Playing with Mr Big


You just got the call: an invitation to play golf with your boss, “Mr. Big” (or Mrs. Big), a top prospect, a valued vendor, a strategic partner, a potential investor, or any other person of significance. Immediately you experience that surge of conflicting emotions – thankful for the opportunity while fearful of embarrassing yourself.

With trepidation, you accept the invitation knowing that you don’t have the time to become that great player you want to be, ought to be, should be, could be! You are going to have to tee it up as you are – for most, a weekend warrior at best, who has blatant, identifiable errors in your game. Who doesn’t hit too many three-putts, “wide-right” drives, skulled bunker shots, bladed wedges, or chunked chip shots? So, with the knowledge that you are far less than perfect on the golf course, how should you approach playing with your boss? Here are a few suggestions.

Adjust Your Expectations

Anxiety on the golf course is, more often than not, the result of expecting more than you are capable of delivering. The ideal solution (and if you were a touring pro, the prescribed solution) is to improve your game. However, in the case of playing with Mr. Big, you don't have much time to practice or get ready. Thus, the more immediate solution is to adjust your expectations. Prior to teeing it up, acknowledge that you are likely to lose a ball or two, hit errant shots, or even pick up on a hole. I’m not suggesting that you approach the game with a negative mindset, I’m suggesting that you be real. Give yourself permission to be less than perfect. You are not Tiger Woods! Be realistic, and regardless of how you play, you (and Mr. Big) can have a wonderful and productive day on the course.

Clarify Your True Intention

More often than not, when playing with Mr. Big, your goal has nothing to do with the score you post at the end of the round. Instead, your intention for playing is likely to be one of a business or relationship nature. What is the real reason why you accepted the invitation to play? What is your true intention – to sell, to persuade, to educate, to inform, to align, to further a relationship?

Make sure you focus on what the true intended outcome is. Remember it’s not about the golf, It’s about all the other things that occur around the golf. The course is simply a place to interact. However, be patient. Do not turn an enjoyable round of golf into a business meeting; instead, use the round to lay the foundation for future business. It often is better to postpone business until the 19th hole, or schedule a future meeting in which you will pursue your desired goal.

Put Others First

I’ve played many rounds of corporate golf, and all too often, I see players putting their own game before others. Golfers often get caught up in their own emotions, their own score, and their own agenda, while losing sight of the fact that there are other people, other intentions present within their foursome. While playing with Mr. Big, strive to stay outside of yourself and focus your attention on others. Pause to compliment others when appropriate – “nice shot,” “good putt,” “super drive,” “great up and down.” You don’t have to lay it on thick, but do take advantage of the fact that golfers like to be acknowledged for their mini-successes – particularly since their final score is often higher than desired.

Furthermore, recognize that your intention is not the only one in the group. Possibly, Mr. Big is looking for something as well – some inside information, a better contract, an informal interview, a deeper relationship, or yes, maybe just a break from the office. Identify others intentions, and put them ahead of your own, and you will find much less resistance when it comes time to pursue your intention.

Demonstrate Proper Etiquette

The way you carry yourself on the golf course is much more important than your score. Poor etiquette will overshadow a good score every time. Here are the top “do’s” and “don’ts” that you want to keep in mind.

Do . . .

. . . introduce yourself to all members of your foursome.

. . . keep up with the pace of play.

. . . be prepared to hit when it is your turn.

. . . care for the course (repair ball marks on greens, replace divots, rake bunkers)

. . . remove your hat and shake hands after the round.

Don’t . . .

. . . walk on someone’s putting line.

. . . talk while others are hitting.

. . . stand where your shadow casts across a player’s putting line.

. . . pout, place blame, complain, or whine over a poor result.

Now that you have some concrete ideas as to how to succeed when playing with Mr. Big, why wait for the call? Pick up the phone and invite him (or her) instead. In business circles, execution is critical – no better time than now to apply what you have learned!

Rick Jensen, Ph.D., is a nationally recognized sport psychologist and author of Drive to the Top: 5 Timeless Business Lessons Learned from Golf’s Greatest Champions. Dr. Jensen’s clients include more than 50 touring pros on the PGA, LPGA and Champions tours. For additional information, go to

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