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Playing Golf for Business

Updated on October 9, 2012

I’m often asked exactly what “playing golf for business” means. Playing golf for business is essentially having a business meeting on the golf course. It may take the form of a company outing, a corporate or charity tournament, or simply a foursome of golfers who have some related business interests.

Women are realizing that those who are able to successfully play golf for business enjoy a distinct advantage over their competitors. This has been done by men forever. The whole idea of playing golf for business is to establish or build a relationship with someone. The fact that you are spending three to five hours together in a beautiful setting and enjoying a recreational activity is a bonus.

However, if you don’t approach this business meeting in the right way, you may do more to sabotage a relationship than promote it.

The following are a few basic business principles that apply to the golf course as well as the board room. Take this short quiz to determine how successful you’ll be playing golf for business.

1. True or False: Since you’ll be out of the office and spending a whole afternoon in the sun, you should wear the outfit that will give you the best tan.

Would you show up for an important meeting in jeans? Or a t-shirt? Of course not. Image is as important on the golf course as it is in a business meeting. A private or semi-private golf course usually has a dress code. A public course may not. However, you’ll feel better if you know that what you choose to wear is acceptable anywhere you go. You’ll always be dressed appropriately if you follow just a couple of simple guidelines:

--- Don’t wear anything too high on the bottom or too low on the top. Many courses require that shorts be no more than four inches above the knee. Capri pants or the new knee-length shorts are great options.
--- Wear a shirt with sleeves or a collar or both. You can’t necessarily copy the LPGA players these days; they’ve been allowed a lot of liberty.
--- No denim; no logoed t-shirts.

My friend Joan checked in at a pro shop dressed in a tank top and shorts. She was told she couldn’t play in that attire. Her choices were to buy something appropriate or put on an oversized man’s shirt. Luckily, Joan had arrived early enough that she was able to remedy the situation before her clients arrived. However, this had the potential to become a very embarrassing situation.

2. True or False: Since you’re just playing a casual round of golf, it really doesn’t matter whether or not you know or follow the rules.

There are really two parts to this question. One has to do with knowledge and the other has to do with integrity.

With regard to knowledge, you wouldn’t try to sell a client on a service or product that you know very little about, would you? Of course not. It’s assumed that you are an expert in your business. Likewise, rules and etiquette are integral to the game of golf, and it’s expected that you know them. You will be well-respected in both arenas if you have armed yourself with knowledge.

Secondly, you should play by the rules. Would you offer a service to a client that wasn’t really appropriate for their business? Or would you sell a product at a highly-inflated price? Of course not. These are ethical standards (rules) that apply to all of our businesses. If you don’t play by the rules of golf it might suggest that you don’t play by the rules of your business either.

3. True or False: It’s important that your client or prospective customer knows how good a golfer you are.

During an office call, would you monopolize the conversation and talk about all of your most recent sales accomplishments? Of course not. The focus should always be on the customer. Similarly, on the golf course let your game speak for itself. Resist the temptation to brag or make excuses. Even if you’re not playing very well, it should be obvious to others that you are experienced in the game and are just having a bad day. No explanations necessary!

4. True or False: It’s best to let your guest win – especially if you are playing against a man.

Would you intentionally let your competitor get the job or take a deal away from you? Of course not! Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, but I’m sure you never try to lose. On the golf course, play your best. If your best happens to be better than the others on that day, so be it. Competition shouldn’t be the focus of a business golf outing.

5. True or False: You should make sure that the golf outing is very serious and focused.

This, of course, is not the point of business golf at all. In fact, there should be very little business conversation during the round. Be sure to enjoy each other’s company, laugh at your mistakes and have fun! You already know how important a smile and a sense of humor are both in life and business. Make that your focus in golf as well.

Sarah and I met for the first time as we prepared to tee off in a women’s golf event in California. I had been invited to be part of the foursome by a long-time golf buddy, and I was excited to be there. I’m sure all of us were somewhat anxious about performing well, especially on the first tee. Sarah was the first to tee off. She strode to the tee, took a mighty swing and hit the ball perhaps five yards off to the left. She then turned to the rest of us and said, “Don’t worry. I get worse!” Enjoy the day!

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