Greg Dubose was standing in line to make a purchase at a pro shop in Florida a few months ago when he struck up a conversation with another customer. They became fast friends. They golfed together that day and again two days later.
Dubose, an African-American proprietor of an advertising firm, learned that his new friend is an attorney from Roswell, Ga. who specializes in immigration. Recently, the attorney asked Dubose to take on his law firm as a client.
That, says Dubose, was just another example of how golfing has helped his business.
Making golf a more diverse networking tool
Once seen as the preserve of white males, golf has proven to be an effective informal networking tool for women and minorities. It can be just as effective for individuals or groups of people who feel awkward in social situations, such as quantitative analysts.
“It has given me a lot of unfettered time with existing business prospects and a chance for us to really get to know one another outside of the office,” Dubose tells eFinancialCareers.
Learning the game
Leslie Andrews, who together with partner Adrienne Wax owns an East Hampton, N.Y. business that teaches executive women how to use golf for business purposes, says bonding over golf is a reminder of the most basic ingredient for success in business: personal relationships.
“There was a time when business was all about personal relationship,” Andrews tells eFinancialCareers. “Golf just happens to be a tool that continues to be an extension of that.”
Best way to bond recreationally
More than any other recreational activity, adds Wax, golf gives people the opportunity to bond and to study each other.
“When you play golf, you’re right next to them for four or five hours,” she says. “Tennis is a much simpler sport. Golf is a very complicated and difficult sport. As a result, it brings out the best and worst character traits. You have that intimate one-on-one connection.”
Anyone can play, even nerds
One of the beauties of the sport, says Wax, is that anyone can play it. And the nature of the game makes it a great fit for nerds.
"Nerdy helps because golf is a game of strategy, based on the ability to assess risk versus reward,” says Wax. “It’s very similar to assessing investment risk, in a way. It is also a highly technical game, with the swing based on geometry and physics.”
Andrews and Wax say it’s a good idea to let it be known around the office if you play golf and to work diligently to get invited to company-sponsored golf events.
“Once you go to these outings, the people who attend all start talking to each other about what they do. Before you know it, they have made connections, which you never would have been able to do before,” says Wax.
Access to executives
“It’s an excellent opportunity to mingle with executives,” adds Debert Cook, publisher of African-American Golfer's Digest, a New York magazine. “Even if you’re not paired with the executive, you have access to him.”
Dubose says it’s important to remember that the primary aim of golfing with clients or colleagues is socialization—not winning the Master’s.
“There’s an element of competitiveness but it’s good-natured competitiveness,” says DuBose. “The last thing you want is a client or prospective client being upset because you’re taking it too far.”