Back in the days when deals were made over three-martini lunches in private booths at the back of a bar, golf developed a reputation as a place for private business conversations. Men played rounds at exclusive country clubs, giving the sport an image as an elitist pastime for people who were wealthy and influential. Women golfers were hobbyists and not taken too seriously.
It was assumed that once men got to the C-suite level, maybe as chief executive officer or chief financial officer, they were going to play golf as part of their work. They had corporate memberships at the best golf courses, and some corporations even had their own courses.
When the Great Recession hit in the late 2000s, golf got thrown into the category of frivolous spending and excess. Gradually many corporations and their executives drifted away from the golf course as a place to do business. It was now considered off-limits, and those deals stopped happening.
Being in the business and knowing the kinds of people we know, we are keenly aware that golf didn’t go away as a business tool. It went into the shadows. Many organizations gave up their corporate memberships, but their executives were hooked. They still considered the golf course a place of refuge where they could spend quality time with peers to develop strategic partnerships, look at creating mergers and acquisitions, and brainstorm about big ideas. Women were incorporating golf into their business practices more and more, too, as they rose among the corporate ranks. Golf was truly linked in before LinkedIn. Golf was the way people at the executive level found other opportunities. It became a private networking environment.
Business golf didn’t go away — it just became the electrified third rail. Executives understood that society might frown on people who played golf during the business day in a major economic recession, but they continued to play. They were just more discreet about it.
And some organizations hung in there as well. In the depths of the financial crisis, they continued their corporate sponsorship of professional and amateur golf events. They recognized that being aligned with a sport based on integrity, sportsmanship and playing by the rules was good business, especially during a time when distrust surrounded so much of Wall Street.
Golf and business…..still undeniably linked. And, it’s a new day, a new administration and time for Wall street to come out of the shadows and get back on the course. Grab your clubs and join the game!
From the book Back on Course: Drive Business Performance Through Golf – By Connie Charles and Dave Bisbee