How to Survive 18 Holes with Your Boss

Last Updated Aug 25, 2009 1:58 PM EDT

Great news! You've been invited to join your boss for
a round of golf at his country club. This must mean something, right? Visions
of a promotion, a hefty bonus, and a designated parking space swirl around your
head. But then the dancing dollar signs vanish, and you feel as though you've
been clocked on the noggin with a 3 iron. You haven't picked up a
golf club in two years and fear you are going to embarrass yourself on the
course. Dread not! You don't have to be a great player to have fun on
the links — and, more important, to make sure that your boss has a
good time. How you behave on the golf course will be much more telling than how
well you play. In other words, you don't have to break par to impress
your boss.



Image Is Almost Everything


Goal: Reassure your boss that you can handle yourself
in any situation.


If you are a novice golfer (or just rusty), taking some lessons
would be a smart move. If you don’t have time for that, check out
some online resources, such as the United States Golf Association (USGA) or
the Professional
Golfers’ Association of America (PGA)
web sites. There you
will find the rules and etiquette of the game. “It’s not
about skill, it’s about knowing how to conduct yourself,”
says John Hughes, director of instruction for Advantage Golf School, which has
locations in eight states including Florida, Arizona, and California. It’s
also important to dress appropriately — no jeans, cutoffs, or tank
tops. Going with a conservative look is the smart play here. Leave the bling on
your dresser.

Technically Speaking

How to Sling the Lingo

If you think the phrase “learn to improve your drives”
refers to how well you maneuver your golf cart from the tee box to the snack
bar, you need to brush up on golf jargon. Here are a few pointers:

  • A “slice” is a shot that curves
    dramatically to the right; a “hook” is a shot that
    snaps to your left. (Reverse all that if you’re a lefty.) Both
    are to be avoided.
  • “Hitting it fat” means you’re
    hitting the ground before you hit the ball. This is a bad thing. An
    extreme example of this is called a “chili dip.”
  • “You’re hitting it thin” is
    not a compliment — it means you’re hitting just the
    top half of the ball.
  • “You’re away” means your
    ball is farthest from the cup. It means it’s your turn to swing
    (or putt), so be ready. “You’re still away”
    means you just hit a terrible shot that didn’t travel very far.
  • When your ball is on the green and your playing partner
    tells you, “that’s good,” it means he is
    conceding your putt. Immediately pick the ball up, put it in your pocket,
    and be grateful.

Show Your Boss That You Have Confidence


Goal: Your boss needs to know that you are dependable —
and cool under pressure.


The most pressurized shot in golf is the tee shot, particularly
the first one, when everyone is standing around watching you. The key is to
know your strengths and limitations. If you don’t hit your driver
well, use a 3 wood or a long iron instead. Bryan Gathright, an instructor at
Oak Hills Country Club in San Antonio, Texas says, “Once you’ve
gotten over the first set of jitters, then it’s going to be a more comfortable
setting for everyone.”

Voice of Experience

“I’ve played many rounds of golf with
people who have worked for me. It’s a great environment for
developing business relationships because you’re out there for at
least four hours with no interruptions, no cell phones. That gives you a chance
to bond. Even if the person I’m playing with is not a good golfer, I
remember him if we had a pleasant day together.”

—Jim Thompson, president of the Broadcasters
Foundation of America, which helps former broadcasters who have fallen on hard
times. Thompson served as president and CEO of Liberty Broadcasting and was the
president of Westinghouse Broadcasting.


Know Your Place and Always Remember Where You Are


Goal: Show your boss that you are a savvy team player.


Know when — and if — to talk shop. The right
moment may or may not arise. Also, don’t throw the match to let your
boss win. “In my view, it’s a false belief that beating
your boss is a bad thing,” says Mitchell Spearman, an instructor at
the Manhattan Woods Golf Course. “Everyone admires someone who can
play this game well because it’s so darn difficult. If you do that,
you’re actually gaining respect.”

What Not to Do

  • Do not slow up play. Always know when it’s your
    turn to hit, and don’t spend too much time looking for errant
    shots. (That’s why you brought plenty of balls.)
  • Never step on someone’s “line.”
    Imagine a line from the ball on the green to the cup. Step over or around
    it.
  • Don’t cheat. Besides being wrong, it will
    eventually come back to haunt you on the golf course. Cheating when your
    boss is there could be career suicide.
  • Avoid the lone-wolf syndrome. Golf is an individual sport,
    but unless you’re playing in a tournament, it is also a very
    social game. It is good to have a competitive nature, but never forget why
    you are out there.
  • Turn off your cell phone. If your plan is to show the boss
    that the office can rely on you 24-7, this is the wrong place to do that.

Remember to Relax


Goal: Creating a fun, relaxed atmosphere can help you
forge a strong bond with your boss.


While your stress levels may be a bit higher than usual, remind
yourself that you want to keep the mood light and fun. Enjoy the
experience — after all, you are out of the office for a day. This is
a great opportunity to learn more about your boss. “Take the good
with the bad, have a good attitude about it, get through it, and in the end the
boss should have a tremendous amount of appreciation for you,” says
Travis Fulton, senior master instructor at the PGA Tour Golf Academy.

Hot Tip

Using the Wii for Zen Golf

Nintendo offers a game for the Wii, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 All-Play,
that transports you to a virtual course where you can work with Tiger Woods’
coach or test your skill on courses around the world. But does it actually improve
your swing? The answer: No. However, Dan Pasquariello, an instructor at the
Pebble Beach Golf Academy, says a Wii golf game can put you in a nice, relaxed
state of mind that can carry over to the real course. “When you relax,
you do your best. Tension is a killer in life, and it ruins a golf swing. So,
if you could carry that feeling from the Wii over to the golf course, I think
it will definitely help to relax you.”

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