I once asked a female partner for career advice. “Learn to golf,” she told me. “Otherwise, you’ll get left behind when the partners and clients golf together in the afternoon. I was the best accountant on the team, but if I couldn’t swing a club, I’d get stuck back in the audit room while the people I wanted to network with rubbed elbows without me.”
While being the next Phil Mickelson won’t help you make partner faster, being able to swing a club without looking like a penguin might. At my firm’s golf outing last year, some people could barely hold a club, let alone hit a ball with one, and one woman even gave up on golfing and painted her toenails while lounging on the golf cart. After that performance, do you think a partner will invite you along to your client’s next golf outing? Learn how to hold and swing a golf club, and you’ll at least give yourself the opportunity one day to network with partners, coworkers, and clients on the golf course.
Even if you think golf is a stupid, worthless waste of time (Caleb), you really don’t want to get left behind in the office on a warm Friday in June when you could be out in the sun golfing with your boss’s boss’s boss, do you? I wouldn’t.
So, if you want to learn to golf but have never swung a club, here are a few tips to get you started:
- Get a set of clubs. I bought my clubs and bag at Play It Again Sports for $50 because I didn’t want to make a huge investment in a nice set of clubs right away.
- If you don’t have someone who can teach you to golf, classes through the park district are usually relatively cheap ($55 for ten classes here). A class will teach you the rules of the game, how to hold a club, how and when to use each club, and how to hit the ball without looking like a drunken penguin. Save the flailing flightless bird act for the end of busy season party.
- Practice your swings at a driving range first. You’ll get a bucket of balls to hit for about $5.
- When you’re ready to play, start out at a simple Par 3 course. (It’s cheaper, shorter, and easier). My favorite Par 3 costs $8 for nine holes, is usually pretty empty, and doesn’t require golf cart rental, so I can walk the course and not slow down anyone behind me.
- Remember that most (but not all) golf courses have a dress code, which usually means no jeans, a collared shirt and/or a golfing dress. I didn’t know this at my first golf outing and found myself scrambling last minute to find something acceptable. Who knew it’d be so hard to find a collared shirt and a decent pair of khakis in this town?
- Finally, don’t skip the company or firm-sponsored golf outing! Even if you can’t play well, many golf outings are scrambles, so only the best score on each hole will count. You’ll get experience, and you’ll get a chance to show your coworkers that you actually can hit a golf ball. Plus, the firm is paying for you to ride around on a golf cart on a beautiful course in the sun with a beer or two in your hand.
Remember that one scene in Shawshank Redemption where Red (Morgan Freeman) arranges for the prisoners to tar the prison roof in May? And then Andy the accountant offers the prison guard tax advice in exchange for free beers? Well, the golf outing is sorta like that. I think of the golf outing as an opportunity to drink a cold beer in the sun and pretend like I’m a free woman not chained to a ten-key.
Attending the golf outing is still worth it even if all your beer ticket will buy you is a warm, piss-flavored Summer Shandy. Free is free, and like it or not (Caleb), learning to golf really can be a valuable professional skill.