It’s 2:30 on a workday and you’re teeing off on the 4th hole of the local country club. The sun is out, the wind is calm and you’re on top of your game. The rest of your foursome is impressed and you’re all having a great time. In a situation like this you might be forgiven for feeling a little guilty for skipping out on work. If you’re playing your cards right, however, a situation like this could very possibly be considered work. And I’m not talking about making the PGA Tour either. In just about any industry where interpersonal relationships matter (and really, in what industry don’t they matter?) golf can be an extremely effective networking tool.
It has long been said, “it’s not what you know, but who you know”, and simply put, a golf course is a great place to get to know someone. Forming a relationship, even a business relationship, takes time. Loyalty goes a long way so starting and maintaining trust and communication with potential clients or partners is an essential ingredient in the recipe for business success. Our culture puts a lot of emphasis on first impressions but you can rarely establish a foundation with someone in just one meeting, especially if it is a brief introduction at some sort of corporate event or a cocktail. Suggesting a game of golf is an easy way to secure an additional opportunity to get to know someone you might be interested in doing business with in the future. In other words, it is a lot easier to get them to say yes to a round of golf than to a formal business meeting. They love the excuse to get out of the office just as much as you do. And once you’re out on the course you’ll find that golf courses are seemingly tailor-made to allow for that type of relationship building to occur. Even if you don’t play a full round or just nine holes, you are guaranteed at least a couple hours with those in your golf group.
Golf is a game that involves a lot of downtime so it affords plenty of opportunity for quality conversation. Take advantage! You don’t have to be a good golfer to make a good impression. How you carry yourself while you play is far more important than how well you actually play. If you’re a great golfer, don’t let on that you’re aware that you’re a great golfer. And if you’re a terrible golfer, don’t make yourself look silly by apologizing for your poor play or by making excuses. The qualities that people value in the business arena (confidence, self-assuredness, composure, etc.) should be displayed on the golf course, regardless of the number on your scorecard. You’ve got at least a couple hours with your golf group so don’t rush into talking about business in fact save it for later over a cold beer. One of the major advantages of networking through golfing is that it gives you the chance to get to know business colleagues on a personal level. Even if you have a pitch to deliver or an important business opportunity to discuss, wait until the round is winding down to bring it up. Making your colleague feel like they’re trapped next to you in the golf cart all afternoon is exactly the opposite of what you should be doing with such a great networking opportunity.