Golfing Fore Business – 21 Tips to Networking on the Golf Course
So you’re heading out to play a round of golf down at the local course near where you live or work. It’s going to be busy, like it usually is. You are going to be paired up with 3 other people that you don’t know. It is stressing you out, but it doesn’t have to!
OR maybe the boss has chosen you to go attend the industry networking golf tournament and wants you to do some business development on the course, but you don’t know what the best strategy is.
Well, we are here to help with…
How to Network on the Golf Course - 21 Tips, and why they work
Before your round starts you will likely congregate at the first tee off box while you are waiting for the group ahead of you to start. This is a good time to start your networking:
1. Introduce yourself early and shake hands. This established a connection early so that there isn’t that awkward 10 minutes where you haven’t talked and know you probably should. Meeting new people is something that makes a lot of people nervous, so take control and get rid of this anxiety straight off.
2. Remember names. This seems like such a simple task, but so many people struggle with it. A quick tip is to repeat their name after they say it. A nice little tool that helps on the golf course is the score card. You can offer to keep score for the round and write down all those names right in front of you. What a great little cheat sheet.
3. Be on time. If you didn’t pick up on it from the intro, you can now see the importance of being on time and/or early. Not only for the reasons already mentioned, but if this is someone you may potentially be doing business with in the future you want to give a strong first impression that this is how you conduct business.
4. Offer any gifts you may have. This may seem like an odd (or very Japanese) thing to do, but it work wonders. Often your company will have logo’d golf balls or tee that they purchased exactly for networking events like this one. If this is a tournament, then your company logo will be in the minds of your colleagues all day. The added benefit of giving someone a gift is that it lightens the mood and makes the other person feel a debt of gratitude towards you. Both of which make it easier to make new friends and/or get some new partners to do business with.As the round starts you may or may not be paired up with someone on a cart. If you are, you can use this as a chance to really get to know that person. If you are walking, then you can try to spend equal amounts of time with each person. As the round continues there are some more tips you should try to remember and implement.
5. Know proper golf etiquette. One thing that can quickly kill a deal on the golf course is aggravating your partner by not knowing the right etiquette. Knowing what to do and what not to do can not only make or break the deal, but it also shows that you are prepared for the day, just like you are in the office setting. Plus it increased your chance of playing another round with these newly formed friends. If you need to know some golf etiquette tips, you can find a post about them here.
6. Treat the course like an extension of the office. The people you are golfing with may end being future business partners or even co-workers so you want to start off on the right foot. Even if they don’t end up as someone you work with, it is a good way to remember to treat people respectfully and courteously.
7. Don’t get drunk. Further to the point made above, you wouldn’t do it in the office so don’t do it here. There can be opportunities for a drink or two, and even to buy your colleagues a beverage, but know your limits. It is very easy to get carried away and make a fool out of yourself. Ok, I get it, you are fun when your drunk, but that’s not the point. The point is that people may talk about how you got drunk that day, and it might hurt your reputation and even your companies.
8. Don’t be too competitive. Everyone like to win, and most people like a good competition, but don’t be that guy/girl that is too over the top. This means don’t laugh or cheer at other’s mistakes or gloat when you win or do something good. A good competition can be fun, and it can create some great bonds, so there is nothing wrong with it if everyone is comfortable. Just don’t get carried away!
9. Have fun! This may not seem like something that should even need to be on a list, but you would be surprised. Golf is a game that can be aggravating at times, but it is supposed to be fun. Yes, you can still be upset that you didn’t make that shot of the sand that you make 99 times out of 100, but don’t let it bring down your whole day/game. If you are the person that is grumpy and no fun to play with, then you will not get that second invite to go play again.
10. Never cheat. You can tell a lot about a person from the way they play the game of golf. There will be a longer post on this in the future, but basically it is seen as a sign of integrity. If you don’t have integrity on the course, you might not have it in the business deal. This can obviously hurt your ability to make new associates.
11. Don’t stress about your skill level. It is helpful to let your golf partners your skill level before you start so they know what to expect. Remember that anyone who has golfed before has been a beginner at some point. People expect to play rounds of golf with people that may be slow or not that skilled. Again, know the proper etiquette about pace of play and what to do, and you will be fine.There are also some other tips to remember with respect to playing the game that you should keep in mind.
