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Saturday, June 15, 2013

Golf for Girls

Every corporation that I called on had a golf tournament of some kind, most of my customers played golf, every conference I attended had a golf outing - and I was by the pool.  Reading by the pool is still my first love, but when I was 35, I decided that the single best thing I could do to improve my business was to learn to play golf.

I attended a golf clinic for executive women and met golf pro Bob Moss.  He asked why I had attended the clinic and I told him that I needed to learn to play.  I didn't have to be great, but I needed to look like I knew what I was doing, needed to understand the etiquette, basic rules and the lingo.  He said, "we can work with this!"  He signed me up for lessons and husband Dave came along for the ride.  (Dave turned out to be a real golf nut, has become much too familiar with the Rules of Golf and marshaled several tournaments over the years; I accomplished the basic goals I set for myself).

If you are in an industry where golf plays a role, get yourself to a professional for some lessons (do NOT let your boyfriend/husband/girlfriend teach you).  If you have a decent swing, can play on pace and understand the etiquette - it doesn't matter what you score, you'll be ahead of most amateur golfers (including men) and will be able to hold your own in a scramble or golf outing.  I've played with many men over the years who brag that they are self-taught, "never took a lesson in my life"...and its obvious.  In my experience, only Bubba Watson can back up this statement.  Take some lessons.

Here is a basic rule of golf (and life):  men exaggerate their prowess.  I'm amused that almost every time I play golf with men, some seem to be having an unusually "bad day" and spend quite a bit of time rattling off low scores from previous rounds.  Girls:  spend absolutely no time being intimidated by what you THINK it will be like to play golf with men - you'll be fine.

It's much harder to get people out of their offices today - we have a 24/7 work day/week now - but if you have a customer or prospect who is a real golf enthusiast, you may find it much easier to get them to play golf than book a meeting.  Find a charity scramble at a great course and invite customers/prospects to play.  That may be a little easier to sell to their bosses, or they may even choose to take a personal day to play.  And if you have connections and can play at an exclusive country club that they haven't played, they will probably prefer to play their own round vs. a scramble.  If there is an opportunity to put together a foursome and play business matchmaker at the same time, even better.  Finding others who your customer might like to know will be a bonus. The more you talk to and research your customer, the better you'll be able to determine what might appeal to them.  And if playing isn't your thing, contract with a local golf pro to host a clinic with a complimentary swing analysis for your customers - it's very hard for a real golf freak to resist free advice from a Pro.

If your customers hold their own golf outing, find out how to participate - as a golfer, as a sponsor, whatever you can do.  You'll find that whether or not you have current business to discuss, you'll always have golf as a conversation starter.

Now that I've established that one should be professional, respectful and follow the rules of the game and the course, let me tell you about my 40th birthday....(this is a little bit "you had to be there" so I'll just review the highlights):

My ex-partner, Karen and I have birthdays 2 weeks apart.  For our 40th, we decided to have a company golf outing.  Unfortunately, not many of our employees played golf.  Eight women started drinking vodka and lemonade at lunch and then went out to play.  (For the record, husbands/boyfriends were playing behind us and were there to drive us home - we maybe should have had them driving our carts also.)  Our HR manager was acting as our private drink cart, shuttling back and forth to the clubhouse for drinks.  We did not think to review course etiquette with her and found her driving over tees and greens as she took the shortest route back to the clubhouse.

We were 4 to a cart (there were bag extenders on the carts), so 2 were in the seats and 2 were balanced precariously on the side fenders of the golf carts.  As you might imagine, there were a few spills and a few broken clubs that didn't make it back into the bags and got dragged around - but only one pants-wetting as we laughed until one of us peed.  Come to think of it, I believe the laughing was caused by the Office Manager talking about sex with our Salesperson who was her niece (while one was talking, one had her fingers in her ears humming Mary Had a Little Lamb).  And I think it was the vodka talking.

One of the participants was headed to her grandmother's funeral after the outing.  She had a long drive after the event and really had trouble tearing herself away from us.  She finally left but had no time to go home and change, so went directly to the funeral.  She served as one of the pall-bearers in her grandmother's funeral in her golf clothes, smelling of vodka and lemonade.  (At least she wasn't the one that peed her pants - that would have been awkward.)

Ultimately, we found that it speeded up play if we refrained from putting.  We decided that once we got to the green, we were done.  Ladies - I can tell you that this also significantly improves your score (although it might not fly in a tournament or outing situation.)  This also debunks the myth that women are the cause of slow play.  If you have ever watched a foursome of men examine putts from at least 12 angles before they miss it, you would understand the reason for slow play. Skip putting - food for thought, guys.

There are LOTS of stories about women entering the oldest boys club of golf.  Here's one of my favorites regarding equality on the course that ties in nicely with my birthday story:

A country club didn't allow women on the golf course.  Eventually, there was enough pressure that they decided to allow women to play during the week.

The ladies were satisfied with this arrangement, formed a women's club and became active.  After about 6 months, the club board received a letter from the women's club complaining about the men urinating on the golf course. Naturally, they just ignored the matter.  After another 6 months, they received another letter reminding them of the previous letter and demanding action.  After due deliberation, the Board sent the women a letter advising them that they had been granted equal urinating privileges!