“Could I interest you in joining me for a round of golf at my club on Saturday?” your new client asked at the end of your weekly meeting. Of course you accept. You love golf. But be careful. Business golf is different from a round with your regular foursome. It can be a great opportunity to play a great course, but it can also jump up and bite you if you’re not careful.
Before the event itself do a little homework. Particularly, find out what time you should meet up. Also ask what the dress requirements are at your client’s club. The best time to ask is when your client invites you; otherwise you can call the club’s pro shop to find out. Be extra careful in picking your clothes. Clean golf shorts (no cargo shorts) or long pants, a collared golf shirt, cleaned and polished golf shoes, spare clothes to change into after the round, and for men, a blazer in your car just in case it’s required attire for the dining room.
On Saturday, arrive at the appointed time or a few minutes early. As you turn off your car, take a moment to turn off your smartphone as well. Many clubs have strict rules about cell phone use. If you have an app that lets you acquire yardage information, check with your client if it’s permissible to use it before turning on the phone. If you can use the app, be sure your phone is on vibrate and the sound is turned off.
Even though you have been invited, it’s still good manners to offer to cover your green fee. Ask your client about the club’s tipping policies. Come prepared with small bills for tips or to pay a friendly bet.
On the course take extra care to follow the official rules as well as the unwritten rules of the game.
- Don’t assume a gimme; wait until your client says, “That’s good.”
- Repair your divots.
- Fix ball marks on greens.
- Rake the bunker you’ve played out of.
- Keep quiet when others are hitting.
- Don’t hit out of turn.
- Be careful not to swear or talk negatively about your game.
Finally, don’t try to talk business while on the course. Deals are more likely done and business discussed after the game, not during it. The real value of playing golf with a business associate is to get a better idea about the person and to use the outing as an opportunity to forge a stronger relationship. Business may never actually be discussed, yet a successful outing can enhance the opportunity for business in the future.
Finally, be sure to thank you client twice: first as you leave, and then send him a note the next day offering your thanks again.