Networking is par for the course at Business Golf for Women
Striking business deals on the golf course may not happen as often as Hollywood portrays, but in reality the relationships developed on the green can lead to solid business connections.
For many businesswomen, the golf course can be an intimidating setting. Greenville resident Bruce Baird, founder of several golf schools in California, has launched a business to help women pierce the “grass ceiling” and tap into the informal network their male counterparts have long enjoyed.
Baird had been seeking a new business to launch and learned that a growing sector in the golf industry is women. After making contact with many businesswomen through social media, he became convinced of the need and interest, and decided to start an enterprise that would “use golf as a vehicle to enhance networking skills.”
Business Golf for Women is designed to give female executives an entrée into the on-course networking they rarely access because “golf has been typically a male-dominated sport,” said Baird.
Baird said the barriers women name include fear of trying something new, feeling they are not athletic enough and fear of embarrassment.
“We deal with those,” he said. As for the athleticism, Baird likens golf to a sport many women do play with relish: “If you’re a tennis player, you can play golf.”
Talking the game
Business Golf for Women launched this spring with a program at Chateau Elan in Georgia that featured female presenters, including Dr. Jean Harris, LPGA master teacher, and former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel.
The presenters explore networking strategies in a lecture setting, then the group adjourns to the driving range for skill building. In about two days, novices can learn “the minimal skills to tie in to a network,” Baird said, such as making a contribution in a team format like chipping around the green and putting. “It’s a matter of learning a skill.”
Learning the terminology and “how to talk golf” is also important, he said, along with how to network in a golf cart, which is “mostly keeping your mouth shut.”
Taking it to the next level
Stacie Wallice, a financial advisor with Waddell and Reed, told UBJ she participated in the program to “bring my game to another level and network with professional women who are doing the same.” She said she had played golf on and off and used it to build her business to a certain extent, hosting client appreciation outings with a pro to build their skills, but “was a little intimidated inviting clients to a day of golf.”
Many professional women see golf as an “outside of business” activity, while their male counterparts see it as a more integral business tool, she said. The program helped her to think more about “seeing golf as a part of doing business,” she said.
For a novice, the program also teaches “enough about the course, the game and etiquette for you to be unobtrusive … and a pleasant playing partner,” she said. The instruction also offers “the nuances that newer golfers are not always aware of.”
Wallice has used her further honed skills to enhance her game. “The program gave me a higher comfort level to take my business golf to the next level,” she said.
Baird plans to host an Upstate program in November and two others in the spring.
Connect with other professional women to play golf through the Greenville chapter of Executive Women’s Golf Association, www.ewgagreenvillesc.com.