Golfing Your Way to a Promotion: A Crash Course

So you’ve just landed your dream job in the corporate world and after your first week on the job your boss drops a bomb on you: he wants you to be a fourth in his weekly golf game. It doesn’t matter that you’ve never played before, follow these simple steps and not only will you come out alive, you’ll be your boss’s new bff.

Although your situation is not desirable, turning him down would certainly be worse. A few simple steps and some practice will help you go from never-played-before scrub to recreational golfer. Okay, maybe not recreational, but you should be able to at least fake your way through it. Before we get to the actual golfing, let’s make sure you look the part.

Step 1: The Basics

The first (and possibly most important) step to making people believe you’ve been on a golf course before is to look like a golfer. To do that you’ll need only two things; golfing attire and golf clubs. Both of these things can be easily obtained, and without killing your wallet. The only people who wear the silly plaid shorts and funny hats are European, and assuming you’re not, you can’t pull it off. Get yourself to The Gap and find a nice fitting polo and a pair of khaki pants or shorts. Don’t get anything too baggy or extreme, just nice fitting, tasteful clothing. After all, you’re not going to a frat party; golf is a gentleman’s sport. Once you’ve got the clothes, the next step is to get a pair of golf shoes. You can get by just wearing sneakers (definitely not dress shoes) but this will expose your amateur-ness. Instead of skimping and getting a cheap pair of plastic shoes, treat this as an investment. Just think, if the first time goes well, you could find yourself filling in more often which could lead to quicker promotions. and get a pair of brand name (Nike, Adidas, Footjoy, etc.) golf shoes for around $50. Try Golfsmith or a local golf retailer. Your feet will thank you for not shopping in the bargain bin.

The Clubs

Now that you’re all setup with a good look, you need to get some clubs. While this is likely going to be the most expensive part, it doesn’t have to completely break the bank. Try looking around at local golf shops for a set of used clubs and you can likely score a decent setup for around $200. If you don’t have the cash to buy a whole setup, try calling around your area and finding out about day club rentals or demo club sets. Try to avoid using rental clubs from the course you’re playing at though, it will be easier to trick your boss if you show up with clubs. One thing to keep in mind is that if you go all out and get a setup like Tiger but play like someone who’s never seen a par 4 before (AKA you) then they’ll know something’s up. A helpful tip is that it’s easy to clean up the way your clubs look with a decent bag, organized clubs and some headcovers.

Step 2: How do I hit this &%# ball?!

Now that you’re all setup and looking like someone who knows what they’re doing, it’s time to try and figure out what it is you’re doing. There are a few important things to remember about golf.

  1. Contrary to popular belief, it is actually a sport (and a rather difficult one at that).

  2. Just because you can play baseball doesn’t mean you’ll be able to play golf.

  3. No matter how good you get, it can be infuriating at times.

Surprisingly enough, the golf swing is relatively simple. I won’t bore you with details, but before you start try to keep these things in mind;

  • Stand in a relaxed, athletic position; feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent, and bent over at the hips.

  • Grip the golf club with your arms hanging down; don’t reach for it or crowd yourself. Your power comes from your core. Would you try to lift a bucket of water with your arms outstretched as far as possible?

  • Pull your arms back straight like a pendulum on a grandfather clock. Keep both arms straight and break your wrists at the top.
  • Pause at the peak of your swing. Your pullback is not part of your actual swing, it isn’t baseball, remember?
  • Make a smooth swing by bringing the club back down naturally. Everyone wants to hit it hard and far, but it will be less annoying to your playing partners if you only hit it 120 yards at a time in the fairway and not 160 yards into the trees.

With these things in mind, get a bucket of balls (or three) and make controlled swings, with the goal of hitting solid shots, not the range cart driver. You’re not going to win your first time out, so really just focus on advancing the ball. If you do this a few times before you play you should be able to not make a (total) ass of yourself.

Step 3: Time to play!

It’s finally Saturday morning and you have a 10:10 tee time. Try to get to the course at least 30 minutes early so you can putt and maybe hit a bucket of range balls, some last minute practice will never hurt. Once you get onto the first tee, you’re on your own, but here are some parting thoughts for your first round:

  • As I said before, golf is a gentleman’s sport. No matter how angry you get don’t slam a club, curse, or act like a jackass. You’ll get respect from your playing partners if you can manage to do this.

  • Use common sense during your round. Don’t talk while someone else is swinging, try to be courteous to your playing partners, and don’t hit on the snack cart girl (this is negotiable.)

  • Don’t get drunk! Golf, like bowling, is a sport which drinking is often associated. However with golf, unlike with bowling, you don’t get better when you drink. You get annoying. Keep it under control.

  • Thank your playing partners at the end of the round, this will leave them with a good impression, even if your golf game didn’t.

These tips should get you through without embarrassing yourself (or hurting anyone). It might seem like a lot, but by making yourself a regular in your boss’s golf game, you can almost guarantee you’ll get a better shot at a good promotion.

