Golf in Life, Golf in Business

Golf Course

Written By: Robb Stevens

If you were to ask me what I enjoy doing most when I have leisure time, without hesitation, I would respond with one word, golf! It’s a game I love to play for a variety of reasons. Despite being one of the most frustrating games there is, it never ceases to hold my interest and I’ve even learned some valuable lessons from it over the years. The following are some of the lessons and insights I have learned using this awesome game in business.

“Golf is the closest game to the game we call life. You get bad breaks from good shots; you get good breaks from bad shots – but you have to play the ball where it lies.”
-Bobby Jones

Don’t Dwell On A Bad Shot A bad shot or two will not ruin a round of golf. We all make mistakes. So, learn to forgive yourself and move on. If you beat yourself up every time you screw up, you might not find the courage to keep trying later on because you’re too afraid to fail. Learn to laugh at your bad shots and try again.


Golf requires an amazing amount of concentration. You need to be focused if you want to do. If you watch professional golfers, you’ll notice that they are quiet and focused. They block everything out and give their entire attention to the current shot. You can see in their eyes a determination to succeed.

Enjoy The Game

Some people are so focused on the end result that they tend to forget to have fun. If you put too much pressure on yourself and push yourself to your limit, you may find yourself burned out and miserable. Enjoy the game and do the best you can, but don’t forget to have fun!

Respect Others

Golf requires that you show courtesy with others and communicate with respect. In life and in golf, it’s best to treat everyone you meet like you’d want to be treated. When mutual respect exists, everyone is better off.

Be Honest

Being honest with yourself is one of the greatest lessons that golf can teach us. Golf has such a large “playing field” which can make it easy to cheat. On the course, players keep the score and mind the rules. There are no referees, judges or umpires, at least not for recreational golf.

“It’s a funny thing, the more I practice, the luckier I get.” - Arnold Palmer

“Golf is about how well you accept, respond to, and score with your misses much more so than it is a game of your perfect shots.” - Dr. Bob Rotella

In addition to having fun and learning great life lessons, I’ve also come to learn and appreciate the value of blending a hobby like golf with business. Since Med One’s early days as a company, golf has always been an important part of building relationships within the company and with customers. In addition, it has always been an excellent way to participate in and contribute to various charitable causes.

As a business tool, golf gives you excellent face time with co-workers, customers, and potential customers. During a golf round, only a small portion of the typical four hour game is actually spent hitting the ball, which means there is plenty of time to simply talk shop. All kinds of conversations can develop in between shots that couldn’t or wouldn’t happen in another setting because most sports or activities don’t really lend themselves to this kind of valuable exchange. Downhill skiing is the only other thing that immediately comes to mind that may provide a similar opportunity.

Business golf creates an experience and a memory rather than just an ordinary meeting or a transaction. Business relationships can be built in many ways and on many levels. When you’re outside in nature, in a serene golf course setting, it creates a more relaxed and friendly environment without the distractions or pressures of an office setting.

While playing golf you may learn more about the person you are playing with in the four hours than you could in any other way. You learn what they’re like, how they handle themselves in a competitive situation, whether they are emotional or in control under pressure, and how important rules are to them. Golf, like business, rewards players who remain calm under pressure, never lose their temper and think strategically. Golf is also a test of integrity. Since you often keep your own score, it’s rather easy to cheat. Golf creates an opportunity to show integrity and build credibility and trust.

When you have golf in common with a new contact, it provides instant things to talk about. Perhaps you’ve played some of the same courses, had similar experiences, or tried similar equipment. If nothing else, most golfers can generally relate to the highs and lows and the joys and frustrations that come with the game. Golf is a great conversation starter and a great way to build on common ground long before business conversations get serious.

Golf is a sport that can be played by all ages. I can go out and play a round with my 10-year old son, and my father. Together we can all play, at our own level, at the same time. From the highly skilled to the newest beginner, and everywhere in between, it can be enjoyed together by all.

More often than not, when I’ve played with business associates, the game itself either becomes an extension of a meeting before-hand, or leads into a lunch, dinner, or just a happy hour after the round. That kind of social time is also hard to come by and extremely valuable in building relationships and getting business done!

I began golfing at the age of 11 and while I still have way too many rounds in which I feel like I’m not any better now than I was when I was 11, I find it highly enjoyable, addicting, and satisfying. There are very few things that hold my interest the way golf does, I am glad it’s a part of my life.

To wrap this up, since there are 18 holes in golf, here are 18 tips from on how to make the most of your business golf opportunities:

1 Start the conversations with innocuous topics. Avoid diving into business talk right away. As the rounds progress, you can dig deeper by asking questions that invite the other parties to share information about themselves and their work. Listen carefully to gain a perspective of the problems and bottlenecks they face. Think of how you could help. You could offer an introduction to a contact, or steer them to helpful industry information. More often than not, people will return the favor and help you out down the road.

