• Scott Millman

Etiquette Tips for Doing Business on the Golf Course

Updated: Jul 4, 2018

You need business etiquette plus golf etiquette



1. First, if you lose your cool when your game is bad, stay off the "business" green altogether. You will not make a good business impression. 2. Be sure you know the rules of good golf etiquette. Your host will not be impressed if you make a bad impression at his/her country club or offend golfing buddies.


3. No cheating in any way. This is not the way to build trust.

However, if you could use a little or a lot of help with your golf swing, check this out!

4. When unsure about a rule, discuss it with your golf opponent. Abide by whatever is decided. Demonstrate your trustworthiness and show that you are a person who keeps your word. 5. Spend your time on the links building relationships. Avoid talking deals until the 19th hole. Business talk during the game should be of a casual nature. Business talk should not occur before the 5th hole or after the 15th hole.

6. No cell phones or beepers on the course.

7. Dress appropriately in attire that will take you from the links to the clubhouse. Denims, sleeveless shirts and short shorts are not acceptable.

8. In business golf, invite your guest to play first at the first hole. At other holes, the person with the lowest hole score in the preceding round tees first.

9. If invited to play business golf, offer to pay green fees, cart rental, etc. If you have invited someone to play, be prepared to cover the costs.

10. If you drink alcohol, drink only if the host offers, and have no more than two.

11. Prepare a handicap card and be honest about your handicap.

12. Play the best game you can. Playing badly to "let the other person win" can be perceived as insulting and will damage your credibility.

13. If your opponent prefers to walk rather than use a cart, you will walk also. When using a cart, join your opponent on the green when he gets out to play or to look for a ball.

14. If playing in Asia, be prepared to bet. In other countries, abide by local customs. If wagering, keep the bets at a friendly level.

15. When planning to do business on the golf course,Arrive early to get organized and to practice before tee time.

16. Avoid whining, swearing,making excuses and giving unsolicited advice.

17. Identify business goals. If you are the host, invite the people who can make decisions. Doing business on the golf course blends business and golf. Having a goal is as important.

first responsibility is to inform your guests of the dress codes, an arrival time that will permit a brief warm-up and how many holes of golf they can expect to play. Tip two: Pay attention to the dress code of your particular club—jeans, midriff tops and spandex exercise clothing are frowned upon unless you are playing mini-golf with the family. Remember that players are the “guests” of the golf course. As such, they are expected to take care of the grounds and to be attentive and courteous of other golfers. You must always call the golf course for a starting time or a “tee time.” Check into the course a minimum of 10 minutes before your assigned tee time.

Always turn off your cell phones and beepers when you golf. The score should not matter all that much in a friendly round of business golf, but do play as well as you are able. Do not begin to discuss business immediately, enjoy the game and wait until your guest or client is comfortable before you launch into a discussion of business goals or objectives. It is recommended that you walk the course when conducting business because golf carts tend t...


Maureen Wild is a certified etiquette and ethics trainer with credentials from The Protocol School of Washington and The Josephson Institute of Ethics. She has led seminars for many Fortune 500 companies and prominent colleges and universities. Wild has also been active in Meeting Professionals International and is an active member of the National Speakers Association. She has been quoted in The New York Times Sunday business section “O,” the Oprah magazine, Self and American Baby. She is certified by the State of New Jersey to mentor small business owners. Maureen has been interviewed on matters of ethics and etiquette for national television and radio programs. You may reach her at: Maureen@highroadsolutions.com or 908-625-8563.


Invite business associates as a thank you for their continuing business or to introduce them to new vendors or suppliers you think would be a good fit.


If you are invited to join a client at a tournament and are meeting new business prospects for the first time, be careful not to “hard sell” them on what it is you do. Sure, introduce yourself and the name of your company, but don’t immediately launch into your sales pitch. In fact, don’t pitch at all. Spend the first few holes, just chatting about anything but business and when you feel the time is right, ask them about their business. Spend most of the round of golf getting to know them. Listen and learn. When you finally get back to the clubhouse you will know a lot about them and their business and whether you can be of service to them. By listening first, your “soft sell” pitch will make more sense, be more finely tuned to their needs and you will have a better chance of getting what you wanted in the first place — more business.


Who should pay for the round of golf? This is pretty self-evident, but if you are inviting someone to join you, you pay. They may offer to pay for their own green fee, but don’t let them. Be generous and pay for both of you. If, on the other hand you are invited to play at a golf charity event, offer to pay your own entry fee. It’s all for a good cause and probably tax deductible as well.


Cheating? What do you do if you catch your golf partner clearly cheating or ignoring the rules? This requires a little discernment on your part. If they are a new golfer and simply don’t know the rules, I’d let it go. You can tell them the rule, but don’t make a big fuss about it. However, if they’ve been golfing for years and still ignore the rules, then you have to decide, is it worth it to call them on the infraction, or let it go? Better than that, if this is a new client, a seasoned golfer and they are still cheating, then I’d ask myself the question: Do I want to do business with this person? If he or she cheats on the golf course when I’m watching, what will they try to get away with when I’m not looking? Your answer could have major implications for your business. Of course if the cheater is your boss or supervisor, you might have to look the other way. It’s up to you.


Temper Tantrums: Like cheating, watching your golf partner handle him or herself when their ball slices off into the woods for the fifth time tells you a lot about them. Do they take it all in stride or get angry enough to fling their club into the nearby pond? Do they sulk, or blame the sun, the wind, the noisy player on the nearby fairway, or the maintenance crew for not aiming the tee box markers correctly? Do they blame anyone or anything but themselves for the slice? You can draw your own conclusions about this type of behavior.


Keeping Score and Side Bets: Whether you keep score, place small side bets, for example on number of putts, who gets to the green first, number of bunkers—whatever game you want to play on the side, that’s up to you and your partner.


Competition is always good to add some spice to the game. But you don’t want to burden a new golfer with lots of extra rules to follow. Be easy about it and if you suggest a side bet and they don’t want to participate, don’t insist. Follow your guest’s lead in this regard.


Should you let your golf partner win? This is an interesting question. If you are a far better player than your golf partner, would you hold back or deliberately lose a hole or two to make things even out a bit — especially if your partner is playing poorly that day? I don’t think so. People can tell when you are letting them win — when you are holding back. I remember playing board games as a kid with my aunts and uncles. They would play in such a way that I would always win. I knew what they were doing and didn’t like it. When I won, I knew I didn’t really deserve to win.

On the golf course, play your game to win. Play as you always do. And if you win, good for you. And if you lose, better luck another day. Besides if you and your golf partner have handicaps, and you use them in your scoring (see post: How To Mark Your Golf Score Card To Win More Rounds) then you are both on a level playing field. Don’t worry about it.


Who pays for dinner and drinks? It’s courteous to invite your golf partner to join you after a round of golf for drinks or dinner. And of course, as the host of the day, you pay the tab. If you are attending a golf tournament as a guest then offer to buy your host a drink as a thank you.


Leave your business card. After you have finished your round of golf and are relaxing in the clubhouse, it’s the perfect opportunity and perfectly appropriate to offer your business card to your partner, and accept theirs if they have one. Express your thanks and, if appropriate, make arrangements to meet another time for golf, or for business. Some business relationships take a while to develop and if you feel another day on the course will eventually lead to a good partnership in the future, then certainly take the opportunity to suggest another meeting.

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