It has been 13 years since I published the first version of How to Play Business Golf. Back in 2004, golf was much more than a sport or a game. Golf was a culture, a part of the everyday person’s life and, in some ways, still is. Now there is an entire generation who has been brought up to think Golf is one of the four-letter words they should never say and is nothing but a frivolous activity.
However, in the past several months there seems to be a resurgence in the interest of golf which leads many of the new entries to golf…and a large number of the old guard golfers… to search for more purpose for golf. Many of the golfers today are lead to ask the same questions I asked 15 years ago… How can I get more golf into my daily life? and How do I use golf as a business tool? The new interest in golf has lead to a significant number of people contacting me to ask questions. Thanks for remembering me!
How and Why Did I Learn to Play Business Golf?
The questions I have been asked a thousand times since writing my book have to do with both How and Why I learned to play Business Golf. Of course, those questions usually came after the question… What is Business Golf?
Business Golf is a well-planned round of golf purposefully scheduled to conclude with a business meeting.
My adventure with golf began like most people, by playing around with their parent’s golf clubs when they were kids. I remember when I was 9 years old taking my dad’s persimmon 4 wood and smashing a golf ball down the alley behind our house and breaking the neighbor’s window. Took me the entire summer of mowing their lawn to pay for the window. From then on, I was only allowed to hit my dad’s 9 iron and could only hit the pecans in the yard.
I have vivid memories of being in our backyard and hitting a golf ball over our house to the front yard. Then I run around the house to hit it back. I see that ball flight today with every opportunity I have to use a wedge to hit the golf ball over a tree.
Swinging that 9 iron for so many years as a kid is what I credit to developing my above average short game. Unfortunately, like so many kids today, football and baseball consumed my teenage years and I never got to hit a golf ball on a golf course until I was in my 20’s. I’m certain if golf was affordable back then and was offered in school as a sanctioned activity, as it should be, I would certainly have taken the opportunity to at least check it out.
Golf for me has been and will continue to be a challenge to learn and play. In my early 20’s I did not take the game very seriously, however, I was sometimes a serious golfer. Hitting the golf course with my co-workers had become more of a social activity than a test of skill..probably because none of us had any skill to test.
Being a self-taught golfer resulted in huge gaps in the quality of my golf game and it was not unusual for me to play my second shot two fairways away from the green. It was that 9 iron that kept me playing golf.
Like so many parents do, or should, I put golf on the back burner during my Child Raising period of life. It was not until my early 40’s when I looked at golf as a sport and decided it was time to learn to play the game of golf.
Be Good or Be Perfect
It was the year before Tiger Woods turned professional when my group of mostly co-workers decided to take up golf seriously. We all compared every review written on golf clubs, golf balls and golf courses to gain the knowledge of how best to equip ourselves with the best quality golf equipment on the market. Of course, the quality if the equipment had to match with the country club attire required to be allowed on any golf course. Oh, those where the days when playing golf was “comfortable”.
Still, I was a hack of a golfer in the sense of playing poorly and since most of the golf outings I signed up for had friendly wagers involved I was becoming really tired of always being the loser. So, I signed up to take some golf lessons. This proved to be an ongoing ordeal in of itself.
I spent months going from golf professional to golf instructor hoping to find one that could communicate effectively. I remember one of my earliest instructors having me go through the usual “take a few shots and let me see how you hit the ball” routine. After about 15 minutes he stops me to finally show me what I was doing wrong. He went through a five-minute dissertation of his swing compared to my swing and left me with “Once you are able to draw the ball like this come back to see me and I’ll continue your lesson”…he then asked for payment and left.
I never saw the guy again until five years later I was at the Byron Nelson Pro-Am and he was playing with a bunch of businessmen instructing them on every shot on how to hit the ball. That group did not appear to be having a great day with him. Of course, he didn’t remember me…probably because I still could not draw the ball.
I have since had a number of golf professional instructors I really enjoyed, but one I credit, Scott Hammon (hope I got the last name right), for communicating with me effectively. The one question he asked me on the first day of the series of lessons I was taking from him was..“Do you want to be Good or be Perfect?” This struck me as a strange question to ask. My reply was to ask to “define Good and Perfect”. He seemed to be ready for that question.
He immediately provided me with the most profound explanation on what it takes to learn to play good golf and what it would take to learn how to play perfect golf.
500 Ball Therapy
Scott told me according to Gary Player “if a beginner golfer hit 500 balls a day it would take one year for them to be a Good golfer, meaning they would be able to play scratch golf 80% of the time. To become a perfect golfer that same beginner golfer would need to continue to hit 500 balls a day for as long as they play golf, meaning…being perfect in golf is what good golfer still strive to achieve.”
This moment of time he spent providing me with statistical data was exactly what I needed to calm me to the fact that learning to play golf overnight is literally impossible. But it was good to now know there was a way to accomplish my goal of playing respectable golf.
