Short Shots - 2007-04-01

There are many more ways that the business world can use golf than you might imagine. Fortunately, there are plenty of firms out there to help you get the most of each business-golf opportunity.

Littleton, CO-based D'Lance Golf (www.sellthrugolf.com/corporate-programs.htm) uses an LPGA teaching pro and a former sales executive to teach groups through golf games and exercises how to build more collaborative sales teams and also improve customer relationships.

Then there's Addison, TX-based author and consultant Scot Duke, who runs a firm called Innovative Business Golf Solutions (www.innovativebusinessgolf.com) that teaches the protocol for using golf for improved long-term business results. Duke also has a book that would make a suitable themed gift for attendees, entitled How to Play Business Golf: From the Boardroom to the Fairways

Also, the Ottawa, Canada-based performance-improvement firm LearningLinks (www.learninglinks.org) specializes in using golf-related games and simulations to help managers develop leadership skills and to perform under pressure. The overall program is called "Mastering the Game."

One West Coast company that does many teambuilding and organizational assessment and improvement projects via golf is Lake Oswego, OR-based Gravity Resources, which has a program called "Golf Links for Great Meetings" (www.golflinks4meetings .com). Interestingly, the firm creates golf games that allow even non-golfers to participate fully in the teambuilding activities. Facilitators collaborate with the planner before a meeting to create a program that reinforces the meeting's objectives.

At the dedicated training centers of Golf Made Simple (www.golfmadesimple.com) in Florida and California, each instructor works with just four students at a time over three, five, or seven days on how to raise their golf game to a higher level for both personal and professional satisfaction. The secret: establishing the proper mental state for high performance, and maintaining that state of mind as the player faces the difficulties that inevitably arrive at some point during each round of golf. What's more, the instructors show students how the lessons they are learning can apply just as effectively to their mental preparation for sales calls, public speaking, negotiation sessions, and critical managerial interactions.

If you're simply looking for a speaker to come to your meeting and give an address around a reception (perhaps with a putting contest?) or meal, then check out www.golfpodium.com, which lists seasoned speakers who can regale business groups with their tales and experiences on the important connection between golf and business

Finally, when it comes to sales reps playing a round of golf with potential or existing clients, there are certain behaviors reps can be taught to exhibit that will maximize the relationship-building on that day. Former ATT sales manager Bill Storer, who for years taught reps how to create a detailed business plan for a day of client golf, says that reps must remember first that "a business-golf situation is a day on, not a day off." So their script for the day must include: who's the best person to invite at this point in the relationship; what to talk about; what not to talk about; and how to end the day with an established follow-up action.

A Smart Choice, of Course
Just 25 minutes from Waikiki Beach and downtown Honolulu lies Ko'olau Golf Club, a lush, mountainous layout that's dubbed itself "the world's most challenging golf course." And it just might be: From the back tee boxes, the course plays to a whopping 7,310 yards, at a slope of 162 (average slope—the primary measurement of course difficulty—at resort courses is about 126).

Fortunately, Ko'olau offers tee boxes farther forward from which less experienced golfers can play. Still, because the objective of a golf event is to create good memories for attendees, selecting a renowned but difficult golf course could backfire if it results in a long, unpleasant day for your mostly mediocre golfers.

At most resorts and newer public facilities, courses are designed to be played by golfers of all skill levels. If you're searching for what's known as a "forgiving" golf course that will please everyone, look for these things:

—a choice of several tee areas on each hole;
—few "blind" shots, which are caused when elevation changes or trees prevent players from seeing where their shots will land;
—few "forced carries," which are shots players must hit into the air in order to clear obstacles such as ponds, ravines, or scrub bushes;
—large greens with few undulations;
—"safe" routes to every hole, where players can opt to hit away from trouble-laden areas and still reach the green.

Though doing so will likely result in a higher score, taking the safe route allows less skilled players to keep the ball in play

The number of women players should also factor into your course selection. "So many water hazards at noted courses are too far from the tee for many women [to hit over]," says one resort-course manager. "They end up feeling humiliated." Definitely not the goal of your event, right?

Video-Based Learning You’ll Like
Here's a great way to introduce golf to beginners, placate your golf-crazy attendees at cocktail receptions, and even have a backup plan if it rains on the day attendees are scheduled to hit the links: Rent golf-based arcade games.

One of the most popular video machines of the past decade is Golden Tee, a realistic game which allows users to play anywhere from three to 18 holes of electronic golf. The game is perfect for teaching novices how to navigate each area of the course, from tee to fairway to sand bunkers to green. What's more, experienced golfers love the game because it allows players to choose from a variety of courses, select different clubs for shots of varying distances, and make other challenging considerations that simulate the real thing.

Another enticing game is the Putting Challenge, which is a small putting green with machinery underneath that lets it instantly change its contour—adding small slopes in different spots—so that players are challenged by 18 different greens.

Lainie Solomon, director of marketing for North Miami Beach-based PrimeTime Amusements, says that meetings and trade shows make up a considerable bulk of the video-game rental business, as planners often rent several machines for a few days. In many cities, Golden Tee rents for about $700 per day, while Putting Challenge rents for about $550 per day.

The CVB in your meeting destination can help you find a distributor; also keep in mind that large distributors in major cities will ship games across the country if an order is large enough.

Playing Without a Driver
Imagine you're looking to land a celebrity to play in your golf outing to generate marketing buzz. The good news: You land one of the most popular drivers on the NASCAR race circuit. The bad news: During the event, he falls out of his golf cart and breaks his hand, forcing him to miss a month of racing

Actually, this isn't a joke. In December, Nextel Cup champion Jimmie Johnson did exactly that during a tournament in Charlotte, NC. "I was in a golf cart and the driver took a sharp turn," he says. "I wasn't holding on tight enough, landed awkwardly on the ground, and heard a little pop." But a local paper reported that Johnson might have been lying on the roof of the cart when the accident happened

The lesson: Have all your insurance riders in order before your event. And perhaps consider limiting the amount of alcohol each player may consume on the course that day, by using drink tickets.