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Etiquette Tips For The Golf Course

Birdies and Business: 8 Etiquette Tips for the Golf Course

Updated February 2024

There’s nothing quite like closing a business deal after putting for birdie on a gorgeous Minnesota golf course. Business and golf often go hand-in-hand because generally speaking, both parties are in a great mood when they step up to the first tee, and if all things fall into place (a good round with good company on a great weather day), everyone will be smiling when they come off the course. But only if you understand the etiquette of mixing birdies and business.

Here are 8 tips for conducting business on the golf course.

Make All the Arrangements

You want to show your prospective client that you’re accommodating when it comes to business. Take it upon yourself to schedule the tee time. If it’s a longer trip to the course, offer to drive. And always arrive early whether it’s at the course, their house, or a mutual meeting place. It will show you’re punctual and serious about the working relationship.

Be Generous With Golf and Your Wallet

Plan to pay for the round whether you arrive at the course before or with them. It lets them know you value their business. Be generous both by offering to buy water and a snack mid-round and giving gimmes and mulligans on the course. It will set the tone for the golf round at hand and the business to come.

If you’re planning an early tee time, offer to grab coffee ahead of time. If your tee time is late morning or early afternoon, treat your prospective client to some food afterward.

Wait to Drink Until the 19th Hole

Unless your potential business partner is out for an afternoon of beers, refrain from drinking until after the round. The sober golfer will keep their wits about them, allowing them to focus on the other course etiquette and keep their eye on the business prize. The only doubles you should have on the course should be double bogeys — and you want to avoid those, also.

Be Patient When Broaching the Business Discussion

Don’t bombard you guest with business talk right away. Golf for a bit first, and spend some time getting to know your golfing partner as a person. When everyone is comfortable and having a good time, the business talk can begin.

Keep Things Moving

Both in the discussion on the course and the game itself. Play ready golf and pick up the pace whenever you can. Also be ready with some preconceived topics for discussion in case there is a lull in the action, or you need to change the subject from the very difficult round your playing partner is experiencing. The family, kids, his or her home course, best round they’ve played, how often they get out on the course are all fair game. Lively discussion, especially when centered on your client, can leave them with a good feeling. (Oh, and again, play ready golf, those of us following your group will appreciate it.)

Be Respectful on the Course

Any business worth winning is worth winning honestly. Nobody likes a sandbagger trying to pick up a few extra dollars (and losing the business), and no one respects an opponent laying down to make a deal. Gauge the playing ability and intensity level of your partner. If they’re sizing you up by playing a match, give them your best. Ultimately, they will be looking for the same from you in a business partnership.

Remain Level-Headed

Refrain from using any four-letter words on the course or snapping your club in two. That doesn’t demonstrate the type of golf or business partner your guest wants. A cool head on the course, particularly amidst adversity, can demonstrate your ability to do the same in a business relationship.

Don’t Expect a Closed Deal

If you’re lucky, you may close a deal by the end of the 18th hole. If not, don’t worry about it. Just because the round is over doesn’t mean your working relationship has to be, too. Send a follow-up “thank you” note that will put your name top of mind. Who knows? Maybe you’re closer to a deal than you think. Best of luck out there, both in business and play!

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