The Business of Golf: 18 Rules to Play By

Dan Weedin’s Best Practices for Winning the Business of Golf

If you’re anything like me, you love to mix work with pleasure. Especially, if it’s on the golf course. The links offers a great opportunity to tee it up with clients and prospects. Even if you don’t play a lot, charity golf tournaments make it easy for even the novice to take advantage of the opportunity to build business relationships.

But, it’s just as big an opportunity for embarrassment and I’m not talking about your game. You can find yourself in the worst bunker of all – out of a job or losing business. And in this game, there are no mulligans! So regardless of whether you’re playing a round with your boss, a client, a prospect, or some other VIP, make sure you know the rules of play.

Just like a golf course has 18 holes, I have 18 best practices that you can use to avoid the hazards and build better business relationships through the grand old game of golf.

Front Nine

  1. Never ever sell on the course. This is an opportunity to build a relationship and trust.  Nothing will turn off a prospective client more than hearing a sales pitch right before he lines up his birdie putt.
  2. Never try to schedule a meeting on the course. You can do this while you’re having a beer after.  If they can’t stick around, simply ask if you can call them the next business day to schedule an appointment.  Make sure you get their approval and their business card.
  3. Keep your temper in check. Never swear, mope, throw your club, or complain (even if your prospect/client/boss does).  They need to understand that you don’t take yourself too seriously and that you’re not a maniac.
  4. Make sure you know golf etiquette. If the game is fairly new to you, brush up online for tips on how to behave on the course.  Your client will have an expectation that you can carry yourself well in any situation, including the links.
  5. Do not over consume alcohol on the course. This should be a no-brainer but I’ve seen it.
  6. Offer to buy refreshments as the snack cart drives around. Make sure you have plenty of five’s and one’s available and don’t scrimp on the tip. They will notice!
  7. Be conservative in your dress. I know seasoned golfers have seen John Daly’s latest outrageous wear. This isn’t the place to show off your multi-colored pants. I’m not saying be a prude. Just be smart.
  8. Don’t play slow. I don’t mean that you have to be a good golfer. I mean don’t take seven practice swings before each shot or check every angle when lining up a putt. Keep the pace going.
  9. You don’t have to let the boss/client win. Really. Golf is a gentleman’s game, not a brown-noser’s. If you’re keeping score, as long as you are gracious either way, you will be a winner.

Back Nine

  1. Pick up lunch at the turn. The “turn” is going from the front nine to the back nine and always offers the opportunity to eat.
  2. Be willing to accept reciprocation. They may offer to buy you food or drink. Don’t embarrass them by refusing and forcing the issue that you buy. You might be at their club, or you might be their guest. Be willing to graciously accept.
  3. Don’t Crash the Cart. I’ve seen it. Really. Most charity golf events require a cart, as do many of the newer courses. This may go hand in hand in avoiding overconsumption of alcohol. Putting your boss in the hospital doesn’t lend itself to a stable long-term relationship!
  4. Play for par, hope for birdie. Here’s what I mean. Don’t try to do the spectacular like fishing out the client’s golf ball from the lake when you can’t reach it easily. You may end up all wet in the drink (seen this too). Looking for his or her ball in poison ivy – that’s a double-bogey! Be smart when making decisions that could impact the remaining part of your game.
  5. Ask Questions. This is your opportunity to learn a little something about your playing partner. Find out about family, hobbies, and even about their work. Be sincerely interested and listen.
  6. If they ask, go for it! I know I told you not to sell or schedule appointments earlier. But, if your prospect starts the conversation down that line, play on. It’s their prerogative to talk business, so if they want to, by all means take advantage. But remember to stop when they do.
  7. Shake their hand. At the end of the round, shake their hand as well as every other playing partner. I’ve always liked how Tiger Woods doffs his cap while shaking hands. I never seem to get the holding on to the putter and ball while shaking. Helps to have a caddy, I guess!
  8. Offer to eat after the round. The 19th hole is a great place to enjoy a burger and beer (moderately). If they can’t stay, don’t make them feel bad. It’s the right thing to offer.
  9. Have fun! This is the most important item. Don’t psyche yourself out, try to be perfect, or worry about business. People can tell. Enjoy the day, the company, and the game.

You will learn a lot about a person over 18 holes. Your client/prospect/boss will learn a lot about you.  Make sure you are giving the best impression you can.  This is a golden opportunity to build relationships and show that you are worthy of their trust. People do business with those they trust and like. Make sure they walk off the course with a “birdie” feeling about you.

© 2009 Dan Weedin – All Rights Reserved

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Never Having to Say Your Sorry

An article in today’s New York Times details President Barack Obama’s retraction for a comment he made regarding the arrest of an African-American Harvard professor by a white law enforcement officer.  He said that the police had “acted stupidly” in the arrest.  What’s more, the comments came in a press conference on his health care package.

President Obama said he regrets his words, but my issue is how he did it.  He said he could “have calibrated my words more carefully.”  To continue, the President said, “To the extent that my choice of words didn’t illuminate, but rather contributed to more media, I think that was unfortunate.”

Memo to the President – Just say “I’m sorry.”

Ditch the words “illuminate,” “calibrated,” and unfortunate.”  You messed up, just fess up.  Nothing is worse than hearing a bunch of $100 words when a $3 word will do just fine.  If you are trying to be influential as a communicator, then be straightforward, sincere, and pithy.

