Getting to the ‘green’

How to conduct business on the golf course

While there are many ways to conduct business, the golf course is definitely at the top of many lists—but there is a certain art to it.

“A lot of people think you don’t get to know a person until you get on that golf course and you’re playing,” says Mary Hafeman, president and owner of Fore in One Golf Services, former LPGA Tour player, and speaker at the Knowledge is Power workshop, “The art of business on the golf course: Building better relationships one hole at a time,” presented by Comcast Business Class. “And it’s not about how well you play; it’s really about looking at the other person and seeing how they really are and how they react to different situations—are they playing fair and calm, or are they cheating, yelling, and throwing their clubs?” she jokes.

According to Hafeman, golf and business really mix on multiple levels. “The best aspects of playing golf with clients is how it promotes relationship and career building and helps with your networking because you already share a common interest,” says Hafeman. And because it is outside of the office setting, you have four to six hours with your client or boss without any distractions.

The basics

“You don’t have to be a super fantastic player to conduct business on the golf course, but you should know some proper golf etiquette,” says Hafeman, who recommends that before you play, you know the dress code and who goes first on the tees. “You have to look like you know what’s going on and how to get around a course and clubhouse. The easiest way to learn proper golf etiquette is to ask friends who are knowledgeable in golf or golf pro at the club.”

You also have to know the basic rules. “While there are only 32 rules in the game of golf, the perception of what the rules are differ because the decisions book is huge,” says Hafeman. She recommends you at least know the six main rules, such as where do you start, which tees, not teeing up in front of the tee markers, what to do about a lost ball, who should go first, and what the red stakes are such as water hazards and positioning.

“Social golf is different than competitive golf, so basically if you can’t figure out what the rule is, do what’s fair,” says Hafeman. As far as equipment goes, Hafeman says you need to know what you need to play, such as clubs, shoes, proper clothes, gloves, hats, golf balls, etc., but watch out as perception is reality and you don’t want to “upstage” your client or boss. “It’s all in knowing who you are playing with and at what level,” advises Hafeman.

Ready to play

Now you are ready to play, but what are some of the logistics? Prior to playing, you need to figure out who to ask to play. Not everyone will be a golfer, so you have to know who of your clients play and at what ability or skill set. Once you establish that, choose a course, scope it out to set up expectations, and arrange tee times.

“It is also helpful to find out what that course’s dress code is so you can prepare yourself as well as your client or boss as different courses allow different attire. A little pre-course planning will go a long way when it comes to conducting business on the course,” says Hafeman.

When you are on the course, Hafeman recommends you establish upfront who is teeing off first and what the game entails, such as will there be betting. “When it comes to the rest of the game, basically you want to follow general rules of etiquette regarding the beverage cart and determining who pays for what and when you should start talking business,” says Hafeman.

“After you play 18 holes, you should come in to the clubhouse and do the traditional have lunch or a drink or settle the betting of the game if there was any,” says Hafeman. “And it is OK to purchase a little something as a memento in the pro shop for your client, if you so desire.”

Golf and business

“Remain friendly and calm, and you will develop relationships and have fun with the game and experience,” says Hafeman. Golf and business do mix perfectly together, and by knowing basic golf etiquette, the rules of golf, your required equipment, and a little preplanning, you can be getting to the green in more ways than one.

Mary Hafeman

Mary Hafeman can be reached at 904-233-0989,, or through

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