12. Ask if they want to drive the cart. This may seem like more of an etiquette tip, but there is deeper reasoning. The person you are partnered with (and trying to impress) may be controlling. It may drive them crazy (pun intended) that they are not in control of the cart, thus leading to them fixating on that and having a band time and NOT doing a deal with you in the future. Not only that, but your courtesy can go a long way to what they think about you.
13. Don’t give swing tips. You may be a great golfer, or even a pro, but you shouldn’t give tips to people based on something you see. Your tip could shave 5 strokes off their game, but what they might hear is that they are inadequate or they might become self-conscious. This can ruin your chance at developing a relationship with that person. You can, however, give tips on the layout of the course, as these can prove very helpful. Eg. There is a hidden sand trap up to the right of the green you need to be careful of.
14. Compliments go a long way. Almost the opposite point as made in #12. A well timed “nice shot” can lift a person up and they can attribute those feelings to you. Seems like a good way to help build a relationship with someone.
15. Talk about them. Speaking of building a relationship, which is what you are trying to do with your 4 hour hang out chasing a little white ball around. You should talk about the person you are golfing with. Ask them about their family, job, their interests, or anything that can help you to build a rapport with them. Talking about family can make some people uncomfortable, so tread lightly and watch for body language that may indicate this. Also, be aware to make sure you are having an easy conversation, in other words, make sure that you aren’t interrogating them with questions.There are also some tips for networking that you should try to remember for when your round is coming to an end, or has just finished.
16. Thank them for the round with a handshake. This is common golf etiquette, but is very important for you to remember when trying to establish that final connection. Again, this is an extension of the office or a meeting with a client, so you end it the same way. Explain that you had fun and may be in contact with them again.
17. Schedule a follow up. If you have done your job right by properly networking you will have made a connection with the person or people you are golfing with. Before you leave the last hole or club house, let them know you will be calling/emailing/visiting them soon. Be specific with your date or time, and make sure you don’t miss it.
18. Keep a pocket full of business cards. These cards are essential, they alleviate the pain of trying to put information into your phone. Cards, being a physical object, will provide a reminder of you when they pull it out of their pocket when they get home. Not to mention it has your company logo, email, phone number so there is no excuse for getting in touch. The added benefit/secret tip is that if you have forgotten someone’s name during the round, you can exchange cards and sneakily get a refresher on their name (this can be done at any time during the round).
19. Be willing to help them first. A great way to make a new friend or business partner is to help each other out. This may be something as simple as passing their name on to another potential client or as big as getting them an interview with your boss. Often people end up doing each other favours so that each person benefits, but you must remember that you may need to take the first step. This may mean that you get nothing in return. If you never get anything in return, then that’s fine. It happens. They may be someone that you don’t want to do business with in the long run, but helping others should never be something you shy away from.
20. Ask for advice. A simple, not well known idea is that when you ask someone for advice this subconsciously tells them that you respect them and value their opinion. What happens next in their head is they feel that respect and they will appreciate you and not want to let you down creating a bond between the two of you. A couple perfect examples of how to do this is to ask for advice on good golf courses in the area or they type of golf ball they like to use.
21. BE YOURSELF. This should maybe be at the top of the list, but I saved it for last so you remember it. You hear this advice since you have been a kid, and there is a reason for it. It seems so simple, but the best way to drill this home is looking at it this way… You are going to make a lot of relationships throughout your life, and if you are a different person with each of them, you will never be able to keep them straight. Don’t cater to what you think they want, be you, and if you don’t get along or aren’t great friends, then that is fine. They relationships that you make when you are being yourself will prove to be 100 times more valuable than the ones you force.
When heading to the course, you don’t need to worry about the people you are golfing with. You are there to have some fun, and play a game that you enjoy (yes, some days it is not “enjoyable” :p ), meeting people is a nice little benefit. Follow the simple advice above and you will do great. If you can’t remember all the tips, then just try to treat the round as if you were on a first date. This will keep you on your best and most respectable behaviour.
If you have some advice that you think is important, or if you learned something in your years on the course, let us know in the comments!
P.s. A Bonus Tip – Tell them about GolfThis.com. It sounds self-promoting, and it is, but the truth is that they may find the site useful. They will appreciate saving money on golf, and may use a 2 or 1 on golf to treat you for a round of golf! They will also see that you like to better yourself by reading helpful articles like this one. Improving yourself is an attractive quality in people, and usually people like to surround themselves with someone like that. Good for you, you big old improver, you!
If you are new to the game and want to know some of the proper etiquette, you can check out the post on TIPS FOR GOLF ETIQUETTE.