Networking on the Golf Course
Updated: Apr 7, 2019
Golf is the most popular sport in business. Most top-level executives play golf, and they do so for professional and personal advancement.
The game of golf is synonymous with "big business," and is one of the most effective tools for the networking and deal making in the modern business world. Without a golf strategy, you are leaving money on the table.
The latest business research shows that golf helps in:
• New Business Development
• Deepening Existing Client Relationships
• Vendor Relationships
• Recruiting and Retention
• Career Path Acceleration
Becoming proficient at the game is an essential in today’s business world—and offering to give your clients and prospective clients a chance to improve their game is a powerful incentive to building relationships.
1 - Sustain, Entertain, and Obtain (SEO) Clients with Golf
The game of golf is synonymous with “big business,” and is one of the most effective tools for networking and deal making in the modern business world. People who choose not to play golf are neglecting one of the best business development ideas there is. It is vital that you have a strategy to become your company’s golf SEO.
2 - Who to Invite
Playing golf is 6 hours out of a busy day that can either be an afternoon off or an opportunity to create a solid business relationship. The key to the latter is inviting the right people. Having four players is a better use of time than two. Inviting clients, prospects, business sources, existing and perspective employees, vendors, and community leaders can provide a nonthreatening atmosphere where personal and business relationships can be created.
3 - How to Prepare
Preparing can take as long as playing a round of golf, if done properly. Create a list of golfers that support your business objective. If you cannot come up with 20 names, then you will need to begin creating a list by simply asking people if they play. Once the list is compiled, look for the right mix of people for each round of golf. Separate them into groups of three with one alternate. Determine your objectives for the round based upon the dynamics of the group.
Schedule a day on your calendar and find an appropriate golf course within a 30-minute drive from your guest. Prior to the round, survey the facility for difficulty, pace of play and the presence of an adequate 19th hole. Typically, higher priced daily fee courses are the best.
If you find you’re often entertaining at the same course, then join the men’s club and get friendly with the staff along with the shop professionals. Make sure you are recognizable.
4 - Guest First
Show up early so that when your guest arrives, the minor details of paying green fees, getting a cart and range balls is well behind you. Give your guest the choice as to who will drive the cart. If there is more than one guest, then announce that you will switch carts after nine holes. Always tee off last, except when they ask you to go first. Focus on the business objective and forget about your individual success on the golf course. Pick the ball up when you find yourself holding up the group. Be attentive when each shot is hit and be helpful in finding lost balls.
5 - When to Talk Business
Keep it light with the focus on having an enjoyable time on the course. Business talk should always be initiated by the guest. Be observant to body language and other signals that shut down any conversation. The 19th hole can be an effective place to top off the day with a little business and a cocktail. Remember to focus on the objectives set out for the round of golf.
6 - Your New Best Friend
Asking questions is the key to relationship building. The more you discover about a person’s family, hobbies, vacation spots, favorite wine, and views on the world, the more they will like you. Take “I” out of your vocabulary. This day is about them.
7 - Business Golf Etiquette
When scheduling the round, always personally invite your guest to play. Do not have your assistant make the call. The two decision makers should ride together. Don’t assume your guest keeps score, always ask.
Repair ball marks on the green, replace fairway divots, rake sand traps, don’t walk in others putting lines, and refrain from talking during your guest’s shots. Don’t break the rules in golf or in business. Drink light enough not to distort good judgment.
8 - Gambling
Ask each person’s handicap when you are scheduling the outing. The gambling should be set out as a team game. Find out where everyone is comfortable as far as what the bet should be. You can never go wrong with a $5 or $10 team bet. The maximum exposure for each person is $10 on the front, another $10 on the back, and $10 for the overall; $30 total. Clearly establish the rules prior to teeing off on the first hole.
9 - 19th Hole Presentation
Raise your drink and make your speech, even if it isn’t true. “I wanted to say, it was truly a pleasure to play with each one of you. I enjoyed getting to know you better and look forward to the next time we can play.” Make up your own speech with an eye on making it much more exaggerated than you think is necessary. Try it; you will see that your guest will eat it up. Present a gift to make it special.
10 - Follow Up
This is the key to any business-related activity. Send a hand written thank you card. If a follow up meeting isn’t scheduled on the 19th hole, then act and contact them within 3 days. Also, in the event the business objective will take more than one round to achieve, contact the guest within a week to schedule another round. At this point, you may want to start pitching your business objective. Ask your guest who he may invite that would be beneficial to both businesses.
Bonus - Tracking ROI
Like every business case that is developed, there needs to be a solid return on investment. Business Golf with a purpose includes cataloging the people that were invited, time spent, hard costs and tying this back into specific revenue or business outcome. A measurement system could include tangibles or intangibles.