Reading People on the Golf Course

The one burning questions as ked by most corporate golfers is “….when is it appropriate to talk business on the golf course”. Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer. You can lose by talking business too soon. But opportunities are also lost by not reading the clues and failing to talk business when the client is receptive to it. So you’ll want to know how to read people on the golf course before you head out to play with a prospect, client, or the boss.

The first thing to determine is how serious the person is about the game of golf itself. Hyatt Hotels and Resorts did a study on Golf and the Business Executive and found there are four basic profiles or archetypes among business golfers. Knowing these archetypes and the clues to look for to identify them can really help you decide when and if to talk business.

Gunslingers are risk takers, often not very organized, and consider themselves “careless golfers.” They look for any edge they can get and often will have special equipment, such as large head clubs, to give them an edge. They enjoy gambling, both on the outcome of the game and with their shots. This is also the type of golfer who is most likely to cheat. About 12% of the executives surveyed in the Hyatt study were Gunslingers; 87% were male.

Non-Competitors think golf is fun. They play to relax, prefer less challenging courses and use traditional equipment. They are calm golfers who avoid risky shots and physical exertion. These players display very little anger on the course because they’re not hooked into the challenge and believe golf is “just a game.” Non-Competitors are less likely to track their handicap than the other groups. Although 32% of the executives were in this category, the majority of women were Non-Competitors.

Escapists are very competitive golfers who play to win and often lose their temper on the course. They love the game; playing golf on vacation is more important to them than to any other group. They are very organized and the most likely to take lessons from a pro. They prefer to focus on the game and would rather not talk business. Escapists accounted for 12% of the sample.

Power Players strongly associate golf with business, look for a challenge in both, and expect to talk business on the course. They prefer to play under difficult conditions and also believe gambling makes the game more enjoyable and makes them play better. Almost half of the males in the study were in this group. The women with the lowest handicaps and the highest incomes were Power Players.

A basic understanding of the archetypes will help you determine someone’s attitude toward golf. It will also help you decide how to approach the game and what your business golf strategy should be, based on who you’re playing with. For example, a Non-Competitor will want to take the game more seriously when playing with an Escapist. And an Escapist will want to focus more on the relationship and less on the game when playing with a Non-Competitor. A Power Player who would probably enjoy talking business on the course may want to avoid it when playing with an Escapist.

Even if you don’t talk business during the round, being flexible and modifying your style to adapt to the people in your foursome will help you develop relationships much more quickly. To become really proficient at reading people, you’ll want to be familiar with a behavioral or social styles model as well as the Hyatt model. This will help you not only look at how people relate to golf, but also how they relate to each other. You’ll then have a head start getting along with everyone, in golf and in business. And you’ll also be better prepared to put together really effective business golf foursomes. The end result? You’ll get you to the $green$ a lot faster!

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