Golf has a social perception and Hollywood depiction of being the “business” sport. It is where connections are said to be formed and deals are said to be made.
Historically, the sport was criticized as a subtle way to exclude women and minorities from informal company meetings. Yet, as female and racial minority participation in golf has skyrocketed, the sport has maintained its significance in the professional sphere. Why is golf so important to high-level business professionals?
Scene from the movie “The Banker” (2020)
Networking is the single largest reason for golf’s professional significance. However, it is a different type of networking than your classical fraternity or sorority. To understand the strengths of golf as a networking tool, it is necessary to grasp some fundamental characteristics of the sport.
First, golf is rarely played alone. When you select a tee time, you can expect to be paired with as many as three other people. Throughout the course of a round, there are many moments of downtime. Whether waiting to tee off, heading down the fairway, or walking onto the green, there are numerous opportunities for conversation. Most other sports like tennis or basketball lack these opportunities. The pace of golf and lack of rigorous cardio separates golf from most other sports.
Scene from the television show “The Office” (2012)
Golf is also accessible to players of all ages. Few other activities enable young athletic players to compete against older players on such a level playing field. The handicap aspect of golf and various tee box distances further separates golf from other outdoor activities.
Most importantly, golf reveals the true character of a person. Golf is an inherently difficult sport. A round is filled with psychological ups and downs. Playing alongside someone allows you to see how they deal with opposition, frustration, and success. Are they graceful in victory and professional in defeat? Someone’s attitude and behavior out on the course will usually be mimicked in the office.
Finally, golf tests the honesty, integrity, and professionalism of a player. Golf has many rules and regulations. A player who abides by these rules clearly can follow directions and agreements. Scores in golf are also self-reported. Players who lie about their scores or cheat during the game indicate they may be dishonest in other parts of their life.
Overall, while it may be seen by many as outdated, golf has important aspects that make it an excellent networking tool. It is an entertaining and enjoyable way to get to know people or establish agreements outside of the normal office environment.