Costly Business Golf Mistakes

The billions of dollars and thousands of hours spent by the corporate world on business golf can be an excellent investment because golf is such a powerful tool for building relationships and developing business. But when companies don’t look carefully at how they’re using business golf, the cost is even higher. Not only are they wasting money, they’re also probably losing business and missing opportunities. The cost becomes more than any company can afford. Are you or your company making any of these expensive business golf mistakes?

Using a strategy that’s not cost effective. Years ago companies could afford to support various not-for-profit outings, maintain several private club corporate memberships, and let their employees play business golf with the hope that business would somehow develop. Today it’s critical for a company to tie its business golf strategy to the corporate goals and track the efforts and results. Accountability is just as important in business golf as it is in any other area of business.

Choosing the wrong wood or iron can cost you a stroke when you play. Choosing the wrong type of outing (corporate vs charity events) or making the wrong sponsorship decisions can cost a lot more.

Inviting the wrong people. Anyone who’s ever played golf knows that it’s the members of the foursome who can either make or break the round. This is true whether the objective is just a fun day out, playing some serious golf, or doing business. So the blend of people you bring together for business golf is a critical factor in how successful your efforts will be.

The tricky part of this is defining what you mean by the “right” people. Do you define it by the dollar amount of business the individual represents? Or do you invite people based on their golf skill level, how well they’ll get along, or whether they’ll be able to do business with each other as well as with you? With all these factors to consider, it’s little wonder the “right” people don’t always end up together.

Spending too little or too much. This is another tricky issue. Of course, the ideal is to spend just enough to accomplish your objective and no more. But that’s not always possible. The more business golf options (foursomes, outings, pro ams, tickets to pro events, golf-related gifts, etc.) you have, the easier it is to select what’s appropriate for a particular business associate. For example, sometimes it might be enough to invite someone to an outing at their own expense just because you share a mutual interest in golf. Other times it’s more appropriate to invite them as your guest.

Be aware of the fact that you’re setting a precedent with any business golf activity and a “can you top this?” mindset may develop. The first time, business associates really appreciate it and it serves as an incentive and motivator. The second time, it’s expected. The third time it’s perceived more as an entitlement.

Talking business too soon or too late. Are your employees savvy enough to know when and if to talk business? Do they read people on the golf course as well as they read the greens? Picking up on the cues isn’t as easy as it is in an office setting because the focus is constantly shifting between golf and conversation.

Lack of follow through. If you don’t follow through with your golf swing, you won’t hit your target. If you don’t follow through with your business golf efforts, you won’t maximize your bottom line. I’m constantly amazed at how many people say they play golf to network and still don’t carry business cards with them to exchange at the end of the round or during the cocktail hour at an outing. They also don’t plan a “20th hole” strategy, whether it’s a phone call, office visit, or some type of golf activity.

Many companies send employees to play in foursomes and outings and to network for business. But because there is no strategy or accountability for following through, their results are limited. The individuals and companies who are most successful with business golf, know that follow through is essential.

Now is the time to look at your business golf strategy so you can make this your best year ever. Chi Chi Rodriguez once said, “Golf is a thinking man’s game. You can have all the shots in the bag, but if you don’t know what to do with them, you’ve got troubles.” Business golf is a thinking person’s game. Strategize your “shots” and you’ll avoid a lot of costly mistakes.


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