Economy Entrepreuneurship Markets

The Ten Commandments of Business Golf

GolfSeveral years ago, I happened to pair up with someone I hadn’t previously met at the Santa Fe Country Club, where I usually play. After a few holes, we discovered common professional interests: He was about to buy a local magazine and—after editing a travel magazine for several years—I was looking for a new opportunity. We had a lively discussion, with both of us thinking: ‘Mmm, kismet?’ Then a curious thing happened. He preferred to drive his cart at top speed between shots and holes, whereas I liked to walk the course and take my time lining up each shot. At the end of 18, we exchanged numbers, but we both knew we’d never collaborate.

Why? Because the way we played golf spoke volumes about the way we approached our professions.

This weekend, golf is once again on our minds as the Master’s—perhaps the premiere golf tournament in the country—enters its second round of play. The other day, in an interview with a national newspaper, 2011 US Open champ Rory McIllroy was briefly embarrassed when his phone rang, an awkward moment on a course where handheld devices are strictly forbidden. However, it’s a good reminder, for all of us weekend duffers who are taking our clubs out of the closet for the first time this year, how important etiquette and good manners are to the game.

It may be a canard that more deals are struck on the golf course than in any other venue. But if you want to be a walking cliché, I humbly offer a few pieces of advice.

1. Take Lessons

Face it: You stink. Luckily, it’s not necessarily a life sentence. Living in the Rockies, where golf is a seasonal pursuit, I need all the help I can get when the snow melts. Starting the season by hitting two thousand balls on the range will not improve a flawed swing. So take a couple of lessons, but avoid the Pro who gives you 87 things to remember on your backswing. Don’t combine golf and business until you’re playing competently. Otherwise, your clients will rightly assume you’re an idiot.

2. Follow the Rules

A couple of years ago, I read about pro golfer Camilio Villegas being accessed a penalty for removing some debris from around his ball before taking his shot. He seemed genuinely surprised at having broken the rules. What’s shocking is that he didn’t know the rules. You don’t have to be the rule-book Nazi in your foursome, but take some time to read it before the season starts. You’ll be amazed at what you’ve forgotten—or never knew.

3. Observe Dress Codes

One of the best things about business golf is getting invited to play at a client’s or colleague’s club for the first time. Don’t show up in cargo shorts and your vintage Beck tee shirt. Call ahead to the pro shop and ask about the dress code. Dustin Johnson or Bubba Watson are good golf fashion icons: conservative but with a little individual flair. Forget the lime green or cranberry red ensembles. It works for Rickie Fowler. It doesn’t work for you.

4. Play Fair

Golf is self-policing. There are no refs, umpires, or line judges. Just you and your conscience. If your client sees you kicking your ball out of the rough for a better lie, do you think he’ll consider you a go-getter who doesn’t let anything stand in his way—or a lying, self-deceiving sleaze? Mmm. I was playing with a retired chief operating officer a few years ago and I remember him saying, ‘It’s too bad the ethics of golf don’t apply to business.’ That’s just the kind of guy who is perplexed by the public’s attitude toward Wall Street.

5. Observe the Etiquette of the Game

Golf etiquette requires a couple of volumes to detail, from determining driving order to conceding a putt. It boils down to erring on the side of good manners. You don’t throw your briefcase across the boardroom when a deal goes sour (if you still have a briefcase, troglodyte), so throwing your clubs and cursing when you overshoot the green is going to tell your business golf partner that you’re a bad-tempered, tantrum-throwing moron—just the kind of business connection to avoid. Accept failures with grace and victories with humility.

6. Don’t Bet on It

My father imparted two pearls of wisdom when he introduced me to the game. First, never play against anyone, just yourself. Second, if you get frustrated, just enjoy the view. Tournaments are one thing, but putting too competitive an edge on a business golf game can get ugly. You really want to have to watch someone you’re hoping to do business with resentfully write out a check to you in the clubhouse? Conversely, are you willing to trash all sense of honor by five-putting the last hole so your client can walk away $105 richer? If your answers are yes, I suggest you take up trout fishing with dynamite.

