Golf, not as good for the goose as it is for the gander

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June 2, 2003 // UPDATED 10:50 am - April 30, 2007
By: Elana Carter
Elana Carter

A few years ago, the New York Times looked at a business\'s stock performance over a three-year period and compared it to the CEO\'s golf handicap.

Turns out that better-than-average golfing executives also delivered better-than-average returns on investment to shareholders (although it would be interesting to see how those numbers stack up now).

The study hypothesized that better golfers were more successful in business for several reasons: 1. Time on the golf course allows for time to think clearly and strategically; 2. Natural leaders tend to be natural athletes; 3. Competitiveness in one area fosters competitiveness in other areas; and 4. Time away from work rejuvenates the mind, body and spirit, promoting greater effectiveness and success.

This success connection is not lost on women who are making the climb up the corporate ladder. Okay, so most stall on the middle rung (that\'s another story) - while they are still enjoying the climb, they want to have every tool available to them.

Golf is a great business tool. Where else can you have five to eight uninterrupted hours with a client/vendor/prospect? As any golfer will tell you, if you want to really get to know someone well, play a round of golf.

Women executives obviously want to get to know their client/vendor/prospects as well as men do. Golf sure beats a business lunch where you are forced to sit in a noisy restaurant and time your conversation between stuffing food in your mouth, all the while praying the spinach salad with the poppy seed dressing isn\'t stuck in your front tooth.

That is one explanation why membership in the Executive Women\'s Golf Association has jumped 38 percent since 1999. This impressive increase occurred while golf was experiencing relatively \"flat\" growth.

But like so many other things in business, just because golf is a wonderful business asset for men doesn\'t necessarily mean women can use this asset quite the same way.

As women executives will tell you, add a woman to the golf game and the dynamics change. \"Men get concerned about how they play in front of women more than they do about playing in front of other men,\" said Nancy Manderfeld, President of the Minnesota Metro Chapter of the EWGA and a superb golfer.

\"Men have a tendency to start the game by telling you all the reasons why they won\'t be playing well that day: \'I have a bad back and it\'s sore. I haven\'t played in a month. I only golf twice a year,\'\" she said.

Nancy said that combining golf with work has definitely been an asset. But other strong women golfers feel they are often overlooked in corporate golf situations for less proficient male players.

Besides being overlooked, Sally says playing with men can be intimidating for many women because golf courses often assume women are at fault for holding up the game. \"The guys go stand on the tee box, they chit chat, they\'ll throw grass in the air to check the wind, they\'ll take their sweet time trying to decide what club to use. Then, when I tee off the ranger comes up and he\'ll speak directly to me, saying I \'need to pick up the pace.\' It drives me crazy,\" said Sally.

Then there\'s the delicate matter of winning. Said Sally, \"Boys don\'t mind losing to a boy. God forbid they lose to a girl.\"

Nancy agrees that her \"winning\" has sometimes been embarrassing for the client/prospect/vendor. But, she adds, \"they get over it.\"

Maybe most do. But it would also be naive to think there isn\'t a downside business risk for women who do whoop a client/vendor/prospect. The last thing a businesswoman needs to do is tee off her business associates - that\'s very bad for business. Sometimes, for women, winning comes with a painful price. It is, after all, par for the course.

If you have a good workplace dilemma or just a good story to tell, please contact Elana Centor at ecentor@mn.rr.com. You can remain confidential, as can your company.