Golf isn’t just a leisurely sport that you and your buddies get all liquored up on a weekend to play. Doing business on the golf course is a staple of the modern business world. Whether it’s your boss, current/prospective client, or future employer, use these tips to get the deal done on the course.
Pick the Proper Venue
- Whether you’re playing with skilled or subpar golfers, pick a course that is relatively easy to keep morale high. You don’t want the person your trying to impress to be digging around in the woods or fishing their ball out of the water all day. That can breed frustration and hurt your chances of productive conversation.
- Choose a course that has a convenient location and is well maintained. Picking the ‘junk yard’ county course with 2 holes under repair and no customer service is obviously a bad judgement call. Showing up at Augusta National is not necessary either, just pick a course you can all enjoy. Think of it this way, you wouldn’t pick your client up in a broken down pick up truck because it sends the wrong message about your professionalism. The same goes for choosing a course that isn’t an eyesore.
- Pick up the tab and make the round your treat, it’s a very gracious gesture and a sign of gratitude. In the business world, we all know you have to spend a little money to make money.
Follow Their Lead
- If your boss, guest, or associate picked the course and they’ve neglected the first two rules above, just go with the flow and certainly don’t point out their own poor judgment. The last thing you want to do is insult their home course. That’s a surefire way to damage a relationship.
- Let your guest indicate how they would like to have the round play out. For example, if you usually play from the blue tees and they’re more comfortable teeing off from the whites, go ahead and join them. The idea is to be accommodating and to make your guest feel welcome.
- If your guest doesn’t want to keep score, don’t let your competitive streak get the best of you. You’re out there to make a connection so bite the bullet and join them in an informal round.
- Let your guest determine the pace of play. Some less experienced golfers take time to move through the course. Don’t make your guest feel panicked or rushed. If other golfers are waiting on you, simply let them play through and continue your leisurely round.
Use Your Networking Time Appropriately
- Wait for opportune times to discuss business (if at all) and always let your guest be the one to bring it up. After all, you invited them for a round of golf, not a captive sales pitch.
- You have roughly five intimate one-on-one hours with your guest(s), so engage them and ask them questions. Make them talk about themselves as much as possible by posing questions like: “tell me about that 77 you shot at Arbor Country Club last Thursday; what a score!” Even if you don’t care, make every effort to bond with them (tell me about your kids, your family, your vacation plans…etc) — small talk creates a closer bond immediately.
- If you’re playing an informal round don’t be stickler by being the first to holler about a penalty for taking a mulligan or a “gimme” on a 2 foot putt. Keep your score however you’d like but leave the PGA Tour mentality at home and let your guest play the round they want to play.
- Be kind to the course and always repair your divots and ball marks. Being neglectful of your course responsibilities can be a sign of poor judgement and can really anger your guest if you’re playing at their home course.
- Leave the booze in the car. If your guest(s) wants a beer, offer it but don’t go overboard. Maybe just stick with an Arnie Palmer or two for this round.
- Play by the rules and don’t cheat to try to make yourself look like a great golfer. Generating business is all about building trust and with that said, the quickest way to ruin your image is to get caught cheating on the course. Be fair and honest out there and let your sportsmanship be a testament to your character.
- Dress the part. You wouldn’t show up to a business meeting without a tie – so keep that in mind when showing up to the course. Check out our Proper Golf Attire article for tips on what to wear on the course.
Create a Memory of Yourself
- If you’re in sales, business cards should always be in your wallet and/or golf bag. A “leave behind” to remind that person of you is a great way to relay your contact information to your guest(s). It also shows that you’re serious about their business.
- If you’re not in sales, mention at some point what you’re interested in and what some of your goals are. This may just be that big opportunity to get your foot in the door at a company you’ve dreaming of working for. Just don’t take your resume out on the third tee box and hand it over in an envelope. Instead, politely obtain your guest(s) info (if you don’t have it already) and ask them if it okay to follow up (then you can send them anything you need to).
- If you have golf tees, or golf balls with your company’s name on them, give a few to your guests before or after the round. This is a great way to really stand out and keep you or your company in the forefront of someone’s mind.
- These rules are a guidelines to keep you looking professional out on the course, but its important to remember to have fun out there as well. Golf, after all, is supposed to be enjoyable. Loosen up and enjoy the day and it will translate into an enjoyable experience for everyone involved.
- If time and funds permit, try and grab a bite with your guests either at the turn on the 9th hole or after the round is done. This can be a great time to make small talk, or even dive into business a bit, but stick to the rules…don’t bring it up unless they do.
The art of doing business on the golf course takes a bit of practice and is certainly not something to be taken lightly. Some of the biggest business deals and job offerings are made based on a successful round of golf. If you follow the rules above, you can stand out to your guests as a person of impeccable taste and character, and who doesn’t want to do business with someone who fits that bill!