When the 100-plus senior staffers of Billy Casper Golf convene for their annual planning sessions, the conference tables are loaded with highly skilled players. Virginia-based BCG is the sixth-largest management company in golf, and when it breaks for an afternoon scramble round, super-low scores are the norm.
All well and good, but one year company CEO Peter Hill (photo at left) felt the team-building elements that a normal corporate group derives from its golf day might be missing from his crew’s outing. Hill also had a market-building nut to crack. Specifically, he was searching for ways to get his troops more acutely aware of how difficult it is for novice golfers to break into the game and thereby become new customers at a BCG facility. Hill accomplished both goals by arranging a mandatory one-hole equipment switch.
“Every group arrived at the 17th tee to find a wide selection of left-handed clubs,” says Hill. “Their righty clubs were temporarily confiscated and each team had to play that one hole, a short par-4, from the ‘wrong’ side.” (The group contained no natural lefties). Four-player teams that had coasted to par and birdie scores all day struggled to make triple-bogeys on the hole they played lefty, according to their chief exec. Along the way their pride was bruised, which is so often how a point of view gets altered.
“You can talk all day about the novice—that potential new customer—feeling uncomfortable and out-of-place, and everyone nods their head, but this one experience drove the point home on a personal level,” says Hill. “People were blushing, they were groaning, they felt very vulnerable.”
Along with the lesson in new-customer sensitivity, Hill and the Casper group got their team-building moment, as well.