If you don’t golf, the corporate golf outing, where business is done and careers sometimes decided, is terrifying. How do you survive it? How to you become a team player? How do you make it to the 19th hole with your confidence and pride intact?
Well, first, you don’t do what Jackie Gleason did on The Honeymooners and try to learn the game overnight. You don’t say, “hello ball” when you address the ball. What you do is ask someone who has seen it all, especially when it comes to company outings and ask them how to survive the event, contribute, and most of all … have fun.
“The real first step is not to panic,” says Grand Geneva Resort & Spa’s golf pro, Kyle Kunash. “Everyone was a first-time golfer at some point and there are a plenty of ways to familiarize yourself with the sport and its terminology beforehand. And the fact is, most golfers are not really that good, less than 10 percent of all golfers in American ever break a score of 100.”
“The second point is you don’t need to hit the ball 300 yards. Eighty percent of the game is scored less than 100 yards from the hole. And even more important, maybe the most important thing is that a 6-foot putt (which anyone can do if they practice at home a bit) is just as important as that 300-yard drive. The moment of glory is on the green (where the hole is) not on the tee.”
Kunash, a golf pro with more than 17 years experience, has trained and played with golfers of all levels on Grand Geneva’s award-winning courses, The Brute & The Highlands. Here are his top 10 tips:
1. Learn the lingo (and what not to say). In a corporate outing nearly all “tournaments” are scrambles. This is not an egg dish before the game. It simply means everyone hits and then the team picks the best shot and all players play the next shot from there; the team will repeat this process until they finish the hole. This format is great because it takes the pressure off the novice/first-time golfers, more times than not, someone will hit a good enough shot to get to the next shot.
Kunash recommends googling “basic golf terms” to get familiar with the golf “lingo,” which should include:
- 90-degree rule
- Tee box
- Golf etiquette (not talking during someone’s swing, where to stand etc.)
Also, sometimes silence is golden. Learn what not to say, such as “great shot.” Don’t say anything until the ball stops. Things happen when the ball is still moving. Sometimes not good things.
2. Learn to putt. Great putts win holes. Winning holes helps with prizes at the dinner after the scramble (again, not a menu item). You can putt with any putter. Technology is not key here, it’s mostly mental and seeing the ball go into the hole before you even make a stroke. Notice we did not say hit the ball. It is a putting stroke not a putting hit; imagine underhand-tossing a ball to someone. Most people won’t think twice about how fast they need to swing their arm to get the underhand toss to the target. Get a putter (easy and cheap) and a few golf balls and putt across your living room into an empty cup or aim for leg of a chair/couch across the carpet and floor 30 minutes a day. Or in the basement. Or in the office. You can putt anywhere. Most public golf courses allow you to use the putting green free of charge. Go there as well. It’s all letting your mind compute the speed, distance and how the ball will roll on the green. Sink one, two or three putts, and your teammates will be buying you a beer at the 19th hole. (19th hole: That’s the bar!) Check out Grand Geneva Resort & Spa’s video tutorial for tips on how to putt.
3. No clubs, no problem! Borrow clubs from a friend, or call the golf course ahead to reserve a rental set. More times than not , the rental set will be easier to hit than your friend’s extra set!
4. It’s all about the grip. Most golfers don’t know how to properly hold the club correctly. Our grip is what connects us to the club (I call it the heartbeat of the golf swing). Go to a rummage sale or sporting goods store that sells used clubs and check out tutorial videos to learn how to hold and swing the club.
5. No fancy golf clothes needed. Make sure to have a pair of golf shoes you can pick up at a local sporting goods store or even online. Collared shirt and any type of pants/shorts/skort are great. The key is not to dress in Scottish Plaid and not to wear hot pants. Basic, smart-casual businesswear works just fine. (Most important: no metal spikes and no denim.)
6. Golf carts. These are not go-carts. Drive slowly, don’t make sharp turns, keep your arms and legs inside (I have seen some pretty serious injuries from driving too close to that tree or 150-yard marker) and never go sideways or up and down wet or damp hills.
7. Golf etiquette. Golf is a social game, mostly a quiet game, and showing respect is key, especially in a corporate golf outing. Here are the basics:
- Don’t talk when people are getting ready or hitting a shot.
- Don’t stand in front of people hitting. Stand still and to the side when they are hitting a shot (so they can focus on the ball and the hole).
- Don’t walk in people’s “line” on the green. In other words, don’t step on the grass where the ball will roll from their putter to the hole — it can leave an imprint and ruin their putt.
8. Show the golf course love and respect. Pick up and throw out any trash (golf tees are not trash). Repair divots or ball marks on the green (simple, easy and impressive). Rake sand traps to get rid of footprints (the rakes are in or near the sand traps, you don’t have to bring one with you).
9. Don’t think too much. Golf is a counter-intuitive game. You swing slow and easy to hit the ball farther. You hit down on the ball to make it go up in the air (the club will do the work). Always follow through on your swing (make sure your belt buckle is facing the target after your swing).
10. Have fun. Corporate golf outings and scrambles are social and fun. Most people have no belief they have a shot at winning. It’s a team effort where everyone at some point will help the team (that putt, or getting it close to the hole, or out of the sand trap). Don’t be afraid to ask golfers with you for help, or tips. Golfers love to talk about golf. It’s a game of passion.
And if all else fails, make sure everyone has a beer, something to eat or a joke to laugh about. As they say, any day on the golf course is better than a day in the office.