By the way, from a leadership standpoint this is weak.  Have you ever had a boss who danced around saying “I’m sorry” and basically made it out that it was someone else’s fault anyway?  That’s exactly what this sounds like from my point of view.

For a guy who has been widely proclaimed as an excellent communicator, this adds to a series of extemporaneous boo-boos from President Obama (note boo-boo is a $1 word).

When you next find yourself in a position to have to apologize for something (and we all will), whether it’s professionally or personally, make the right choice and pull out those two simple words I noted above – “I’m sorry.”  Pithy, sincere, and humble.

Better luck next time Mr. President.

Read the Story

Character Driven

I am a big fan of the CBS series, NCIS.  My family recently purchased the DVD set of Year 1 and it included special features about the show.  For those of you not familiar with the series, it chronicles the adventures of a team from the Naval Criminal Investigation Service based in Washington D.C.  The show stars Mark Harmon and is in its 6th season as a huge hit.

I always enjoy watching the special features. I enjoy learning what happens in the background to make shows or movies successful.  In NCIS, creator Donald Bellisario discussed at great length why the show has been a huge success.  Just like in his former work with Magnum P.I. and Jag, Bellisario felt that the show needed to be “character driven” instead of plot driven.  He knew that audiences identify with characters first and foremost.  Characters must create some sort of emotion, from love to hate, to evoke interest from the audience.  In NCIS, the protagonists are all likeable with their own small quirks and flaws.  They are real.  Think of your favorite television shows.  Regardless of the genre, comedy, drama, mystery, etc., the characters are really what keep you involved, interested, and coming back for more.

Think about your speeches or presentations.  Do you develop that kind of strong characters in your stories?  If not, you are missing a golden opportunity to influence your audience, and perhaps worse, bore the heck out of them!

The development of your characters doesn’t have to take a long time.  However, your audience must be able to see them, hear them, like them, or relate to them.  Here are four tips to help bring your characters to life:

1.    Give them a name.  It doesn’t have to be a real name.  You might shorten a name to Mr. T or even maybe more powerful, a brand.  I’ve used a brand name in one of my speeches, calling a character “Angry Dad” in a story from my coaching days.  Just using the brand gives you a partial visual of this character.
2.    Help your audience see.  Does your character have brown or blonde hair?  Are they short or tall?  Walk fast or with a limp?  You get the idea.  It can be a one or two word description as part of a sentence, but this still helps us visualize.
3.    Help your audience hear.  Does your character have an accent; a lisp; speak quietly; or loudly? Again, it doesn’t take much to sneak in clues.  Heck, in this one you can even model the sound for your audience by copying it during dialogue.
4.    Give them the best lines.  Make sure you include your characters in dialogue and give them the best and funniest lines.  Your audience will come to love them and your story.

Television shows like NCIS are no different than you writing a speech.  A successful TV show and a speech must both have a strong open and close, an intriguing plot or message, and must effectively use characters to keep the audience engaged.

NCIS is character driven.  Is your next speech?

© 2009 Dan Weedin – All Rights Reserved

At What Cost Leadership

Sarah Palin has become a polarizing national figure. Love her or hate her, this story in the Washington Post depicts what politics in the 21st century has turned into. It’s probably one of the reasons that many of our best and brightest say “no thanks.” I like Sarah Palin for a lot of reasons and wish her the best.

The intriguing question for me is who in their right mind wants to be in state or national politics and subject their family to the incredible scrutiny that comes with it. Unfortunately, for both parties, it’s usually incredibly rich power mongers who put themselves and their agendas first. Think I’m wrong? Then you haven’t been paying attention. Your thoughts…

Read the Washington Post article

Lou Gehrig’s Farewell Speech

Talk about speaking to influence…

Here’s a great example from 70 years ago.

I’m kind of a baseball historian and it was very cool to read that Major League Baseball is honoring Lou Gehrig on the 70th anniversary of his farewell speech at Yankee Stadium. It will be read at every ballpark tomorrow during the 7th inning stretch. Interesting that the actual speech was slightly altered for the movie, The Pride of the Yankees. In his original speech, he gave the famous phrase about being “the luckiest man on the face of the earth” as the second line. In the movie (three years after his speech), the writers felt it would have more impact for Gary Cooper to read it at the end.

Gehrig was no dummy. He was a Columbia grad but I doubt he thought his speech would live on like it has.

To read the speech or watch footage of it, go to

Saying Thank You Still Works

Not five minutes ago, I received a personal phone call from the head of a non-profit organization that I recently donated to.  His call was to simply say “thank you” by phone.  He acknowledged my contribution and said that in today’s economic challenges, every dollar counts.  He finished by reiterating his thanks and said goodbye.

That’s it.  Five minutes on a Wednesday morning and I will always be supporting that charity.

Think about it.  How a simple thank you can change how your business succeeds.  Whether you are a non-profit executive or a business owner, simply taking a few minutes to express your thanks with a phone call or card makes a huge impression.  I was most impressed that he called.  In today’s e-mail world, it would have been easy to just send it electronically, which in and of itself would have been nice.  By being “old school” and calling, it made it even more memorable.

How do you express thanks to your clients and customers?  Do you do it often enough?  This was a great reminder for me.  It should be for you, too!