FORE! Golf Etiquette for Business Pros

Golf Cart ART

Photo credit: Scott Kinmartin

Golf is still one of our favorite pastimes. It’s also used in business settings to see how well you can handle real life situations under pressure rather than sitting at a computer for 40 hours a week plugging numbers into an Excel spreadsheet. From weekend excursions with the boss to the annual company tournament, the ability to play a good game can help you stand out more than a spreadsheet ever would. However, if you haven’t picked up a golf club in two years or maybe not even at all. What do you do? Dread not! You don’t need to be a great player; you just have to know the basics and how to handle a situation if it occurs.

Stay calm. Don’t panic. I know this is easier said than done, but make the most of this great opportunity. Executives who play often say they pay close attention to the other golfer’s demeanor under pressure.

Preparation. Ensure your clubs and clothes are clean. Check to make sure that your raingear isn’t covered in mud. Lastly, find out all you can about the venue. Every golf course is different and, knowing that you want to make a good impression, a little information about the course will help you out in the long run.

Chitchat (Silence, please). Don’t talk just because you think you have to and don’t act as if you two are suddenly best friends by cracking jokes. Read a newspaper or magazine the morning of the game, you want to be able to talk intelligently about anything. As a quick tip, don’t engage in office gossip or talk business. The boss will bring it up if he wants to talk about it.

The game. Let the boss decide if you’ll be playing a match, the format of the game, and the size and nature of any bets. If they would like to “make it interesting,” accept the bet, agreeing to a small wager. If you decline, they may think you lack confidence.

Dress the part. Just like your clothes at work, golf course attire sets a tone. You can’t go wrong with khaki shorts if it’s hot, or pants if it’s cold and a polo shirt.

A common rule for the fairway. If you dig up a piece of soil with your shot (called a “divot”), go pick it up and put it back in the hole that you’ve created. Replacing divots will help keep the course in good condition. If you’re driving the golf cart, always drive on the cart path or the rough.

Drinking. This is a personal preference. There is no right or wrong answer. The rule of thumb is if your boss is having a drink you’re safe to do so. Don’t have more than one or two!

Etiquette for the green. Here are a few tips from the USGA website:

•    Never walk in front of someone’s line to the hole. Walk around their ball, or they may claim the indentation of your foot print sent their putt off course.
•    Let the person furthest from the cup putt first.
•    When you need to mark your ball, place a coin or ball marker behind the ball. If the marker lies in the path of someone else’s putt, you can move it a club’s head to the left or right (at a 90-degree angle to your line to the hole). Move it further if they ask.
•    Shake hands after all putts have been sunk on the last hole.

For more tips, check out the USGA’S etiquette tips.

Golf lingo. You can find a full list of golfing slang at Golfinity, but here are a few phrases that should help you out on your first outing:

•    Mulligan – The golfing equivalent of a “do-over.” Be careful about calling mulligans the first time you play with someone, and certainly don’t do it during any sort of competitive tournament.
•    Bag rat – Caddie.
•    Ace – A hole in one.
•    Scratch – A “scratch” golfer is someone with a zero handicap (which is a good thing and may boost your boss’s impression).

If you keep these tips in mind, the next time you step out onto the green you will look and sounds like a pro!

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