It’s been more than four months since I surrendered to the game of golf at the Shell Houston Open ProAm. I resisted the seduction of the game for more than 15 years, ever since I took my first golf lessons at the Black Enterprise/Pepsi Golf & Tennis Challenge back in 1996, our first in Miami. Until my horrifying-yet-exhilarating experience at Houston’s Redstone Golf Resort this past March, I played hard-to-get with golf. But now, I’ve got it bad. It’s got me feenin’.
Golf now dominates an increasing proportion of my thoughts: “When can I practice my swing? How many times can I get to the driving range this week? Would hypnosis help? I sure love my Callaway Diablo Edge irons. Would it be that weird if I slept with my clubs?”
As I prepare for my next golf goal, to play for the first time ever in the Black Enterprise/Pepsi Golf & Tennis Challenge this Labor Day Weekend, I practice every chance I get, as anyone who follows me on Twitter knows. I use little magenta golf-sized wiffle balls to practice my full swing and real golf balls to practice pitching in the back yard. I go to the local park in my neighborhood, where I have the room to smack around almostGolf balls (my absolute favorite practice tool to date). I have an indoor putting green, where I can practice putting, as well as chipping balls from my dining room to my living room. I’m devouring golf magazines and books, including Golf for Dummies by Gary McCord and Golf Rules & Etiquette for Dummies by John Steinbreder (both of which I strongly recommend). On top of all that, I now actually watch golf tournaments on television! The commentary still puts me into a semi-comatose, waking-sleep state (I have to toggle the remote to the NFL Network just to get my heart rate back up), but I am increasingly enjoying what I’m learning from watching the best golfers in the world play.
Golf still reigns supreme as the sport for creating and strengthening the business relationships that are necessary to take advantage of opportunities, solve challenges and make things happen. This is a key reason for the popularity of the Black Enterprise/Golf & Tennis Challenge and similar golf-centered events. Golf is a great way to get an extended audience with key clients and influencers, and to communicate your value as a potential business partner, client, vendor or hire. Many people use golf, a game in which rules, sportsmanship and etiquette are paramount, to evaluate the character of potential business partners and associates, in order to decide who they should or should not do business with. In fact, when it comes to business, how you play is more important than how well you play golf.
Today, more African Americans, and more black women in particular, are playing golf than ever. This is important, because for too long, minorities and women were kept at the periphery of the sport, banned from the elite golf venues where key and lucrative business networks operated. Now, many of those barriers have been lowered, if not outright eliminated, opening up additional pathways to relationship-building that is necessary to maximize business, professional and other opportunities.
However, too many black entrepreneurs and professionals miss out on opportunities because they refuse to learn and play the game. If you’re a businessperson (I’m talking to you ladies, too) with ready-made reasons for why you don’t play golf, as I once was, I strongly urge you to reconsider your position. I’ve personally discovered that many of the things I accepted as valid reasons for not playing golf are either unfounded or no longer true.
So if you’ve been considering the game, but hesitant to commit, let me address at least some of the most reasons for not playing golf, in a sincere effort to get you out on the links with me.