an individual.

The often-told story of famous pro golfer, Bobby Jones, is often used to illustrate.  As the story goes, in the 1925 U.S. Open, Bobby’s ball moved as he addressed it. No one saw it happen, and the small movement was insignificant—it didn’t even help him. However, he assessed himself a penalty, as required by the rules. Unfortunately, as a direct result, he ended up in a 36-hole playoff which he lost. So the insignificant ball movement that no one saw cost him the tournament.

A reporter who heard about it wanted to write about Bobby’s sportsmanship, and Bobby responded, “You might as well praise me for not robbing banks.”

Golf and GRC: Similarities

  • It’s about integrity and fair competition, not just about winning.
  • You need to balance risk and opportunity to compete successfully.
  • Developing and applying sound practices can help you succeed.
  • The rules are complex, and some of them do not seem to make much sense.
  • Many organizations publish their analysis of the rules and how to interpret them.
  • Sometimes the rules can work in your favor.
  • Broken rules can lead to serious penalties, and “ignorance is no excuse.”
  • Discovery by others that you have broken the rules can result in severe damage to your reputation.
  • …and at the end of the day, you are responsible for your own actions.


So, now that I think of it, perhaps the analogy isn’t between GRC today and golf—it’s between golf and GRC as it should be.

Now that you are in a “golf-ish” sort of mood, why not check out SAP’s golf sponsorships at  to read the stories of great golfers like Paula Creamer, Ernie ELS, Gary Player, and Martin Kaymer.

To read more about SAP solutions for governance, risk, and compliance solutions, visit