Adam has been playing golf for 17 years (handicap 6) and was a member of the Penn State golf team while in college.

AC currently lives in New Jersey.

  • Rich

    Great beginner’s guide, Adam! My advice is to make sure you’re not really ‘swinging’ at the ball but like you said let the club come down naturally. that’s how you find the sweet spot.

  • Corey21

    cool article, i’m gonna try it out

  • Dan

    Great intro to golf…wish i had a 6 handicap…or a job…just kidding…no seriously. ;)

  • michael

    I never really played golf but a lot of guys i know are just now getting into it and I think it’s what you talk about here. It’s a GREAT networking tool. Not only are you playing with your boss, you’re probably playing with a client as well, which will do wonders for your career. Just don’t f— up. haha

  • http://midnight.hushedcasket.com Jeff

    I don’t play golf. I find it is a game that is generally populated by assholes that are intolerant of beginners, to use an admittedly broad brush. Furthermore, it emphasizes look and perception over performance. What other sport has a dress code? My boss can appreciate me for my worth to our company, my work ethic, my innovative thinking, or any number of other things, but if he wants to appreciate me for my prowess at golf then I’ll have to start distributing resumes. Excellent article, but I wanted to voice my dissenting opinion as someone that will not be using golf to climb the corporate ladder.

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  • http://www.wordsellinc.com Brad Shorr

    To Jeff’s point, I think golf is most enjoyable when played with people who share your temperament. Having played (badly) for years, I’ve seen plenty of people who fit his description, but many more who don’t. The vast majority of successful businessmen and women I’ve encountered on the course are exceedingly generous and gracious. And I’ve never found a better way to get them talking and sharing their wisdom than during a round. It’s true, though, if you’re playing with a boss or a client, you need to adapt to their style. That can be uncomfortable. For instance, I don’t like to gamble, but if the customers want a friendly game, you go for it. But

  • http://www.wordsellinc.com Brad Shorr

    Oops. I snap hooked that comment. I meant to add, but I believe you have to adapt in anything if you want to network and advance your career. :)

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  • http://crayonsandkeyboards.blogspot.com/ CWheat

    As a life long golfer, I can only praise this article. Yes, you will always stumble upon assholes on the golf course; but you also stumble upon assholes at grocery stores, gas stations, and even bars. It’s just the way it is.

    The course is an expressway of networking and business opprotunities. Not only will this help you on the course, but in day-to-day business you can easily find a common ground with a business associate through the game of golf.

    When I was 16 years old, my father told me that picking up golf was the best business move I will ever make. Those words could not be more true. I believe it so much that my two year old son is swinging away with his first set of clubs. Grant it, he has no idea what the hell he is doing, but we are setting a foundation for the future.

    http://crayonsandkeyboards.blogspot.com/2008/01/meet-you-at-19th-hole.html

    All else fails, it is a freaking blast to play a round with your buds.

  • http://estebanwaseaten.tumblr.com Justin

    I’d recommend also getting a Golf Etiquette handbook and learning some of the most important things. The no-talking common sense thing is big but also like filling divots or raking sand traps or not walking in other’s putting lines or only take your shot when you know it’s your turn or pulling the pin or whatever.

    Little things that prove you’ve played before and that you’re also never going to do something that makes you look bad as a person. A bad golfer is one thing but a guy who acts like an ignorant jerk is a whole ‘nother.

  • http://www.drewbyinmexico.com Drew

    Great article Jeff, I retweeted it to my friends. I’m always telling people how great golf is, both for fun and for your career.

    I do have one point to nitpick: instead of getting a Gap polo, getting a ‘dry-fit’ polo. Tons of different companies make them, Kohl’s has some good ones as part of their ‘Grand Slam’ line for under $20. These are more lighter-weight and won’t left you feeling dragged down by sweat.

    I also definitely agree that for beginners, 120 and straight is the way to go. Lots of par4s are in the 360-400 range, so if you can hit three straight 120-130yd shots, you will still have a par putt.

  • http://www.primermagazine.com Andrew

    Hey Drew,

    That’s a good point about the dry-fit polos. I was actually just at Old Navy last weekend and they had a ton on sale for under $10.
    .-= Andrew´s last blog ..Linkszomania for August 11- 2010 =-.

  • Chris

    Jeff, I know you wrote this 5 years ago, but I read it today, and, must respond. Almost every sport has a dress code (team jersey, idiot). In amateur golf the dress code is decided by the environment, so if its with your boss obviously you want to look like a casual, normal person. Only and asshole would say that a game, that they admittedly dont even play, is populated by assholes. How do you know who populates a golf course if you dont play golf?? You might have a great work ethic, work hard, eat apple pie on the 4th of July blah blah blah, but that doesnt get promotions, and everyone knows this. It isnt golf that would help you climb the ladder, its prolonged exposure to your boss in a setting that he finds enjoyable (or at least that isnt in the workplace). Its this excellent networking opportunity that is what gives you the head start on things like promotions. So all in all, you seem to me like a moron poser, who makes statements without even thinking how he is contradicting himself.