Golf for Business: It’s All About RelationshipsPublished on 03/14/2023 · 7 min readGolf is a great way to get to know your colleagues and meet new business partners! Here are some tips and tricks for making the experience fun and worthwhile.
Picture this: You’re about to enter into a million-dollar contract with a new company, but you don’t know the leadership very well and everyone is apprehensive about finalizing the deal. What about playing a round of golf to get to know each other better?
What better way to get to know someone than to spend four hours with them? Not to mention, it’s unlikely you’ll get anyone to agree to a four-hour meeting!
The golf course has been the backdrop for business deals and networking for decades. It’s no surprise, because golf is a great way to meet new clients and get to know existing customers and colleagues.
Insight Gained on the Golf Course
Over the course of an 18-hole round of golf, you get a glimpse into how people handle poor results and winning or losing. Depending on your industry, it may or not matter to you if someone is super competitive. However, everyone wants a level-headed leader who can handle a bad shot on the golf course. This likely means they will be steady when tough decisions have to be made at work too.
Keep these things in mind as you’re playing a round of golf with business colleagues. Have a good attitude and be a good sport regardless of how you play. The purpose of the day isn’t to prove how good you are at golf. Golf for business is about relationship building.
Tips for Effectively Using Golf for Networking
It’s important to maintain professionalism during a business golf event. This isn’t the time to guzzle beers and blast music (honestly, it’s never that time on the golf course). Be mindful of the dress code of the golf course. Most courses require a collared shirt and don’t allow denim. Leave the beat up ball cap at home and pull out a crisp new one. And make sure you wear appropriate shoes. Metal spikes aren’t allowed any more. So if your shoes are 30+ years old, it’s time for an update—or just wear sneakers.
Establish the expectations of the day’s round before you tee off. Being super competitive can be a great way to bond, but it’s potentially off-putting to others. Are you following the rules of golf to the letter or allowing mulligans and rolling the ball? There’s no right or wrong way to play a business round of golf—so long as everyone is on the same page.
Know your golf etiquette! Stay quiet while others are hitting, mark your ball on the green, avoid stepping in others’ line, and don’t stand directly behind someone while they are hitting. If you are an experienced player, be patient with others and kindly help with the finer points of golf etiquette. It’s also common courtesy to wait a few holes until you start talking shop!
Knowing When to Bring Up Work
Your boss has invited you to play a round of golf for the first time, and you are excited for the opportunity to have their attention. Be mindful about when and how much you talk about work during the round.
Remember, you are still out having fun playing a game. And while work will likely come up, allow for it to happen naturally. Do your homework and have ideas and solutions to challenges you face at work. That way when your boss brings it up, you’re prepared and ready to take advantage of the opportunity.
Also, take an interest in the lives of those you’re playing with. Ask questions that help you get to know each other better. Because—remember—the purpose of golf for business is relationship building!
Various Styles of Play Used in Networking on the Golf Course
There are various ways golf is used as a networking tool. Sometimes it’s as simple as a foursome heading out for a casual round or as formal as a corporate outing.
A casual round of golf is a great way to connect with specific clients or employees. A skins game—where you compete for a set dollar amount on each hole—is a fun way to keep the day competitive while not worrying too much about your overall score. If some folks in your group are new to the game, play a scramble. A scramble is a style of play where everyone plays from the same spot, and uses the best shot from the group. This could be two versus two or the whole group can play for fun. It’s all about knowing your audience. Just as in the office, communication is key.
A business may host a company-wide golf outing as a way to boost morale. These outings are a great chance to brush shoulders with folks in departments other than your own. Professional organizations also host fundraisers and networking outings, which are good ways to meet people who work within your industry.
Make It Inclusive
Not everyone plays golf and will miss out on these chances to network. With a little creativity, you can still use golf as a networking tool, even for individuals who are new to the game.
Make the invitation as open as possible. Host an evening at a driving range or at Topgolf as a low barrier introduction to golf. This combines the camaraderie of learning a new skill, with the traditional “networking” scene of food and drinks.
Be willing to teach! Having the ability to participate in private rounds of golf or corporate outings may be the difference in making an important connection or not. Introducing someone to golf can greatly advance their careers.
If you are in a leadership position, be mindful about who you invite to play golf on a regular basis. Favoring a select few employees can be bad for business, wrecking the whole intention behind marrying golf and business.
Do ask people if they play golf. Don’t assume someone doesn’t play or isn’t interested in learning based on stereotypes.
Swag on the Golf Course
It’s customary to receive a tee gift when you play an outing—a sleeve of golf balls, a towel, a koozie, etc. If you’re hosting a corporate or fundraising outing, you might include company swag—pens, pads of paper, key chains, etc. This is an opportunity to get your company name recognized by new clients. Even a casual round of golf with clients is a good opportunity to make a tee gift bag. Be creative and make it personal to your client.
Guidance for Ladies
Too often women are overlooked when it comes to participating in golf outings for business purposes. Or worse, it’s assumed they would rather run the beverage cart and check-in table than play in the scramble.
Ladies, men don’t have a monopoly on using golf for networking and advancing their careers. You can do it too!
If you’re new to the game, here are a few tips and suggestions as you begin your golf journey: 1. Look for “get golf ready” clinics or similar group lesson options. This is an affordable way to get golf instruction, and is potentially less intimidating than a one-on-one lesson. Plus you can rope in a few friends to do it with you! 2. There are so many unspoken rules in golf, like etiquette. Focus in on the big ones: stay quiet while others are hitting, don’t stand too close to someone swinging, be ready to hit when it’s your turn, and avoid walking between others’ golf balls and the hole when on the green. 3. Leave your ego and worry at home. Golf is a HARD game. No one expects you to have it figured out right away. Everyone hits poor shots and feels embarrassed at times. The game of golf is incredibly humbling! 4. Start your golf networking endeavors with a scramble event - all you need to be able to contribute to the team is to know how to putt. Which is the easiest shot to hit in golf!
Bring it Home
While golf is a fantastic tool for business networking, it’s also a great way to spend time with your family. Introduce your spouse and/or kids to the game of golf. You’ll be delighted at the numerous bonding opportunities the game of golf presents.
Many golf courses and country clubs offer couples leagues and family nights. These are perfect opportunities to meet other couples and families who play golf.
And who knows, maybe one of those connections will turn out to be a business one as well. And remember, the purpose of golf for business is relationship building. If you need to get geared up to look like a pro, reach out to a Golf expert here on Curated for free, personalized advice and recommendations.