7. Don’t Drink and Drive, Let Alone Putt

Until the final putt on the 18th, don’t even think about a cold one. My regular foursome includes a communications executive, an electrical contractor, and a chef. We don’t talk business; we talk smack. So a couple of tall boys in the cart is appropriate. But when you’re doing business on the course, the last thing you want is for things to get sloppy. The clubhouse after play is the appropriate venue—and if you’ve done your prep correctly for the last 18 holes, it’s the right place to close the deal.

8. Know When to Talk Business

One of the oldest maxims of the game is to never talk business the first time you play with a new colleague or client. Pushing your business agenda when you’re supposed to be enjoying leisure time is unseemly. When business does enter into things, observe these four nevers: First, never discuss business before the third hole; second, never after the 15th; third, never when someone is preparing to shoot; and fourth, never on the green. Personally, I like to walk a course—not just for the exercise, but for the stroll between shots that actually gives you and your partner time for a leisurely chat.

9. Play Charitable Tournaments

Yes, local tournaments for charity are possibly the best venue for networking ever devised. If run well, they’re also usually a hell of a lot of fun. Also, at the end of the weekend, you’ve helped raise money to help someone’s life other than your own.

10. Take Advantage of Reciprocals

No doubt you’ve gone to your club’s general manager or pro and asked for help with a reciprocal—the gentlemen’s agreement by which you’re allowed to play as a guest at another club. The problem with this is that if your club pro is not well respected—or your club is not at a certain tier—your request to play at Pine Valley, N.J., will probably be turned down. About eight years ago, a number of online ‘reciprocal clubs’ sprang up that offered a matchmaking service for private club members. You still might get turned down because your own club isn’t up to snuff, but the advantage is they come up with lots of clubs you’d never think of playing and they can reach out internationally to clubs at which your own would never have connections. If you travel abroad frequently, membership is a bargain, but they’d still never let you into Pine Valley.

The Ten Commandments of Business Golf
By Kent Black

Economy Markets

Miami Resort casino debate could become epic battle

As each of the state’s most powerful business and political interests line up to fight over the fate of destination Miami Resort Casino, emotional appeals for jobs will be pitted against emotional concerns about the future of Florida

by Mary Ellen Klas
TALLAHASSEE — Despite the promise of thousands of jobs and the millions of dollars spent on lobbying and land buying, the proposal to bring destination resort casinos to Florida faces steep odds when lawmakers take up the landmark proposal during the 60-day legislative session that begins Tuesday.

Senate sponsor Ellyn Bogdanoff last week released a 170-page rewrite of the bill to help take pressure off reluctant lawmakers by including a requirement that any county — including Miami-Dade or Broward — that wants to attract one of three mega resorts must first get voter approval.

To win over supporters of the existing pari-mutuels, the revised bill allows them to operate Las Vegas-style games and receive a lowered tax rate if they compete directly with the new casinos. And across the state, any struggling horse and dog tracks and jai alai frontons would be allowed to ask voters to let them install slot machines.

The bill also attempts to win over gaming opponents. Bogdanoff, a Fort Lauderdale Republican, and the House sponsor, Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, would ban new pari-mutuel permits, regulate or close down “maquinita” establishments that cater to small-bore gamblers and set up a strict new regulatory structure. The state would create a new “Department of Gaming Control” to administer and license the casino resorts and regulate the pari-mutuels and card rooms.

“Our goal is a significant reduction in gaming,’’ Fresen said. “That’s the only shot this bill has.”

There is no guarantee these changes will assuage the critics on Monday when the bill comes up for its first vote in the Senate in a pre-session committee hearing. But the bigger test is in the House, where a conservative Republican majority and a presiding officer whose home territory includes Disney World in Orlando are reluctant to open the door to anything that could harm the state’s family-friendly tourism image.

