5 Ways to Beat Your Customers at Golf (and Still Keep Your Job)

If you’ve ever had to golf in a business or professional situation, you’ve probably heard of the term, “customer golf.” It’s a tongue-in-cheek reference to the idea of letting your client win on the golf course, and the concept has been around just as long as the game itself.

It’s easy to see why. Most of us would agree that humiliating a potential client at any sport (or contest or debate or anything else) is not the best way to make them feel warm and fuzzy about being around you.

But if you can allow for the idea that beating a client might not necessarily humiliate them, then you’d be on your way to playing contrarian customer golf instead of the traditional version. And believe it or not, most self-respecting golfers would rather have you beat them honestly than lose to them deceitfully.

Here’s why:

  • First off, golf is a game that’s inherently designed to allow players of widely varying capability to play together in a competitive fashion. That’s the whole purpose of the handicap system. Logically, then, if you are a ten-handicapper that is suddenly having trouble sinking two-foot putts, your client is going to catch on eventually.
  • If your client does catch on and figures out that you’re losing on purpose, they will have trust issues with you forever. But don’t worry – that will only happen if they are inclined to continue the relationship after the round is over.
  • Getting caught in what amounts to a lie is bad enough. Pile on the humiliation factor, and it becomes worse. Losing on purpose does exactly that – it humiliates the client because it suggests they are too poor a player to win on their own.
  • Most people that have occasion to play golf in business settings are naturally competitive people. They got to their positions in life through hard work and a healthy attitude about competition and hopefully, about sportsmanship as well. Nothing could be less sportsmanlike or counter-competitive than letting the client win instead of making them earn it all by themselves.
  • Last, there is the concept of honor. It’s a big part of the game of golf, and by purposely shanking 80-yard approaches into the woods, you run the risk of spitting in the very face of what the game itself is built upon.

So, the next time you find yourself on the golf course with a client, play contrarian customer golf. Play your own game, to your full capability, and let the client play theirs. If you wind up winning by 10 strokes, that’s perfectly OK. As long as you play honestly, your client will respect you and ultimately, you’ll win a lot more points than you would by losing on purpose.

One more thing. As much fun as it is to win, you might want to avoid the urge to yell things like “in your face!” after sinking 30-footers.

We said “contrarian,” not cutthroat.

What is your experience with customers one the golf course?

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