Q. I am an OK golfer (informal 30 handicap) and I am relatively new to a company where golf is a part of many business functions. I have never been at a level where I was invited to participate in golf events until now. My male colleagues attend charity events, accept invitations from clients, and initiate outings as well. I haven’t seen this from my women colleagues yet, and I’m not sure how to approach anyone with how this works. Do I tell people I golf? How good do I really need to be to golf for work? What are the rules around golf as a work day, and how can I make sure I don’t lose credibility or clients?
A. Your question is important in today's business world. Golf has become a global relationship builder in business settings where social activity is added. Company outings, and professional associations offer great chances to network, and you want to make sure you take these opportunities. Companies do have corporate customs for golf as a business event, and how expenses are handled. You need to consult your manager about accepting invitations, and inviting guests to golf as well.
To gain expert insight, I consulted Maria Marino, a Class A Member of the LPGA, a teacher of LPGA Golf Clinics for Women, and a golf columnist. Maria counsels, “Establishing a handicap is a great start to incorporating golf into business. It is a great equalizer giving you the opportunity to play with any other skill level of golfer. This will give you the credibility you may feel you lack. Once you do that, accept every invitation that comes your way.
As a new ‘business’ golfer, pay attention to speed of play. No matter your skill level, if you do not hold up play, you will be welcome to play with anyone. When playing for fun, if you find you are taking too many strokes on a hole, just pick up the ball and cheer on your playing partners.”
Your knowledge of the rules of golf, and etiquette is an important part of play, just as it is in business. Be aware of, and follow the many details of golf etiquette and the rules. Every golfer will tell you they learn a great deal about people from their experience golfing with them. Make sure the message you deliver is one you would choose.
Marino suggests you also attend charitable events as a great way hone your social golf skills. Your local paper will most often have listings of community golf events. Your company may even have a cause they are committed to, which can benefit from a golf outing, or sponsorship.
“Golf as a business tool is indispensable”, Marino notes. “I have often said that business may not be conducted on the golf course but the relationships needed to make good business partners are.”
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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
Cindy Atoji Keene is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years experience. E-mail her directly here.
Peter Post is the author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." Email questions about business etiquette to him directly here.
Stu Coleman, a partner and general manager at WinterWyman, manages the firm's Financial Contracting division, and provides strategic staffing services to Boston-area organizations needing Accounting and Finance workforce solutions and contract talent.
Tracy Cashman is a partner and the general manager of the Information Technology search division at WinterWyman. She has 20 years of experience partnering with clients in the Boston area to conduct technology searches in a wide variety of industries and technology.
Paul Hellman is the founder of Express Potential, which specializes in executive communication skills. He consults and speaks internationally on how to capture attention & influence others. Email him directly here.