My analytical brain quickly processed the probabilities of actually hitting 500 balls a day. I quickly formulated the time it would take to hit 500 balls against the time with the available time I had and determine it was going to take me at least 5 years to get to just an intermediate skill level which would be a vast improvement from the golf skills I had when I started. The reality of never hitting 500 balls in any period of time also humbled me to the fact on what it takes to play like Tiger Woods.
Knowing how long it was actually going to take to learn to play a decent round of golf was calming and I kept that thought in my head every time I stepped up to the first tee. Plus, having this tidbit of information pushed me to find ways to make time to hit as many golf balls as I could.
Off to School
Even though the one-on-one golf lessons proved effective for a day or two it was not moving me fast enough to my goal of developing adequate golf skills to hold my own against stiff competition. During one of question and answer sessions I was having with my golf instructor, I asked how I could speed up the process of improving my golf game to at least an intermediate level. The suggestion was made to me enrolling in one of the boot camp style golf schools that were popping up around the country.
During early 1990, golf popularity was drawing more and more people into learning to play the game of golf. Companies where finding golf as a great team building tool. This resulted in golf schools being created by some of the top touring professional and their instructors. These schools catered to business groups and organizations. Vacation packages where being formed around attending these golf schools.
After several months of study, I decided that golf school was the way for me to accelerate my learning of the game of golf. When I mentioned my interest in going to a boot camo for golf to my regular foursome I found there was a mutual interest in going with me. Naturally, being the event planner for my company I was tapped as the person to find the school and make the arrangements to attend.
In July 1992, I attended my first boot camp style golf school in Las Vegas….yes…in JULY!!!
3 days of 4 hours of pounding golf balls while receiving fast-paced golf instructions and then 4 hours of playing golf….yes…in the heat of July.. in the desert. We started each day at 7 AM at 80 degrees and ended the first half of the day of intense golf instruction having hit on average 250 golf balls in 100+-degree heat.
Then after lunch, we stepped up on the tee of the golf course to test out what we learned. We would come off the golf course in mid-afternoon having hit well over 100 more golf balls with the temperature hitting 115. Needless to say, we learned a lot more than how to play golf at this golf school..but…we all loved it. We loved it so much we made it an annual event for 8 years.
Every time we got home from the boot-camps we were hitting the golf ball the furthest any of us had hit it and controlling our shots better than we ever had and putting lights out. The 3 months after golf school was some of the best memories I have of playing near “Respectable” golf. But, the thrill would be gone once the winter hit and golf was something I got to play maybe three times a month. Then it was off to golf school again.
It was during this time of going to golf school and coming home to working a job everyday I started to ask myself how can golf become more of a part of my everyday life. I was not thinking of turning professional or selling golf equipment. I kept asking myself how can golf be something with more purpose than hacking around the golf course on the weekends?
I was fortunate to have been moved to a position at work that allowed me to meet with clients and vendors on regular bases. Now golf had been accepted as the sport for business people and it was not long before I was being invited to meet a client at the golf course or country club for a round of golf while we talked business.
From 1995 to 2004 when I retired from corporate life, I finally found a greater purpose for playing golf.
Taking from the Past and Moving into the Future
During my 32 year career in the corporate world, I was given the opportunity to organize dozens of golf outings and golf tournaments for the management team. This was something I thoroughly enjoyed. One of the main duties I was to oversee was making sure every detail, from parking lot cleanliness to pin placement, was taken care of. The impression my bosses wanted to his guest was on my shoulders..not the PGA or the golf course management.
I had to know who was playing with who and what their golf skill level was; what their favorite beverage was; did they prefer to keep score or play a friendly wager; did they preferred to drive the golf cart or have a caddie; were they left handed or right handed…all of these details I needed to find out well before the golf outing without asking them.
If one of my top execs did not like the way the course he was playing or was laid out I was the one who’s radio earpiece shrieked from an executive assistant screening at me…not the golf director. I learn quickly how to trick a golf course up to fit every player’s fancy.
But in order to know how to do all of this I had to learn to play golf at the skill level many of my former college all-star golf team champions bosses played, or their guest. Truthfully, I never got to that high level of golf skill, but I sure did know how top skilled golfers think and play.
I also learned that the golf part of the day of these events was just the foreplay for the business talks that were held afterward. I also had to make sure the bars were stocked and the food was prepared so my many bosses did not have to sweat. They also had to be confident in me that everything was taken care of before they turned from golfer to being our company’s sales representative.
Showing a client how thoughtful you are to all of their needs and making them overly comfortable was the goal. How well the boss took care of all of the details was demonstrated by his staff’s look towards taking care of all details.
Many sales were won and eventually closed because of the impression my bosses made on potential clients after a challenging round of golf.
Business While Golfing
Now that I was retired from the corporate rat race I decided I would pursue a part-time career in the golf industry. Having befriended one of the executives of the local section of the PGA I made an appointment to stop by to visit with him on what opportunities he saw for me to work for the PGA. The conversation was rather short but rememberable. What I remember the most was the humorous statement he made that only true friends would appreciate.
He told me that, “unless You can shoot two scores of 80 from back-to-back rounds of 18 holes, there would not be a job there for me.” We got a chuckle since he had seen my game first hand we bought knew it was going to be sometime before I could shoot 80 twice, from the back tees of any golf course, much less one set up for professional competition.
