You've likely heard the phrase, “business gets done on the golf course.” It’s true — many a deal is crafted on the fairway and closed in the 19th hole. But in the same way that new business can be scuttled in the boardroom, a deal can certainly go south on the course. And then you have not only cost your business a new opportunity, but you have ruined a round of golf. To avoid both, pay attention to these tips for doing business on the course.
Many of the best tips for business on the course are great for any round of golf, and the first one is to arrive early. Be at the course to welcome your potential client. It's best to get there ahead of time to get the tee time settled, so the client can walk up and play. Your promptness to the course sets a precedent for how you will treat the business relationship.
Pay for the Round
That leads to the second tip: pay for the round. The client is your guest and this is the first best way to show that. If he/she insists on paying, let them buy a round after the round. But this is your party and you should pay the freight. Let them know up front how much you value the relationship.
Be patient with the business discussion. The first tee isn’t the best spot for talking about the bottom line. Get the golf going for a bit first. Find out what you need to know about your client as a golfer. Then, when you're mid-round and they're comfortable and enjoying themselves, it's acceptable to start talking business.
Play Your Game
Play your game. Don’t be a sandbagger to win or a tanker to win business. Gauge the intensity level of your playing partner. If the client is trying to size you up by playing a match, give them your best. Ultimately, they will respect that you give them exactly the same in a business partnership.
Be a Generous Playing Partner
Be a generous playing partner. Offer up some mulligans and give plenty of gimmes (from a reasonable distance) on the greens. This can let loose some steam on the intensity of the round and remind all parties that a potential business relationship is more important than the golf.
Play Ready Golf
Play ready golf and keep things moving. The proper pace of play will make the afternoon of golf fun and not feel like a six-hour business meeting. Let your client take their time, but make up for it by picking up your pace.
Refrain from Drinking
Refrain from drinking. You want your wits about you when you are trying to impress your potential business partner. If they insist on drinking, you may want to join in so as not to turn them off, but it should be at a minimum. You want to stay in control because drinking too much is the fastest way to forget all the other etiquette tips you should be employing.
Keep Your Emotions Intact
Keep your emotions intact. Swearing a blue streak after a missed putt or throwing a club further than your drive won’t help you expand your client list. A cool head on the course, particularly amidst adversity, can demonstrate your ability to do the same in a business relationship.
Finally, the round ends, but you’re hoping the business relationship doesn’t. Don’t feel pressured to finalize business deals as you walk off the 18th green. As Bill Storer, president of Business Golf Strategies, says in Golf Magazine, “Play for the 20th hole.” A post-round follow-up note or thank you letter will put you right back in front of the customer.
Photo Courtesy CityVisions.