How to Entertain Clients on the Golf Course

They say some of the world’s biggest deals are made on the golf course, but it takes work to make sure clients have a good time during the round. If you’re new to business golf, here are a few things to make the day go well.

Before the Round

Several days in advance, send your customer(s) an email detailing —

  • Tee off time
  • What name the tee time is reserved under
  • Directions to the golf course
  • Suggestion for an appropriate arrival time
  • Proper attire
  • Special club rules (e.g., no cell phones allowed on the course)
  • Instructions for dropping off clubs and/or parking
  • Instructions for where to go after dropping off clubs

The key is to make arrival as smooth as possible. For this reason, it’s safest to assume that your guests are unfamiliar with the course. Even if they’e been there before, they may not remember all of the procedures.

Make sure you and any colleagues know the names of your guests — a simple thing, but many times overlooked. Also, arrive early to make sure lockers are available, carts are ready, and any check-in and practice range preparation are taken care of and out of the way. Then, be somewhere where you can easily find your guests and greet them.

Finally, giving your guests a freebie or two upon arrival sets the stage for a nice day. Logo golf balls, a golf towel, and other such items are always well received and give you a chance to do a little marketing at the same time.

During the Round

  • Talking business. Obviously personalities and situations differ, but a good rule of thumb is to let the client bring up business first. If the day is winding down and no business has been discussed, it’s probably OK to bring it up in a low-key manner if there’s something important that needs to be discussed.
  • Cell phones. Giving your clients your full attention is always a smart policy, so limit your phone use to before and after the round, or don’t use it at all. It probably goes without saying that phones (yours and customers’) should be on silent alert. When clients use their phones on the course, don’t use that as an excuse to use the phone yourself.
  • Course etiquette. It’s reasonable to expect your guests to follow good course etiquette, even if it means giving them a gentle reminder about raking a trap, repairing a ball mark on the green, etc. A tactful way of addressing these issues is to lead by example: for instance, if you repair a ball mark for your customer, perhaps he/she will take care of it next time. If members of your group are playing slowly, keep things moving by encouraging people to hit when ready, conceding putts, and perhaps even commenting on the pace.
  • Following the rules. This is always a tricky one, because depending on the mindset of the customer, following the rules too closely or too loosely can lead to aggravation. Usually, mid- to high-handicap golfers don’t mind if you offer to let them take a mulligan, move their ball slightly from behind a tree, or pick up a 10-foot putt. The best approach is to ask — this gives you a feel for what kind of game your guest wants to play. Another approach is to run your approach to rules by the group before you start playing, and make sure everyone is in agreement. This latter approach is better if you have any type of side games/bets going on.
  • Gambling. Again, personalities and situations come into play on this issue, but any time you introduce money to a game, you create opportunities for controversy. If you’re playing with people you don’t know very well, it’s probably wise to play for very small stakes or none at all.
  • Letting the customer win. All other things being equal, the best outcome is when the client comes out on top. However, being obvious about it will only make the client feel worse than if he/she had simply lost. If your guest have a significantly higher handicap, emphasize the adjusted scores and be liberal in giving away strokes for side games.

After the Round

Depending on the time of day, lunch, a couple of beers, or dinner may be appropriate — it’s certainly worth making the offer. Not only is it rather brusk to part ways on the 18th green, you will miss a great opportunity to build the relationship and possibly conduct a bit of serious business.

Speaking of end of play, make sure your guests understand that you will take care of tipping caddies, attendants, etc. And of course, when time comes to part company, be sure to thank your customers for spending the better part of a day with you. Even though it is you that is doing the entertaining, any day away from the office takes a commitment from your client.

B2B Insights