The 19th Hole: Doing Business On The Golf Course

The “boys” in the clubhouse have known this for years, and it’s more than time the “gurls” in business caught up!

Networking On The Golf CourseGolf is a great way to get to meet and network with new business prospects, or entertain current clients. Take a potential client out for a day of golf and you have a chance to get to know each other on a different level than the one you experience in the conference room. The conditions are more personal, more informal and probably more comfortable.

You get to watch your golf partner in a variety of situations. Golf is a great metaphor for life. As a game that brings out both the best and the worst in players, you can tell a lot about a person from the way they conduct themselves on the golf course. You can discover quickly who is the guy or gal who plays the game by the rules, or cuts corners, gives themselves a little “edge” by kicking their ball out of a divot, or tosses a club when things go terribly wrong. You can learn a lot by just observing your fellow players.

With the many business organizations for women and men holding golf tournaments for one charity or another, it’s easy to find an event that would suit your style of game, and at the same time, benefit your favorite cause. Invite business associates as a thank you for their continuing business or to introduce them to new vendors or suppliers you think would be a good fit.

If you are invited to join a client at a tournament and are meeting new business prospects for the first time, be careful not to “hard sell” them on what it is you do. Sure, introduce yourself and the name of your company, but don’t immediately launch into your sales pitch. In fact, don’t pitch at all. Spend the first few holes, just chatting about anything but business and when you feel the time is right, ask them about their business. Spend most of the round of golf getting to know them. Listen and learn. When you finally get back to the clubhouse you will know a lot about them and their business and whether you can be of service to them. By listening first, your “soft sell” pitch will make more sense, be more finely tuned to their needs and you will have a better chance of getting what you wanted in the first place — more business.

Some practical points:

Who should pay for the round of golf? This is pretty self-evident, but if you are inviting someone to join you, you pay. They may offer to pay for their own green fee, but don’t let them. Be generous and pay for both of you. If, on the other hand you are invited to play at a golf charity event, offer to pay your own entry fee. It’s all for a good cause and probably tax deductible as well.

Special attire? If the course you are playing at requires special golf attire, i.e. collared shirt, no jeans, etc. then be sure to tell your guest. You don’t want them showing up and then being embarrassed because they wore denim! or a T-shirt.

Cheating? What do you do if you catch your golf partner clearly cheating or ignoring the rules? This requires a little discernment on your part. If they are a new golfer and simply don’t know the rules, I’d let it go. You can tell them the rule, but don’t make a big fuss about it. However, if they’ve been golfing for years and still ignore the rules, then you have to decide, is it worth it to call them on the infraction, or let it go? Better than that, if this is a new client, a seasoned golfer and they are still cheating, then I’d ask myself the question: Do I want to do business with this person? If he or she cheats on the golf course when I’m watching, what will they try to get away with when I’m not looking? Your answer could have major implications for your business. Of course if the cheater is your boss or supervisor, you might have to look the other way. It’s up to you.

Temper Tantrums: Like cheating, watching your golf partner handle him or herself when their ball slices off into the woods for the fifth time tells you a lot about them. Do they take it all in stride or get angry enough to fling their club into the nearby pond? Do they sulk, or blame the sun, the wind, the noisy player on the nearby fairway, or the maintenance crew for not aiming the tee box markers correctly? Do they blame anyone or anything but themselves for the slice? You can draw your own conclusions about this type of behavior.

Keeping Score and Side Bets: Whether you keep score, place small side bets, for example on number of putts, who gets to the green first, number of bunkers—whatever game you want to play on the side, that’s up to you and your partner. Competition is always good to add some spice to the game. But you don’t want to burden a new golfer with lots of extra rules to follow. Be easy about it and if you suggest a side bet and they don’t want to participate, don’t insist. Follow your guest’s lead in this regard.

Should you let your golf partner win? This is an interesting question. If you are a far better player than your golf partner, would you hold back or deliberately lose a hole or two to make things even out a bit — especially if your partner is playing poorly that day? I don’t think so. People can tell when you are letting them win — when you are holding back. I remember playing board games as a kid with my aunts and uncles. They would play in such a way that I would always win. I knew what they were doing and didn’t like it. When I won, I knew I didn’t really deserve to win.

On the golf course, play your game to win. Play as you always do. And if you win, good for you. And if you lose, better luck another day. Besides if you and your golf partner have handicaps, and you use them in your scoring then you are both on a level playing field. Don’t worry about it.

Who pays for dinner and drinks? It’s courteous to invite your golf partner to join you after a round of golf for drinks or dinner. And of course, as the host of the day, you pay the tab. If you are attending a golf tournament as a guest then offer to buy your host a drink as a thank you.

Leave your business card. After you have finished your round of golf and are relaxing in the clubhouse, it’s the perfect opportunity and perfectly appropriate to  offer your business card to your partner, and accept theirs if they have one. Express your thanks and, if appropriate, make arrangements to meet another time for golf, or for business. Some business relationships take a while to develop and if you feel another day on the course will eventually lead to a good partnership in the future, then certainly take the opportunity to suggest another meeting.

Networking Associations: If you haven’t already joined your local chamber of commerce or rotary club, that can be a great way to network. There are also a lot of business associations online for almost every business niche. Find yours and join. In addition, you might find some of these organizations possible network opportunities.

Linked In Groups: (You need an account to join)

  • Golf For Women In Business
  • Texas Executive Golf Club (check Linked In Groups – there is most likely one of these groups for every state in the U.S. etc.

Other Online Groups (do a search for Women’s Golf Networks) – here are just a few to start…

  3 comments for “The 19th Hole: Doing Business On The Golf Course

  1. Pat says:

    Thanks Christina. The golf course is a great place for networking.

  2. Christina says:

    Great article. I am going to share this with our fans/customers!

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