Business Fundamentals of Golf
By Steve McDonald First Tee of Shawnee County
Some executives go so far as to declare that they could not even conduct business without golf.
Hundreds of deals are closed through golfing, though not necessarily while playing golf. However, you should use your time on the course to develop a relationship, not to sell a deal. Being overly eager to ‘talk shop’ will likely annoy your partner, or worse, affect his game. A day of bad play is not going to help your chances of closing a deal.
More often than not, people make investments in people. A round of golf is a great time to demonstrate that you are a smart, competent and likeable person. If you are a thoughtful golfer who engages in good conversation on the course, you will increase your chances of closing a deal.
Business fundamentals to practice while playing golf:
1. NetworkShow up at the course by yourself and you’ll end up in a foursome with people you don’t know. When golfing 18 holes, you will have plenty of time to engage in conversations that will allow you to get to know the other golfers in a way that LinkedIn and email will never provide.
2. Build up to businessAvoid diving into business talk right away. As the rounds progress, you can dig deeper by asking questions that invite the other parties to share information about themselves and their work. Listen carefully to gain a perspective on the problems and bottlenecks they face—think of how you could help. You could offer an introduction to a contact or steer them toward helpful industry information. More often than not, people will return the favor and help you out down the road.
3. Be preparedCome to the course with a few business cards to exchange before the end of the round.
4. Be earlyIf you've invited clients to join you, give yourself an adequate window of time to arrive at the club before your guests get there.
5. Do your homeworkPick a course you will both enjoy, but do your homework. Has the course just aerated the greens? Not a good choice. The same goes for major construction on the clubhouse or facilities. You should avoid any course that is under repair.
6. Respect the game's etiquetteRepair divots on the course and ball marks on the greens, and rake bunkers, if needed. These are the small details that clients will notice because they demonstrate respect for both the course and the golfers behind you. Stand away from fellow players and be quiet during swings. Stay out of sight lines when others are playing a shot, as a moving shadow during a swing can be an unwelcome distraction.
7. Don't cheatThis says a lot about you—if a person cheats at golf, it can be assumed that he or she will cheat at business as well.
8. Let your client choose the teesThe experience should be about providing your guests with an enjoyable time and challenge, not about looking out for yourself. You should be prepared to play to the comfort level of your companions and guests.
9. Don't make excusesIt is important for you to know the etiquette of the game. If you are a new player and are with more experienced golfers, just say, “I’m new to the game and I welcome any tips you have to help me move along more quickly.”
10. Remember purposeThe emphasis in a business golf setting should be on building rapport and trust with your playing partners. Don’t be too competitive.
11. Be comfortable with wageringWagering is integral to golf and is a good way to build camaraderie. Use the USGA handicap system to keep it fair. Keep wagers friendly and the stakes low.
12. Control your angerDon't curse, throw clubs, etc.
13. Compliment your prospective clientDon't hesitate to compliment on good shots and putts.
14. Be on your best behaviorThe behavior you can get away with among friends is not going to fly when you’re on the course with business clients.
15. Take it easy on the alcoholYou should be a great host and offer your client a beverage when the bar cart comes around. However, be sure you alternate between water and alcohol if you are both drinking. Furthermore, if your client is not having beer or alcohol, don’t drink. Your policy for drinking should be to “follow the leader.”
16. Treat everyone like goldEven if someone really upsets you, you can address the situation with a smile and without getting loud. When clients see how you handle yourself under pressure, it will go a long way. Treating the employees at the course well will be an indication of your favorable character, as well.
17. Give yourself extra timePlan to sit down for lunch or a drink after the game to visit. This time affords a better opportunity to discuss business, life, or changes at work.
18. Follow upSchedule a followup after the golf outing, or at the very least, be sure to connect on LinkedIn.