“Could I interest you in joining me for a round of golf at my club on Saturday?” your new client asks at the end of your weekly meeting. Of course you accept. You love golf. But be careful.
Business golf is different from a round with your regular foursome. It can be a great opportunity to play a great course, but it can also jump up and bite you if you’re not careful.
Before the round, do a little homework. After setting the time to meet, find out the dress requirements at your client’s club. The best time to ask is when your client invites you; otherwise you can call the club’s pro shop to find out.
Be extra careful in picking your clothes. Clean golf shorts (no cargo shorts) or long pants, a collared golf shirt, cleaned and polished golf shoes, spare clothes for after the round, and for men, a blazer in your car just in case it’s required for the dining room.
Arrive at the appointed time or a few minutes early. As you turn off your car, turn off your smartphone as well. Many clubs have strict rules about cellphone use. If you have an app that lets you acquire yardage information, check with your client if it’s permissible to use before turning on the phone. If you can use the app, be sure your phone is on vibrate.
Even though you have been invited, it’s still good manners to offer to pay your greens fee. Ask your client about the club’s tipping policies. Come with small bills for tips or to cover a friendly bet.
On the course, take extra care to follow both the official and unwritten rules of the game.
■ Don’t assume a gimme; wait until your client says, “That’s good.”
■ Repair your divots.
■ Fix ball marks on greens.
■ Rake the bunker after you hit out of the sand.
■ Keep quiet when others are hitting.
■ Don’t hit out of turn.
■ Don’t swear or talk negatively about your game.
Finally, don’t try to talk business on the course. Business is better discussed — and deals more likely done — after the round. The real value of playing golf with a business associate is to forge a stronger relationship. Business might never get discussed, yet a successful outing can enhance opportunities in the future.
Finally, be sure to thank you client twice: first as you leave, and then in a note sent the next day.
E-mail questions about business etiquette to etiquette email@example.com.