From the June 1998 issue of Entrepreneur

Everyone knows business and golf have become inextricably linked. But some entrepreneurs out there shanking, slicing and signing up clients could use a few lessons to bring their business games up to par. We know of one entrepreneur, for instance, who signed up for a golf tournament on the condition that she be paired with a certain potential client. One small handicap: She'd never swung a golf club in her life. She did land the client (even though she lost the tournament), but we wouldn't call this the best course of action. In light of this, we've put together a guide to doing business on the links:

Golf Lesson No. 1: Turf Advantage

When it comes to cutting business deals, not all golf courses are created equal. Experts say some greens have a reputation for being very green indeed--they're the hot spots that industry moguls and high-level executives choose for closing important business deals. William Hallberg, a Golf Digest course evaluator and author of The Rub of the Green (Ballantine Books), suggests you consider the plentiful business opportunities at the nation's five most high-powered courses:

  • Congressional Country Club, Bethesda, Maryland. This is the course of choice for politicians and deal makers from the nation's capitol.
  • Olympic Club, San Francisco. Local business executives enjoy its beautiful views and excellent club house and restaurant.
  • New Orleans Country Club, New Orleans. This is a favorite among this region's oldest families and wealthiest residents.
  • Bethpage State Park Golf Course (Black), Bethpage, New York. High-rollers from the city flock to the area's most magnificent golf course.
  • Bel Air Country Club, Los Angeles. This is the place to be seen for movie industry execs and business heavyweights.

Golf Lesson No. 2: Pairing Up

Once you've settled on the best place to tee off, it's time to learn the art of pairing, says Gretchen Kihm of golf course management company American Golf Corp. in Santa Monica, California. One strategy: Partner your potential client with whomever is closing the deal. Bring along your longtime customer Joe and new client John to complete the foursome; they can be called on to offer unique perspectives when needed.

Golf Lesson No. 3: Soft Sell

Whether you're trying to drive in business with loyal customers or prospective clients, the best advice is to use a delicate touch. Even if your objective is to close the deal today, don't begin talking business after the first practice swing. Professionals always play a few holes first, Kihm says. When you put your sales hat on, strive for a casual tone. Keep business talk to a minimum; experts advise talking shop no more than 20 percent of the time.

Golf Lesson No. 4: Good Connections

For M. Ann Padilla, president and CEO of Sunny Side Inc./Temp Side, a Denver staffing resource company, golf isn't about making deals. It's about making contacts. "The idea is to get to know someone you can do [future] business with," says Padilla. For instance, Padilla claims talking on the golf course with one client about potential ways they could improve their relationship eventually increased her sales from this client by 70 percent.

Golf Lesson No. 5: Let The Games Begin

It's time to play a few rounds. When you're on the course, observe carefully, then cater your sales pitch accordingly. Someone's golf game can reveal his or her decision-making skills, motivations and more. And if your opponent's throwing his or her club in frustration, don't bring up important business matters.

Finally, while golf courses furnish fertile grounds for deal-making, remember that golf is just a game. Enjoy it. In the end, only you can decide the best way to bring in business on the greens.

Contact Sources

American Golf Corp., (800) T-OFF-NOW, http://www.t-off-now.com

Golf Digest, halbergw@mail.ecu.edu

Sunny Side Inc./Temp Side, (303) 320-5361, staffing@sunnysidetemps.com