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Tips for Playing Business Golf

By: Nancy Berkley


Almost every book written for women golfers " from beginners to experts " includes advice about how to use golf to advance your professional career. Here's my advice, and it may not be what you expect.

First let's talk about accepting an invitation from a business colleague, client or customer to play golf.�

Tip Number One: Be prepared to stand out in the crowd. At most corporate golf events and even on most courses, there will not be many women. You will be noticed. For starters: Wear an outfit that you are comfortable in. Confidence is very important in the game of golf.�

Remember: When you bend down to tee your ball up on the tee, three other golfers will see your backside. Be brave and check that view in a mirror. You may decide to wear a longer skirt or perhaps even a shorter one! (If you are a left-handed golfer, you can relax. Most tee boxes are set up for right-handed players.)�

Tip Number Two: Know your comfort zone. That means play in situations where you will not feel intimidated. If you are a super golfer with a handicap of 10 or less " only 10 percent of women golfers are in that zone, you should accept an invitation to play golf with anyone anywhere. Your male business colleagues or clients will love to play with you, especially when you tee it up from their tees.�

At the other extreme, if you have played only a few times and are still whiffing or dubbing balls, my suggestion is to decline the invitation until you improve your shot-making. I would make an exception if you are invited by another beginner golfer and together you can manage your expectations. I would also probably make an exception to the comfort-zone-rule if you are invited to a corporate golf event that is advertised as "fun" and uses a scramble format.�

Most women golfers fall in between the extremes. So how good to you have to be for business golf? Here are my guidelines: Most-of-the-time, you should be able to hit a ball about 100 yards off the tee, hit a middle iron (or hybrid club) at least 75 yards on the fairway, hit out of a bunker successfully two out of three times, know how to reach a green when you are 50 yards from the flagstick, take only one practice swing, three-putt " or less on most greens, know proper green etiquette, and know when to give up and put the ball in your pocket.�

Most important: Take this pace-of-play test on a day when your course is not busy. If you can play nine holes just by yourself and finish the nine holes in 90 minutes or less " or 18 holes by yourself in less than three hours, you are good enough to accept most business golf invitations. Even if your game is not great that day, you will not slow your foursome or those behind you. Unless you are playing in serious competition, if you are having a very bad hole it is usually okay to pick up your ball and hope for miracles on the next tee.�

Tip Number Three: Know when to talk about business. Believe it or not, men seldom talk shop on the course. So, if you are playing with men do not talk about the office or your new product or the next sale until the round is finished " maybe over a drink on the 19th hole. Build the relationship on the course, but make the sale the next day.

The business-talk rule is different if you are playing with women. We are very busy. We love to multi-task. If we can play golf and talk business at the same time, it's usually a win-win.

Let's move on to situations where YOU do the inviting.

Tip Number Four: Tip Number Four: If you are a good golfer, don't hesitate to invite female or male colleagues for a round of golf. You do not have to belong to a fancy private club to provide your guests with a good golf experience. There are many fine semi-private courses and excellent municipal courses. If you really want to provide your guests with a special invite, consider hosting a visit to a destination golf-school or a resort.

When inviting guests to play, always check ahead to find out about dress codes, locker room facilities, on-course amenities including beverages and fool-proof directions. And make sure that the tee yardages work for you and your guests. Always check the forward tees. Any course with a USGA slope from the forward tee of more than 125 " or one that plays longer than 5,300 yards from the forward tee " will have challenging features for women golfers.

Tip Number Five: If you are not a good golfer yet, you can still combine golf and business. Like yourself, many women are interested in learning to play the game, so consider hosting a group lesson just for your guests. Ask a local instructor who you"ve met and liked to give one (or a series) of group lessons. Include lunch or cocktails if within your schedule and budget. See the LPGA website (www.lpga.com) or the PGA of America"s Play Golf America (www.playgolfamerica) to find a teaching professional in your area.

If you are beyond being a beginner golfer, find a golf professional and course that will provide a playing lesson on a few holes for about an hour for your guests. Basically, you are hosting a mini-outing that is just right for busy women's schedules. Also keep your eye on charity golf events in the area. Many offer the opportunity to sign-up with a foursome. Invite three colleagues and play for fun and in support of a good cause.

Tip Number Six: Follow-up, whether it's a call the next day to say, "How about that contract?" or a "Thank You" note to cement a relationship, think about your golf experience as an ongoing investment. You are guaranteed to make new friends and hopefully improve your bottom line.

If you would like to meet other women golfers in the business world, visit the Executive Women's Golf Association website (www.ewga.com) for a chapter in your area.�

Nancy Berkley is an expert on women"s golf. Her book, "Women Welcome Here! A Guide to Growing Women"s Golf," published by the National Golf Foundation, is an industry reference on marketing golf to women. She is a resource for golf-industry trends and marketing advice on her website, www.nancyberkley.com. Nancy also consults with golf facilities on how to attract more women golfers. Nancy provides a Quick Question-Free Help Line on her website for those seeking marketing advice or information about business opportunities in the golf industry. Nancy is a frequent speaker at golf industry conferences and conducts The Woman's Only Guide to Golf programs for women golfers. Nancy's golf course reviews have appeared in The Golf Insider, an international golf and travel newsletter (see www.golfodyssey.com). She also contributes articles for women golfers on Cybergolf and www.ladiesgolfjourney.com. After a career as a lawyer and business executive, Nancy founded Berkley Consulting and The Woman"s Only Guide" to Golf to share her long-time passion for golf and to help grow the game. An experienced golfer herself, Nancy is a member of the Metropolitan Women"s Golf Association (N.J., N.Y., Conn.), has served on the Board and Golf Committees of her golf clubs. Nancy is a member of the National Golf Foundation, the EWGA and Women in the Golf Industry (WIGI). Nancy describes herself as a bogey golfer who is too busy to play enough. Contact Nancy at info@nancyberkley.com or on www.nancyberkley.com.