2 Come to the course with a few business cards to exchange before the end of the round. Follow up by scheduling a lunch, or at the very least, be sure to connect on LinkedIn. (Source: Dave Handmaker, Next Day Flyers CEO)

3 Don’t cheat. “If a person cheats at golf, I don’t think I could trust them as a source I’d refer my clients to,” says John B. Palley, Attorney at Law. “I remember one partner in particular. He went through a dozen balls without ever taking a penalty stroke on that day. On one hole, he clearly lost his ball deep in the rough but all of a sudden he ‘found’ it right on the edge of the fairway. I walked 20 feet and pointed to his original ball (with his company logo on it). He said, ‘Ohhhh, that must be the one I lost the last time I played.’ I am an estate planning attorney and could have referred business to that guy, but I never did.”

4 Be on time! If you've invited clients to join you, please give yourself an adequate window of time to arrive at the club before your guests get there.

5 Don't be too competitive. The emphasis in a business golf setting should be on building rapport and trust with your playing partners and less on winning.

6 Should you or shouldn't you have a friendly wager? Wagering can be a fun part of golf, and is a good way to build camaraderie if it’s done in the right way that all are on board with. Accept and embrace it. Keep your wagers friendly and the stakes low. Be sure to settle your bets at the end of the round.

7 Don't make excuses for your game. It's important for you to know understand golf etiquette. If you’re new to golf and playing with others who are more experienced, be open to feedback. Tell them: "I'm new to the game and I welcome any tips you have to help me move along more quickly." (Source: Pam Swensen, the CEO of the EWGA)

8 Control your anger (don't curse, throw clubs, etc.)

9 Remember to compliment your playing partners on good shots and putts.

10 If you have logo golf balls from your company, be sure to offer a sleeve or a box to your client before teeing off.

11 Assuming you know the course, be sure to offer pointers on the areas to avoid on each hole. (source: Tom Balcom, Founder of 1650 Wealth Management)

12 Structure the outing so you have time for lunch or a happy hour visit after the game. This time affords a better opportunity to discuss business, life, or changes at work. If the prospective client is a genuinely nice and generous person, it will be apparent. And if they are not? That will become apparent as well.

13 Be on your best behavior. One expert notes that he has played with people he regarded highly until they played golf. And, conversely, he’s played golf with people he didn’t care for but gained a high regard for when they played. “Golf is the most revealing activity,” he said. “Your true personality is going to come out. Are you a cheater? Or an honest, generous person? Do you curse and throw your clubs?” The behavior you can get away with among friends is not going to fly when you’re on the course with clients.

14 Take it easy on the alcohol. When I speak at business lunches or dinners, the subject of alcohol invariably comes up. The key is to take it easy--you always want to remain in control. When it’s hot and you’re drinking alcohol, it’s surprisingly easy to get drunk very quickly. When you are drunk, it’s easy to say or do the wrong thing. You should be a great host and offer your client a beverage when the bar cart comes around. But be sure you alternate between water and alcohol if you are both drinking. Furthermore, if your client is not having beer or alcohol, don’t drink! If you’ve ever been sober around people who are drinking, you’ve seen firsthand how sloppy drinkers can become. Your policy should be “follow the leader” where drinking is concerned. (Source: Robin Jay, Writer/Producer: “The Keeper of the Keys”)

15 Treat everyone you come in contact with like gold. Even if someone really upsets you, you can address the situation with a smile and without getting loud. When clients see how you handle yourself under pressure, it will go a long way. Treating the employees at the course well will be an indication of your favorable character as well. (Source :RJ Muto, Russell Insurance Group.)

16 Pick a course you will both enjoy, but do your homework. Has the course just aerated the greens? Not a good choice. The same goes for major construction on the clubhouse or facilities. You don’t have to find a course on the level of the Atlanta Athletic Club or Pebble Beach, but you should avoid any course that is in poor condition and under repair.

17 Let your client choose which tees to play from. The experience should be about providing your guests with an enjoyable time and challenge; not about looking out for yourself. You should be prepared to play to the comfort level of your companions and guests.

18 Respect the etiquette of the game by repairing divots on the course, ball marks on the greens, and raking bunkers, if needed. These are the small details that clients will notice because they demonstrate respect for both the course and the golfers behind you. Stand away from fellow players and out of their sight lines when they are playing a shot. A moving shadow during a swing can be an unwelcome distraction. And by all means, be quiet during the swings of others. (Source: Dr. William Jankel Dean of Strayer University)

In summary, the end result of a golfing occasion should be to have fun, even when your business colleagues are present. Be mindful of the behaviors you demonstrate while golfing, and the experience may lead to some of the most treasured times of your business and personal life.

Golf Ball


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