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Golf etiquette for corporate business professionals

Business golf Tips by Burleson Consulting


Golf etiquette for corporate business professionals

Traditionally, men playing casual golf will let their hair down, cussing like a stable boy, smoking fat stogies, hocking loogies and peeing freely in the woods.  However, the business gentleman must be able to golf in a respectable fashion, abandoning their crude manners and adhering to more gentlemanly (or womanly) golf demeanor. 

Note:  Golf is more than just playing well and being friendly, you must know the proper etiquette.  If you want to learn professional golf etiquette from a PGA master professional, I recommend Brad Clayton of Puzzle Duck golf.  

A noted golf expert and author, aspiring professionals travel to Brad from all over the world to learn professional golf manners. 

Proper golf dress etiquette

Golf is one of those sports where you can dress like a Chicago pimp, with white saddle oxford shoes, orange pants and dopey hats.  However, when meeting new business clients, it's always best to dress conservatively.

It's acceptable to dress like a retard on the golf course

For related tips on proper attire, see my professional dress code.  Next, lets move into proper golf manners for business meetings.

A guide to golf manners for business professionals

The business of America is business, and many meeting occur on the links.  Unfortunately, golf is the world's second most difficult sport to master, especially the rules of etiquette and manners.

The first area of golf etiquette is dealing with colloquial golf customs.  The business professional should always distinguish between local traditions that are intended to enhance your golf experience (gimme's, drop zones and Mulligan's) as opposed to those golf customs that are intended to punish the golfer (e.g. mashies and dick outs):

Favorable golf etiquette

When golfing with clients, always offer any advantageous local customs, any courtesies that will help your colleagues scores. 

A slice into the woods should be followed by a jovial "that's a Mulligan" and a gimme on the green should include a generous distance allowance, more than just "in the leather". 

Saint Mulligan is the patron saint of golf, and it's always a courteous offer to someone who hits a bad shot.

  • Mulligan - Always offer a client or superior a mulligan for any out-of-bounds or water shot.

  • Gimme - On many golf courses, a bal that is "in the leather" is a gimme ("In the leather" refers to a ball that is within the shaft length of the putter, not counting the leather grip).

Unfavorable golf etiquette

Golf customs that are intended to impede or punish the player should always be avoided.  These include local golf customs such as mashies and "dick outs". 

The "dick out" is a somewhat archaic golf tradition that originated on military golf courses, where any golfers whose tee shot that did not make it to the ladies tee is required to un-zip and walk to his ball exposed, ostensibly to show that he is indeed a man. In practice, if a client or a superior declares a dick-out on your tee shot, you should comply, unless of course, there are women present.

Miscellaneous business golf etiquette tips

Here are some basic tips for golfing during professional business meetings:

  • Watch the spitting - Many male golfers spit on the clubs after each shot to loosen debris from the club face, before wiping it clean with a towel.  Proper golf manners dictate that you should not hock a loogie, especially in mixed company.  Instead, hang a small "misting" pump spray container to your bag for cleaning your clubs.

  • Field strip your stogies - You should never just mash-out a cigar or cigarette and leave the butt on the grass.   Instead, obliterate a cigar with your gold shoe, and pick-up the remaining filters from discarded cigarettes.

  • Don't search for lost balls - Unless it's your client or boss who is trying to save a stroke, don't waster your time looking for lost balls.  It's very aggravating to wait for five minutes while a hacker searches in the woods.

  • Watch your expletives - Unless your guest cusses, you should never use any excited utterance stronger than "Oh poo".

  • Let the client win - This is the foremost rules of golf manners.  Remember "it's only a game", and the last thing you want is to beat your client.  While it's also wrong to deliberately "throw" your game, it's acceptable to rush your putts, a simple techniques to add strokes to your game.

  • Don't use caddies - When discussing business, never use caddies, as your colleagues will be justifiably reluctant to discuss sensitive business matters in front of outsiders.

  • Don't dawdle - Golf etiquette demands prompt play, and the speed customs vary greatly.  In Scotland, the locals detest the "slow" American golfers, and a Scottish golfer is expected to complete 18 holes in less than three hours.  Some etiquette for golf play speed include:

    • Have your next club ready - Always anticipate your next shot and have the club ready.

    • Tend the flag - If you are not away, take initiative and tend the flag.

  • Don't advise - Unless asked, never give play advice to your follow golfers.

For related tips on good manners, see my professional dress code, etiquette requirements, Cross-Cultural Guidelines, forum guidelines and obfuscation requirements, Inappropriate corporate sponsorship of charitiesprofessional golf etiquette  and Professional Corporate Tipping tips.



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