The one question I'm asked more than any other is: “When is it appropriate to talk business on the golf course?” Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this. You can lose out by talking business too soon. But opportunities are also lost by not reading the clues and by failing to talk business when the client is receptive.
You need to learn how to read people on the golf course before you head out to play with a prospect, client, or the boss. Hyatt Hotels and Resorts, which did a study on business golf, has identified four basic profiles, or archetypes, among business golfers. Knowing how to identify these archetypes can help you decide how to approach the game and what your business golf strategy should be:
Gunslingers are risk takers. They are often not very organized, and they consider themselves to be “careless golfers.” Gunslingers look for any competitive edge that they can get, and they often will have special equipment, such as large-head clubs, to give them that 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. Note: The majority of gunslingers are male.
Noncompetitors 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. They display very little anger on the course. Noncompetitors are less likely to track their handicaps than players who fall into the other groups.
Escapists are escaping from the world of business into the world of golf, and they may take the game so seriously that they forget they are there for business. Escapists are very competitive golfers who play to win, and they often lose their tempers on the course. These players love the game; playing golf on vacation, for example, is more important to them than to any other type of golfer. They are very organized and are the most likely to take lessons from a professional. They prefer to focus on the game and would rather not talk business.
Power Players strongly associate golf with doing business, look for a challenge in both, and expect to talk business on the course. They prefer to play under difficult conditions, and they believe that wagering on the outcome makes the game more enjoyable and makes them play better. Almost half of male players are estimated to be in this group, as well as the women with the lowest handicaps and the highest incomes.
Judy Anderson, Sterling Heights, Mich., is the author of Teeing Off to the Green: Using Golf as a Business Tool and the founder of Business Golf Unlimited. Visit her Web site at www.BizGolf.com.