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The Art of Networking on the Course

By Dr. Peter J. Titlebaum & John H. Fairbanks

Golf can enhance business relationships...

Client Golf...Monday Pro am...Saturday Morning dog fight...Member Guest.... Charity Scramble...Corporate outing...Each of these is a prime networking venue. However, is networking more than just taking someone to play golf and talk business?

A network can be defined as a "group people with similar interests." Many businessmen and women network without even realizing they are doing it. Any time you have the opportunity to meet women, either on or off the golf course, and have a conversation, you are beginning the first stage of networking. As you increase your contact with this person, regardless of the forum, you are climbing to the next stage of the network. It is a misconception to think any one stage of the network is any more important than another, and you cannot get beyond one stage without passing through the previous stage.

Playing a round, whether 9 or 18, can provide a person with a whole new scope to their relationship. It opens the association up to develop on a higher, more personal stage. There are things that are done and said on a golf course that may never have taken place in a board room or office. You are also afforded more time on a course, two or three hours, than you would ever have in an office.

Women are discovering golf's potential for networking. While golf was considered to be a "man's networking venue," more and more women are using its relaxed atmosphere to conduct business meetings. According to the Dayton Daily News in July, 1994 women represent 40% of all new golfers during the past five years.

Corporations are also seeing the benefits of "golfworking." Many companies are giving mini-clinics to their sales and executive staffs. Is networking more than just taking someone to play golf and talk business? The answer is yes, but you must be willing to network on each of the five stages to be successful.

Stage 1: Contact

Fund raising has often been referred to as "friend raising." Golf networking is the same thing.. You must make a friend in the initial contact to be able to add this person to your network list. Some of the ways to do this are:

Introducing yourself to someone hitting balls on the range next to you.

Meeting at golf clinics or club golf events

Meeting through the men's or ladies' golf associations by asking the club golf professional to pair you with someone new and/or Meeting through group golf lessons.

Stage 2: Invitation for an event

Invite this new contact to join in your Saturday morning or Wednesday afternoon game
Have lunch at the club together or have a drink in the 19th hole after the round, and/or
Ask the new contact to be your partner in a golf association event.

Stage 3: Invitation for an Event

Invite the person to play on your team in a charity scramble, and/or
Invite their spouse to dine with you and your spouse.

At this point, you and your network person are probably either doing business together or are in negotiation over a contract.

Stage 4: Invitation to Corporate Outings

Invite this person to play in a corporate outing and/or
Invite this person to join other clients at company's resort

Stage 5: Invitation to High Demand events

Invitation to play in a Member-Guest Tournament

As with stage 4, this stage is usually reserved for the client with whom you have done a large amount of business or who has signed a large contract with you.

As you look over this list of stages and forums, you should begin asking yourself the following:

  • Who are the people at the top of your network
  • Do they play golf? What better way to get to know them than on a golf course with no phones.
  • How often do you make contact with these people?

What better way to say, "Let's get some time together away rom the office."
What if you are just learning the game, can I still network in golf?

If you know the rules and practice common courtesy and don't take yourself too seriously, everyone can have a good time on the golf course.

I am embarrassed of how I might play.

Take some lessons and practice. That is the best way to get over your fear.

You are a woman and not sure how the men will treat you.

Most men are so glad to get out of the office to be able to play that golf is no longer a man's world regardless of what some might think.

Do men really want to play with a woman on the golf course?

If you can laugh at yourself while trying to improve, you can make some great transactions, friends and contacts.

It may be important and helpful to answer this question:

How important is playing (or learning) the game of golf and networking?

When you have the opportunity to make your leisure time more enjoyable by playing golf and bonding (networking) with others. When you have the opportunity to walk in a new client's office and see golf memorabilia around and can discuss the game, it becomes an icebreaker and puts you on a different (and probably more profitable) plane.