One thing is certain about the looming legislative debate over gambling: It will be an epic battle in Tallahassee.


The state’s most powerful business and political interests have lined up on both sides — pitting emotional charges of lost quality of life against promises of jobs.

On one side are religious groups, restaurant, tourism and lodging companies, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Orlando’s Disney Company, which are financing lobbyists, consultants, television ads and polls to kill the bill. On the other side are national and international casino resort companies, including Genting Americas, Las Vegas Sands and Wynn Corporation, Associated Industries of Florida as well as building trade and construction groups that see the multi-billion construction project as a way to stanch the exodus of skilled workers from South Florida.

On the sidelines is the pari-mutuel industry. It is making demands of legislators, particularly Broward and Miami-Dade Democrats they have supported financially for years. The South Florida racinos argue that they paid a 50-percent tax rate under former Gov. Jeb Bush for the privilege of operating slot machines and now say they won’t pay the $100 million investment required to get casino games under Bogdanoff’s bill.

Across the political spectrum, powerful business and political leaders, from Miami auto magnate Norman Braman to former U.S. Senator and Gov. Bob Graham, are urging legislators to vote against the casino bill as bad for the state.

“We have a lot of people in Miami-Dade County who have worked hard to make the community the kind of place it is today and this is not the direction they want to see Miami go,’’ said Sen. Nan Rich, the Senate Democratic leader.

Although insisting “I’ve not made up my mind,’’ Rich said she believes that three resort casinos in South Florida “would destroy the quality of life in our community.”

Bogdanoff counters that the state’s current loophole-ridden approach to gambling has been driven by a pari-mutuel industry that she says profits off “predatory regional gaming.”

“We need to redirect our gaming to bring in international trade shows and conventions,’’ she said.

Then there are the revenue consequences. A mega-casino in South Florida could mean the end to Florida’s annual gambling payments from the Seminoles under current terms of the tribe’s deal with the state and cannibalize the existing racino industry. The state’s chief economist predicts that the net impact of three $2 billion destination resort casinos would offset that loss through money from new construction, new tourists and as much as $455 million in new tax revenue over the next four years.

Against the backlash, the casino resort industry is pushing on all fronts. Genting, the Malaysian conglomerate that has spent nearly half a billion dollars on The Miami Herald’s bayfront property and surrounding real estate, has hired dozens of lobbyists and consultants, and spent an as-yet undisclosed amount on political contributions.


As Florida legislators move reticently forward on Genting’s bold plan to bring a $3.8-billion resort and convention center to Miami, Genting worked quietly with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to ink a deal to bring a massive convention center and casino to the company’s newly remodeled Aqueduct racetrack property in Queens. Cuomo announced in his state-of-the-state speech last Tuesday that his administration was working with the company to build the nation’s largest convention center near the JFK airport and that he would push for a state constitutional amendment to allow casino gambling.

But the crown jewel of the U.S. gaming market remains Miami because of its climate, beaches and tourist draw. Legislators have read the statewide polls that show support for three casino resorts is overwhelming in South Florida; less so in other parts of the state. Polls financed by Genting and the Las Vegas Sands show that voters in all parts of the state warm to the idea, however, once the proposal is described to them.

Fresen and Bogdanoff believe the legislative resistance is melting as a result.

“I don’t think there’s the repulsion there used to be in the House,’’ Bogdanoff said. “Everybody understands we have ignored this issue way too long.”

Some legislators predict their colleagues will do nothing more than close the gambling loopholes and crack down on the unregulated storefront casinos that have proliferated because of Florida’s vague sweepstakes law.

“It’s easier to say no than yes,’’ said Rep. Ron Saunders, D-Key West. He predicts the bill won’t pass this year, allowing legislators to continue to collect political contributions from the profitable industry.

“Do you really think they’ll let them walk away with a bill in their hands when they could keep them on the hook for another year? It’s a cynical view,” he said, “but it’s just the way it works.”