Mark Twain may have described it as a good walk spoiled but for millions of business people all over the world golf is not just one of the most enjoyable, if sometimes completely infuriating, ways to spend a few hours of their time, it’s also a fantastic business tool.
In fact, even better that being able to talk about cricket or rugby as an icebreaker, it is a great way to make an immediate connection and a long lasting bond with colleagues, clients and anyone else within your business circle.
There are many reasons why golf is such a unique game in this respect and they fall into three key areas: environment, opportunities and inclusivity.
There’s no doubt about it: the environment that we find ourselves in dictates the way that we react and behave. Therefore, in an office, we will behave in a serious and formal manner but let us out in the beautiful surroundings of a golf course and immediately the atmosphere is far more relaxed, not to say inspiring. This means that you may be able to have conversations that may not have been possible when you’ve been in the more restrictive environment of an office or even over a business lunch. So, once you’re out in the open air everything can be possible.
These are by far the biggest reasons why golf and business go together like a pro and his caddy.
For a start, where else would you ever have a few hours to discuss whatever you wanted to with a client or colleague free from the everyday distractions of business life? And with the only interruptions being the playing of shots you really do have time to guide the conversation in the direction that you want it to go without making it seem forced or feeling pressurised to reach a conclusion in a set period of time.
Plus, because so much of business is built on relationships, really getting to know the people around you is critical. There are few other places better than a golf course for really getting to see someone’s true character and understanding what makes them tick. So you will discover just how competitive they really are, how wedded to the rules and even how short their temper may be.
There’s also the opportunity to combine a pleasant day out without having to take your eye off the other balls in your life. For example if you have a good trading app on your phone you can carry on controlling your investments as you play. Taking your phone with you also means that, if they absolutely have to, the office can keep in touch – best put it on vibrate only if you don’t want to infuriate fellow golfers, though.
Last but not least, it’s a sport that almost anyone with even a little experience can play and the handicap system puts everyone on an almost equal footing. Therefore, it is the perfect way to involve people from all walks of life.
So it all adds up to less of a leisure activity and more of an invaluable business tool. And, if you’ve not managed to wrap everything up by the time the final putt goes in there’s always the 19th hole...