For as long as I’ve been teaching, people have been coming to me to learn the game because they need it for business. This usually means that they are either trying to get hired, or they have just been hired into a field or company where a fair amount of their job takes place on a golf course. Most are excited about the prospect of learning a new skill, though a couple are a little salty that they’re going to have to take up a sport in order to be accepted in their job market. I had one engineer rant to me the entire lesson about how unfair it was that all his studying and hard work in school was now going to be contingent on, “hitting a stupid white ball.” Needless to say, he didn’t walk away from that lesson having absorbed much of what I was trying to teach. But for the rest of you who have accepted that at some point you will be invited to a business-centric round of golf, here are some things to keep in mind.
This should be a given, but I’ve seen guys show up to company events we’ve hosted dressed like Chevy Chase’s character from “Caddyshack” so I’ll lead off with it. Being the loudest dressed guy in the group is not a good idea because it’s probably all you’re going to be remembered for. Rather than talk about your character or the pitch of whatever it was you were trying to sell them, the guys you just played with will be talking about where in God’s name you got those paisley slacks and that seersucker shirt that looks like you had to exhume a dead 70s porn star to get your hands on it. Your outfit should be business casual. Preferably slacks, and a solid color golf shirt with simple black, brown, or white shoes. Shorts are okay, but the temperatures should be in the triple digits before you decide to commit to shorts. Also, if your uncovered legs resemble two chopsticks painted white, always go slacks. Remember, you want your ideas and your product to stand out, not the $100 TW shirt you picked up from Golfsmith.
If you don’t have a set of clubs when this invitation comes up, call whatever course you’re playing, ask how much it is to rent a set, and if they have more than one kind of set for rent. If they do, go with their second, but not highest tier rental set available, and ask questions about it. Be honest with the guy on the phone that you don’t have clubs and need to rent a set for a business outing. He’ll understand why you’re insisting on going for the AP1s when you could just as easily take the Stratas out there.
The reason for going middle of the road is that the bottom tier says two things, juvenile and careless. It projects an image of immaturity and shows that you can’t handle anything above that. It also tells the guys you’re with that you don’t care about this day. It gives off the same vibe as putting on a wrinkled shirt. Going middle of the road is a good balance. It’s not so high end that you’re going to look like a fool when you card a 150 with a set of muscle backs because you whiff half the shots, but it does convey that you want to do well and that you’re willing to do and spend what is necessary to accomplish that.
Do not borrow anybody’s set of clubs. Not your buddy’s, not dad’s, not grandpa’s, no one’s. People can tell right away if you are using a set of clubs that doesn’t belong to you. The unfamiliarity is palpable, and borrowing a set of clubs says, “I knew I was going to need these tools, but I’m too lazy/cheap to get my own.” Renting clubs acknowledges your lack of an owned set, admits you may be a novice to this activity which gives you a pass to play terribly, and opens the door for a round long conversation about which clubs you should look into purchasing. This is the easiest topic to have with a bunch of golfers you barely know.
Learn How To Carry The Bag
Again, you would think this wouldn’t need to be stated, but so many people new to the sport seem to also be new to the concept of efficient weight handling. I’ve seen rush events where the potential new members walk up to our range holding the clubs backwards, with every club constantly spilling out. I’ve seen company after hours clinics where employees walk up to us ready to be taught, holding the tiny little green side handle the entire way from their car. They are clearly struggling with it while the much more efficient back strap flaps against their leg. Worst of all, I’ve seen people show up to tournaments carrying their bag like it’s a puppy. They’ll cradle it in their arms while the bag audibly knocks against their knees with every step and their hands tangle in the multiple straps designed for you to be able to carry the bag and not look like you’re holding a rifle and marching in the North Korean Army.
The point here is that holding the bag properly is your handshake before you shake anybody’s hand. It shows people you have basic critical thinking skills, and that you can create comfort in multiple situations, while awkwardly holding the bag only conveys awkwardness. Awkwardness that the people you are playing with will be able to observe and absorb the entire time you are walking up from the parking lot.
Thirty Minutes Early Is A Minimum
Nothing ruins a round of golf quite like being late. You spend the next eighteen holes rushing yourself, trying to make up for lost time that was never lost in the first place. Golfers are like deer when it comes to time management and awareness. They spook easy, and become upset even easier if they think they missed their tee time and now someone is hitting ahead of them in their place.
This isn’t a lunch meeting where you can show up five minutes before or five minutes late, apologize, and be absolved of it because everyone has been amicably chatting away in the air conditioning drinking water and eating appetizers. This is outside, where there is little to do but be aware of your tee time, and the approaching possibility that you will be late for that tee time. If you’re late to the tee, you’ll be late to everything else in their minds. Don’t be the reason they play like crap that day. Be on the practice range at a minimum of thirty minutes before your tee time. Getting there thirty minutes to an hour beforehand shows that you’re prepared, and puts everyone in a much more relaxed frame of mind. It also lets you warm up on the range with your group and get a feel for how the day is going to play out. If you can’t be there thirty minutes before tee off, make sure the people in your group are well aware and do everything you can to settle their anxious minds.
Don’t Buy Alcohol In The Clubhouse
This rule can be amended if there is no beverage cart that day, but most of the time it is best to wait to get the booze flowing. Asking if anybody wants a beer in the clubhouse is a bit like cracking a roadie on the way to the bar. Sure there’s nothing wrong with it, but there’s a hint of unprofessionalism and quite frankly trashiness that goes with walking up to the first tee with beers in hand. There is a time and a place for those kinds of rounds of golf, and this is neither the time or the place. Yet. There will be plenty of opportunities for alcohol, especially if you wait until you are a few holes into the round. This also gives you the chance to properly treat the group you are playing with, as well as interact with the cart girl which gives the people you’re trying to impress another chance to be impressed. Hopefully you’re cordial and you tip well.
Don’t Drive The Cart Unless You’re Told
Remember, you were invited to play here. If somebody wants you to drive the cart they will tell you. Driving the cart unsolicited is like getting invited to somebody’s lake house and screwing with their thermostat the second you get inside. If your group are regular players at the course then they will have a routine they like to adhere to, either consciously or subconsciously.
Golfers are creatures of habit, they create patterns in everything they do, one of which is operating the cart. Driving the cart around an unknown course takes away your ability to really sell yourself and your product because now the priority in the cart has shifted from business to navigation. Plus, if they are type B drivers and you are of a more aggressive nature, you’re going to leave them feeling like they’ve just been off-roading for the past four hours instead of playing a round at their favorite course. If they want you to drive then they’ll tell you, and if they tell you then it’s probably because they’re pretty high up in whatever field they’re in and they’re used to being chauffeured around in life.
There you go, some basic guidelines for how to make it to the first tee without looking like too much of a goon. Next time we’ll discuss how to make it around the course. See you on the tee..
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