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Why golfers get ahead in business

Photo by Soheb Zaidi

There are two widespread beliefs that plague the reputation of golf and golfers. Firstly, that golf is a dull game played by dull, mechanical individuals and secondly that business people who play it are often skullduggerous, plotting and conspiring for deals between shots. There has been a marked relationship between golf and business for many reasons though.

As a form of corporate entertainment, one advantage golf has over many sports is that people of any age can play it. Golf requires physical exertion but not on the level of alternatives such as tennis or squash.

Another advantage golf holds is that, by virtue of the handicap system, people of different ability levels can play against each other and still contend on a competitive outing. This makes golf more fun.

Golf’s third asset is that it is a great sport for building relationships. Players only spend a small portion of a game that could go on for four hours actively hitting the ball, so there is plenty of time to talk shop. Sports such as tennis or football don’t offer this level of personal one to one communication.

Last, and most importantly, golf is a fine test of character. In business, it is reassuring to know and understand your partners. Golf offers a real insight into people’s personality.

The qualities that make a good golfer: a mixture of competitiveness, strategic thinking and calmness under pressure also make for a good chief executive. Golf rewards players who remain calm under pressure, don’t lose their temper and think strategically. These virtues are equally important in successful business management.

The culture of golf is one of scrupulous honesty. It is easy enough to cheat: you could move your ball to a nicer lie when no one is watching. It is however utterly unacceptable and not in the spirit of the game to do this. Cheaters are lambasted and word of their perfidy spreads very quickly.

When star golfers accidentally move their ball, they are often seen to call a penalty on themselves; even if no one would have noticed. This level of honesty could well mean they go on to lose the tournament and a fortune in prize money.

Numerous studies of the relationship between golf and business have been undertaken over the years and they offer up some very interesting results. One such study was prepared by the New York based Research and Forecasts Inc. for the Hyatt Hotels Corporation, ‘Golf & The Business Executive’.

The results indicated that the golfer who secretly adjusts a lie or who miscounts their shots to their advantage is believed to be more likely to cheat in the board room. Nearly half of an audience of 401 executives agreed with the statement: “the way a person plays golf is very similar to how he or she conducts business affairs.”

47% of the executives believed the practices in golf often paralleled those applicable in business. Over a third of those who admitted to cheating at golf by secretly moving a ball to get a better lie (41 %) or not counting a missed tap-in (19 %), also admitted to cheating at least once in business.

“In a short period of time, you can find out more about the integrity and focus of an individual than in any kind of interview setting,” said Cody Plott, avid golfer and Vice President of Sales at Hyatt, following the survey.

Nearly all the executives surveyed (93%) said playing golf with a business associate was a sound way to establish a closer relationship. Over 33% said some of their biggest deals were made on a golf course. Of the 60% of women surveyed who played golf with clients, more than a third said playing golf resulted in additional business.

The study, which had a margin of error of 4 percent, also made these findings:

  • Executives who liked challenges in the board-room also liked challenges on the golf course. Sixty-eight percent said they preferred a difficult course to an easy course.
  • Golf distracted from business. More than half (55 percent) of those surveyed admitted calling in sick or leaving early to play golf at least once.
  • Golf can even take priority over sex. 12% agreed with the phrase “golf is more important to me than sex.” 13% of the women and 11% of men agreed.
  • The best female golfers are usually more successful in business than the top male golfers. Women with handicaps of 10 or less have an average income of $146,900. In contrast, men with handicaps of 10 or less averaged $118,400.

One Springfield Drive benefits from its placement in a region rich with some of England’s best golf courses catering for all levels.

Surrey is home to numerous championship venues such as Wentworth, Walton Heath and Sunningdale, beautiful members’ clubs at Hankley Common, St George’s Hill and Woking and popular pay and play at Addington Court, Hoebridge &; Silvermere.

Leatherhead boasts several decent golf venues:

To find out more about golf in the Surrey region, click here:

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