This is a guest post by Trevor Grey. You can find Trevor on Twitter @Gret2401.
According to the United States Golf Association (USGA), golf course etiquette can be broken down into a few categories. Safety, for example, is a category that encompasses general rules like making sure that the group in front of you is out of range. The PGA provides a beginning to end guide for golf etiquette, including what to expect before the game, where to warm up and what to do if you’re asked to tend to a flagstick. There are a lot of technical considerations when it comes to golf and the above resources are a good place to start. When it comes to conducting business on the course, there are certain things to keep in mind that go beyond the rules and regulations of the fairway; and frankly, if you don’t have the basic rules of the game down, save yourself the potential embarrassment and go for sushi.
If you can handle a round of golf, you can impress potential and existing clients by taking them to the greens. If you’re to go through the effort to actually play a 9-hole game of golf with one of your clients, make sure that you also know how your business etiquette translates. Here is your ultimate 9-hole, get-the-client-on-the-course guide.
1. BOOK YOUR TEE TIME IN ADVANCE
Make sure that you’ve booked your tee time and scheduled with the client well in advance to allow time in their schedule. Many, many courses use software so that you can book online. Of course you can always go low-tech and call or book in person. This is a good time to show off your management and organization skills
2. DRESS THE PART
Playing golf with a potential client is no different than a big meeting or a job interview; clothes matter. Only with golf, the attire required is completely different. Shop ahead of time to get a Polo shirt with a collar that is properly fitted, a v-neck sweater in case it gets cooler and of course matching socks and golf shoes. Bonus tip: check the weather in advance and make sure to bring a rain coat and two umbrellas if the forecast calls for rain.
3. ACT LIKE A NATURAL
Arrive early and know what to do when you arrive. It’s crucial to be able to break the ice with your client-to-be by taking the lead upon arrival. Act like a natural, whether it be heading to the driving range to warm up, going to the pro-shop to top up on balls (most players carry between 5 and 15 balls onto the actual golf course) or just using the washroom before you hit the greens.
4. LET THE CLIENT LEAD WHEN IT COMES TO CONSUMPTION
Let the client lead the way when it comes to consuming anything. If the client orders a large breakfast in the clubhouse before you go, put them at ease during their meal by also ordering food. When the cart-service comes around on the course, let the client order first. If they purchase alcohol on the green, its a green light for alcohol. If they don’t, stick to Gatorade.
Apply this rule to your lunch or potential banquet meals following the round.
5. BE A TEAM PLAYER
Look out for everyone on the course. Consider the group in front of you and your distance to them. Don’t be a distraction to other players. Be respectful and silent, while offering visual aid and lending a hand where possible. This demonstrates to the client that you are reliable and thoughtful, which will come in handy later when they’re trusting you with their account.
6. WATCH WHAT YOU SAY
The point of driving out to your local golf and country club was to hopefully increase your chances of getting a new client. That said, don’t fill the time in between driving the ball and the cart with constant jabber about the upcoming business deal or the potential of doing business together. Be professional, but be yourself. If the client agreed to get out of the office and onto the greens with you, it says they’re looking to be a little less formal. Being less formal means being comfortable with showing the client who you are, exchanging a few laughs and family stories and relating to one another. Of course, as with conversation with anyone, be a good listener and don’t talk about money, politics or religion.
7. BE PREPARED FOR THE PITS
You can have 14 golf clubs in your bag according to the rules of the game. Make sure you use the proper club for each hole. Analyze the terrain and the fairway and use your judgement to apply the best driver, club or putter for the job. Have a sand wedge on hand for when your ball gets stuck in a sand pit. Showing the client that you’re prepared for any situation and have a tool or solution for it will subconsciously tell the client they can trust you to do the same with their business.
8. BE A GOOD SPORT
Remember what you’re there for no matter the outcome of the game nor how it was played. Even if the client gloats at their birdie-blasting score card while you’re pushing 16 strokes on one hole, keep your cool! Congratulate the client on their win if thats the case, say ‘good-game’ and shake their hand while making warm eye-contact. If you won the game, it goes without saying that you should take it with grace and not show any sign of pride, rather focus on what a great time you had with the person.
9. OFFER A ROUND AT THE CLUBHOUSE
Yes, rule #3 still applies here. In this case ask the client “can I offer you a scotch or another Gatorade in the clubhouse?” Let them reply to get a sense of how they’re feeling after your round. It’s possible they’re completely spent after a long day and that you’ve exhausted your time for talk on the course. In this case make sure you follow up by e-mail and thank them for a great game. Otherwise, follow their lead for food and wine over a meal on your dime from the clubhouse or another fine establishment nearby. You don’t want to be the first one to leave the conversation or end the day; show that you’re eager to spend as much time with them as they need.
Arnold Palmer wrote on GolfDigest.com his Ten Rules for Good Golf Etiquette and provides more personal advice about how to behave on the turf. “When a player is about to hit a shot, think of the fairway as a cathedral, the green a library.” While this is true, my advice is to think of the course as your place to begin contracts, the bunker is your boardroom, the green a place to carve out new sources of green for your business!
Trevor Grey is a customer experience evangelist with a passion for sharing lessons learned on the floor. He has 5+ years’ experience working in retail management and is currently taking his people-first approach to the transportation industry working as a customer consultant. You can follow Trevor on Twitter or find him in the dog park with his four-legged best friend, Griswold.