Imagine this, it’s a beautiful spring afternoon on a workday and you are teeing it up at your local club. About now, you might be feeling guilty for skipping out on work, but if you are playing your cards right, what you are doing may very well be considered work. PGA Tour players are not the only ones that get work done on a golf course.
In just about every industry or line of business, interpersonal relationships matter. Golf can be a perfect networking tool. How often has it been said that, “it’s not about what you know, but who you know?” Well, there is no better place to get to know someone than during a round of golf.
Business is all about forming relationships and they have to start somewhere. We frequently hear how the importance of first impressions and the establishment of a real business relationship. This is especially true if it is in a corporate/business environment. Suggesting a round of golf easily beats the traditional office meeting. Don’t forget, if they like golf too, they are just as happy to get out of the office as you are.
Golf is really the perfect vehicle for getting to know someone better because you frequently have down time. This gives you plenty of opportunity for quality conversations.
Now that you have them on the course, you need to understand that a round of golf can be a double edge sword. If you do something on the course that offends the person that you have invited, it can ruin any chance of a future business relationship.
When you are on the course you need to be observant and let them set the tone. If they want to take a mulligan off the first tee that’s fine, but don’t assume that it is okay with them if you are teeing off first. It is also a good idea for you to have a good knowledge of golf etiquette and at least a working knowledge of the rules in case they are serious about their golf. The rules and behavior that you and your buddies go by on the weekend may well offend your potential client or customer. There really is an art to it and I don’t advise trying it for the first time in a really important situation.
You don’t have to be a great golfer to use it as a tool. Just get comfortable at playing in corporate outings and fund raisers. Four hours in a cart seat next to a CEO can help your career advancement tremendously.
Over the years, I have played in outings and events with many golfers that couldn’t break 100 and had a delightful time. You just simply need to knowledgeable about the game and play at a reasonable pace.
The two things that will drive a good golfer nuts quicker than anything is someone constantly apologizing for their game and taking too long to play. Don’t stand over the ball all day going through a mental check list and then blow it. The people you are playing with are not impressed by how far you can hit it into the woods. Hit a club that gives you the best chance of keeping the ball in play and lessens the chance of someone having to help you look for it.
To a great extent it is about respect, having respect for your playing partners and for the golf course. Don’t throw trash on the course and rake bunkers and repair ball marks. Do not under any circumstances lose your temper or throw clubs.
Even if you don’t golf at all, you can volunteer to help at events and outings. This will at least let you be involved and get close to the people that you are wanting to network with. You can also hire someone to help you out.
In my experience, I have had an individual that didn’t play golf but he would still bring clients in. Not only would he wine and dine them, he hired me to give them golf clinics and to play golf with them. It was so successful that it became an annual event. The golfers had a great time and actually left enjoying the game more.
Just remember that golf is not really different from other environments that people network in. The rules are the same. It is important to present yourself professionally and I can’t over emphasize being prepared. Know all you can about the people you will be playing with it won’t hurt to step up your wardrobe. The tee shirt and jeans or shorts you play in every weekend probably aren’t going to cut it.
One final note is that if you are meeting someone at the course be on time. If you show up late you have a big hole to dig out of to start with.