However, he was well aware of my background in operations management and 32 years of experience business analytical processes. He felt my business background would better serve the PGA and golf industry as a whole if I used it to help them determine what they needed to do to shore up the exodus of business golfers from playing golf. This was the first time I ever heard of the term Business Golf which was defined as golfers who use the game of golf as a business tool.
My friend at the PGA went on to explain the economy of golf and how it is based on the rigid dichotomy between the golfers who pay a single green fee at a municipal golf course ones or twice a year to the PGA professional tour golf tournaments where sponsors pour millions of dollars into supporting the golf industry as a whole.
What was tying these two ends of the spectrum of golf together were the people who played business golf. Business golfers were supporting the economy of everything from the weekly round of golf with staff and clients to the purchase of entries into the PGA Tour Pro-AMs. These golfers were using golf as a business tool and were leaving the game of golf for some unknown reason.
My friend at the PGA thought my time might be better spent reviewing how golfers were actually using golf as a business tool in an effort to find out why they were leaving this segment of the golf economy.
Since I was searching for a challenge that used my training I took on the project of finding out how golf was being used by business golfers.
Why Golf is Struggling
I’ll leave it to you to check out my business golf blog for the many stories I have to tell about the many rounds of business golf I played.
From December 2004 to July 2005 I purposely set out to find people who were playing golf for business purposes. From time to time I would ask business people to play golf with me where I took on a character of a strong salesperson or a passive business developer. Sometimes I would not talk business at all and other times I would just keep badgering my playing partner on how I could serve them.
I attended business networking events where I would be invited by a total stranger to playing a round of golf while we talked business. All-in-all I estimated over seven months I played well over 100 rounds of golf.
Well over 85% of the rounds of golf I played with people who invited me to play with them was with business people who clearly thought golf was part of their entitlement of being able to pitch a sale for 6 hours.
I played golf at several places around the country where I witnessed the same mistakes business people were making during the round of golf that would result in a failed business opportunity.
During this same time, I would use different tactics which I found to be very successful in developing new clients for my consulting business. I also played golf with people I consulted in using business golf who also found the tactics I suggested they use on the golf course did lead to a successful business transaction….whereas before their efforts were tragic at best.
Why Business People were Quitting Golf
After several months of studying how people were attempting to use golf as a sales tool, I finally found why business people were leaving golf. Frustration was the main reason to cause business people to throw in the towel for using golf to close more business. Both the people spending all of the money to produce a round of golf with the intent of selling someone and the person the business person invited to play were leaving playing golf to pursue other means of marketing or to avoid being asked to play golf with someone attempting to sell something to them while on the golf course.
During my studies, I found over 40% of the people I found who played golf to turn me down for playing a round of golf to discuss business. Reasons ranged from “I quit playing golf with people I don’t know to keep from being harassed during the round of golf”…to… “Golf outings were just way too expensive marketing tools and consumed too much time for the ROI, so we quit playing golf altogether.”
It seemed I found the reasons why business people were leaving the game of golf. However, if these golfers knew what I found to work I am sure they might still be playing golf as a business tool.
After compiling my notes I scheduled another meeting with my friend at the PGA. Our meeting went well and he was impressed with what I found. Unfortunately, all of this work did not lead in the direction I thought it would which was for me to work for the PGA to come up with programs to show people how to play business golf. The direction it took was my PGA friend suggesting I put all the information and methods of playing business golf into a book.
Being an author was something I would never have thought I would ever be. But, after being told about eBooks, the new way books are produced for the Internet, I thought I would give it a try.
The rest is history.
How I Learned to Play Business Golf
The long answer to Why I learned to play business golf obviously outlined How I learned to play business golf. You would think that all of the time I spent out on the golf course playing golf would be all fun. In fact, it was contrary.
Not all those rounds of golf were fun and games. There were a number of rounds of business golf that went very wrong. I was not rare for me to end rounds at the 9 hole turn due to the incompatibility of the players, flagrant violations of golf course rules, club throwing and just downright dishonesty and unlawfulness..all of which character traits that would not be good in the business relationship. But, looking at the bright side of the darkside..it was good to find these traits out before going into a business deal. I would not have found those traits if I had not played business golf with those people.
On the fun side of playing business golf during this time, there were a lot of rounds that produced very solid business relationships. In fact, 85% of the rounds of business golf I played produced a positive result that leads to a business relationship. The remaining 15% of the rounds of business golf produced some great friendships and honest golfers to play golf with.
Some may scoff at Golf really being a business tool and stand on Golf only being a frivolous activity that wastes time and money. For those people who view golf that way I am sure it is due to them being a little jealous of them not thinking of golf as a business tool..or maybe it is more stubbornness. They generally are the same people who do not see a future in marketing on the internet.
There will always be the skeptics of anything not clearly understood. It those who stay open to everything who will benefit from learning how to play business golf. It is to those of you who are open to thinking outside the box that I say…
Let Me Know How I Can Help!