Rolling out the green carpet to show appreciation for employees, woo clients, hobnob with industry colleagues and raise funds for charities is a time-honored corporate tradition. It is right up there with annual holiday parties and expense accounts.
“Golf is a favorite pastime for Canadians. As soon as the weather gets great, people want to be outside,” explains Stephen Bebis, president and CEO of Golf Town which hosts the Golf Town Charity Classic benefiting prostate cancer research.
The leisurely pace and the congenial atmosphere of the game also makes itself more conducive to forging new relationships and solidifying existing ones than other sporting options.
Sure, softball games or tennis tourneys can provide meaningful interaction, but the nature of golf lends itself to more valuable face time and opportunities to really get to know someone.
“Playing golf is a very social game. Tennis is across the net and you are just pounding at each other, and that might last an hour. Our golf tourneys start off with a full breakfast, we have a lunch, we play golf, and we have a wonderful dinner. It’s a full day, almost 12 hours. In what game can you spend that much time with your colleagues and friends and business partners?” adds Bebis.
“You can’t do that in cycling, or maybe you can, but that’s pretty much you by yourself on a bicycle. Most of us are too old to play soccer [for too long] and in hockey you beat each other up on the boards, so golf is the perfect game.”
While deep sea fishing or paintball might be alternatives that stack up, such activities work best for small gatherings and also isolate potential participants who are either prone to seasickness or squeamish about getting hit by incoming pellet fire.
“One of the benefits of golf is it allows you to be up close and personal with people in a setting that allows you to interact much more intimately than in a reactive sport,” explains Mark Fletcher, president of Fletcher Leisure Group Inc., a Montreal-based marketer of golf apparel and equipment. Fletcher is one of Canada’s largest suppliers of golf duds with a brand stable that includes Ashworth, AUR, Sunice and Storm Pack.
Golf events are even more popular outside of the golf business sphere.
“Being in the industry, I attend a fair amount of events, but not nearly as many as people who work in a more corporate arena where they are doing a lot more hosting or being hosted,” says Fletcher.
“A lot of our clients are golf professionals and as such they have a hard time breaking away to play golf on regular basis. It may sound counter-intuitive, but that’s the reality.”
The abundant networking opportunities that are par for the course in golf coupled with the relaxed environment the game exudes are what make hosting golf events so attractive to companies across a wide spectrum of industry groups. And while there is a friendly competition at the core of most golf events, your score at the end isn’t going to dictate your level of enjoyment.
“It’s fun whether you are a low handicapper or a more novice player. The reality [at these events] is that nobody really cares how well someone plays,” points out Fletcher.
An abbreviated version of my above article ran in Golf Canada Magazine.