You’re here at the course. You’re ready. Well, maybe not, because you’re scared to death.
No problem. There are a few things you can do to survive this day.
You’ve arrived early, right? Go into the Pro Shop and buy something – anything, even a pair of socks. It is always a good idea to support the Pro Shop. Your host may want to purchase something for you but that doesn’t matter here. After the purchase, introduce yourself to the Pro or the Assistant on duty. Tell them who you are and who is your host. Then ask for some information about the course and if there is any inside information you should know, i.e. do the greens break a certain way? Are they fast? Is there a special hazard that is legendary? Is there a hole where the placement of your drive is essential but not obvious from the tee?
Why should you do this, you may ask?
One, these conversations will begin to relax you by focusing on something other than the fact that you are anxious; Two, it is proactive by allowing the Pro Shop to recognize you and get to know you a little; Three, it gives you some valuable information you can use and SHARE WITH your foursome out on the course. Your host or the other players may have played this course before but it is very possible they have never asked the staff the questions you have and may not know the information.
Inside information is always handy to have. You’ve already read up on general information about the course from 30 Days to Business Golf-Part 3 in your preparations but there are always pieces of lore that will not be on any website.
Next item of business: get a bucket of balls and go to the practice range. This is vital for becoming more relaxed. Do some limbering stretches and loosen up. Start with a wedge or 9-iron and work your way through the bag by hitting a few balls with the 7-iron, the 5, your 5-wood, 3-wood and finally your driver. Then try your lob wedge or sand wedge. Go to the practice bunker if there is one. Make your way to the practice green and do some putting. Long putts are perfect for assessing green speed, although we know that the practice green is never like the real greens on the course. Practice some short putts, which are vital toward finely tuning your stroke and building confidence.
During this 30-40 minute practice session, you’ll find that you will continue to relax and if you are hitting good shots, your attitude will get a boost. We all know we’re great on the practice range – and then the game goes south during the ‘longest walk in golf’, which is the path from the practice tee to the first tee; but here’s the good news: your group will be arriving during this time and will see you out there on the range. If you are hitting good shots, they’ll be impressed. If not, they’ll see you are trying to improve. And THAT is the main objective. Remember that business golf is truly NOT about the golf but instead about sizing up the character and strength of a business associate.
As you begin your round, let your host take charge. Do whatever he or she would like you to do (except cheat, of course). Most of all, decide to have fun and enjoy the day. If you play well, great, and if not, don’t sweat it. However, there are a few Do’s and Don’t’s that are absolutely vital which have nothing to do with whether or not your score is stellar.
DO: PRACTICE GOOD ETIQUETTE
– Replace divots or pour the seed/fertilizer mixture over the divot hole
– Rake bunkers
– Repair ball marks on greens, even if you don’t make them; repairing the ball marks of your foursome is especially courteous
– Play fast and do not hold up your foursome or the players behind you; be ready when it is your turn to hit
– Be quiet and stay still while others are hitting
– Keep carts where they should be: away from the greens, tees, bunkers, and especially the water hazards
– Watch where you stand so you don’t interfere with another player’s shot or line of vision
– If the group is allowing ‘Mulligans’, go ahead and take one.
DO: BE A GOOD SPORT
– Never criticize anyone’s play
– Encourage your team or foursome
– Remain positive even if your game is tanking
– Take part in course or team games like sandies or greenies or 6-6-6 (more on this later)
DO: KNOW YOUR RULES
While it isn’t necessary to be as knowledgeable as a Pro Tour or USGA rules official, there are some basic rules, vital to know:
– If you hit it out of bounds, drop another ball from where you originally played and hit again, adding two to your score (one stroke for the shot you hit and one for the penalty); this also applies if you lose your ball.
– If you hit it in the water, there are some semi-complicated procedures for all kinds of instances I won’t get into here, but for simplicity’s sake, do this: if there are yellow stakes, drop your ball behind where it went in. If there are red stakes, drop your ball within two club-lengths next to where it went in, no closer to the hole. Add one stroke to your score.
– If you swing and miss, add the stroke.
– Add up all of your strokes.
– Do not cheat; if the team is so desperate to win an event that they feel compelled to cheat, do your best not to cooperate; file that knowledge in your ‘business brain’.
– Put a USGA rule book in your bag but don’t be a ‘rules ghoul’. Everyone hates that.
– Mulligans, or do-over shots, are against official rules but are generally accepted in friendly games, usually on the first tee. Go ahead and take advantage of it.
OK, now for the DON’Ts:
– criticize anyone’s play
– whine or complain about how terrible you are or how bad your game is today; this may be true but it will be evident so don’t dwell on it
– if you are a better player, do not give swing instructions unless asked
– throw clubs or swear
– bring up any business discussions unless your host starts the conversation
– if you are a good player, don’t moan about hitting a shot 20 feet off line
– tell racist or sexist jokes or stories
– spread gossip about co-workers or business associates
– drink too much alcohol
– walk out on any bets
At the end of the round, try to accept any lunch or dinner invitations; this is normally where business could be discussed and you don’t want to miss out. Go to the locker room and freshen up but don’t make a major deal out of it and spend an hour getting ready. For women, have a sporty hat handy in case your hair is a mess. Men should not wear a hat in the club. Have a change of clothes ready if everyone else is changing; however, it is perfectly acceptable to remain in your golf clothes.
Thank your host and your partners. Afterwards, be truly gracious and send a thank-you note to your host within a few days. It will be appreciated.
Breathe a sigh of relief: you’ve survived!