Some of the questions I am asked by my clients deal with what to do during the round of golf with a client, employee or vendor.
My answer always includes the reminder of the things not to talk about which is business, or about a product you have to sell or what your business is up to. There is nothing wrong with the ideal chat about your company if your guest asked how your business is doing, but don’t fall into that trap. It will lead to you seemingly sounding like you are hitting on your guest for business. I always make it clear during the invitation portion of playing business golf that the business part of the day will be afterward. Once that is established then it is clear that golf is golf and business is business. It is best to stay with that game plan.
There are several topics I talk about during my round of golf with a client or my mentees that work best to keep from falling into talking business before it is time to talk business. I suggest you do your homework and hone your knowledge of these topics and use them during your round to fill in until you get to the time to talk about business.
Golf Course Design
I am not an aficionado of golf course architecture but have learned from playing many of the great designers’ golf courses across the country that they do have some trademark elements they use in their designs. I will lead a conversation with my client in finding out their interest in how a golf course is designed.
Now if I was playing golf with a golf designer this would be talking business so I then might choose another subject for that round of golf. However, most of the time I am not playing golf with a golf course designer so I find that this conversation on how each hole is designed can be carried on throughout the entire round.
Golf course layouts is a neutral subject no matter what level of golf skill the guest has. Every golfer has a preference of style of golf course…some like trees, others hate trees…some like challenging par threes where some like the 600+ par fives. So, talking golf design, layout or and what likes and dislikes of a golf course will provide you a lot of what your guest interest is in golf and could, if you throw in little tidbits of facts you studied up on, offer your guest something to think about or add to their interest in golf.
Golf News can be a neutral subject depending on what topic or news you talk about. If you talk about Tiger to a Tiger fan then you may get a full round of play by play, hole by hole coverage (like we all got enough of at the recent Masters)for the entire round. However, if you crank up the Tiger machine to a Non-Tiger fan you could be changing the subject rather quickly.
Golf News is generally a good subject to use if there is something breaking or controversial that has just taken place in golf. Previously, I spent the entire round of golf with one of my attorney friends talking about the Callaway vs Titleist case over the Pro V1 golf ball. Here was a case where I opened up with a question…
Hey, did you hear about the lawsuit Callaway has against Titleist?…
..and then sat back for 18 holes hearing all of the ramifications of this case and other cases in golf that I had no idea was going on. Opening up a conversation that is golf related to your guest’s profession could open up one of those doors to seeing your guest’s true character.
Again, asking a question close to your guest’s profession could be short since they are fatigued with talking about the subject. If this is the case, move on to another topic.
Common Places Played
Asking your guest if they travel and play golf is another topic that has several crossroads within the topic. Naturally, if they do travel you could jump in with asking where they have played that was exciting. If your guest is well traveled this could get you through several holes. However, if they don’t travel then the conversation could fizzle out quickly.
What’s IN Their Bag
Talking about golf equipment usually is a good way to get things started. I have learned from talking to Dave Bisbee and his methods of playing business golf that you can tell a lot about a person from looking at their bag. For example, Dave looked at my bag and said…
You look well equipped to take on a high level of play, what is your handicap?
At the time I was not aware how Dave uses a person’s golf bag as the point of reference for a conversation opener. We went for four or five holes talking about my forged irons and custom fitted clubs…it was a very enlightening conversation. Of course, Dave is a PGA Instructor so he sees things and his thoughts towards teaching golfers whereas what I have learned from Dave’s teaching of business golf is you can tell a person’s tendencies by looking at their golf bag.
There are many of them and I will not get into all of the tendencies a person may have, but just seeing that they are a very organized golfer with each club in order and with the plastic covers on each iron could mean they are very organized in how they play golf. So the conversation may lean towards golf etiquette or golf rules.
There are a number of things you can get out of just seeing what your guest uses for golf tools. There again, there are also some warning signs, but usually, if you get into trouble talking about what is in a person’s bag you can easily drop the subject.
I get asked if asking about a person’s background..where they went to school?..if they have kids?… and such is a good topic. My suggestion would be to tread lightly in this topic and us it only as an opener or if nothing else is working.
Many people feel talking about a person’s personal life as an invasion of their privacy. So, I would avoid going there unless there is a reason to.
There are a number of other topics you can use as your On Course conversation. I suggest you use several of them and make the day filled with interesting talk around golf or related subjects. Just stay away from the Killer subjects like religion and politics and talked only about business.
Let me know how I can help