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By Nancy Berkley

Whether an expert or beginner golfer, more and more women golfers will receive an invitation to play golf.  In additional to a corporate golf event, more charities are using golf as the venue to raise both awareness and funds for their cause.  Here are some tips to make your golf experience stress-less, enjoyable and productive.

 Tip Number One:  Be comfortable with your appearance.   Unless it’s an all-women event, there will usually be fewer women than men.   You will stand out in the crowd!  Wear an outfit that you are comfortable in.  Confidence is very important in the game of golf.   Remember:  When you bend down to tee your ball up on the tee, three other golfers will see your backside. Be brave and check that backside view in a mirror before you head off to the course.  (Most tee boxes are set up for right-handed players and golf carts are on the left side of tee.)

Tip Number Two:  Play in your comfort zone.  If you are a very good golfer with a handicap of ten or less -- only ten percent of women golfers are in that zone – you should be comfortable accepting an invitation to play golf with anyone - anywhere.  Your male team colleagues and clients will love to play with you especially when you tee it up from their tees.At the other extreme, if you have played only a few times and are still whiffing or dubbing balls, it may be best to decline the invitation until your game improves. .  However, if you are invited by another beginner golfer and together you can manage your expectations, it could be lots of fun for both of you..   Another exception would be if you are invited to a corporate golf event that is clearly advertised as "fun" and uses a "scramble" format.  In a scramble format, you can always be your team’s star putter on the green. .Most women golfers fall in between the extremes.  So how good do you have to be for business golf?  Here’s a guideline:  Most-of-the-time, you should be able to hit a ball about 100 yards off the tee, hit a middle iron (or hybrid club) at least 75 yards on the fairway, hit out of a bunker successfully two out of three times, know how to reach a green when you are 50 yards from the flagstick, take only one practice swing, three-putt --or less on most greens , know proper green etiquette and know when to give up and put the ball in your pocket.

 Tip Number Three – Play quickly.  How do you know if you play fast enough?  Take this “pace-of-play” test on a day when your course is not busy.   Play 9 holes just by yourself, and see if you finish the nine holes in 90 minutes or less.  If you pass that test, you are have a good pace-of-play and should be comfortable accepting most business golf invitations.  And remember:  Unless you are playing in serious competition, if you are having a very bad hole, it is usually okay to pick up your ball saying “I’m out of this hole.”  And hope for miracles on the next tee.

 Tip Number Four:  Know when to talk about business.  Believe it or not, men seldom talk shop on the course.   So, if you are playing with men, do not talk about the office or your new product or the next sale until the round is finished – maybe over a drink on the 19th hole.   Build the relationship on the course but make the sale the next day.  The business-talk-rule is different if you are playing with women.  Women are experts at multi-tasking.  So, playing golf and talking business at the same time, could be a win-win. 

 Tip Number Five:  Don’t be afraid to invite colleagues to play golf.  If you are a good golfer and know your comfort zone, don't hesitate to invite female or male colleagues for a round of golf.  You do not have to belong to a fancy private club to provide your guests with a good golf experience.  There are many excellent public facilities.  When inviting guests to play always check ahead to find out about dress codes, locker room facilities, on-course amenities including beverages and fool-proof directions.  And, make sure that the tee-yardages will work for you and your guests.  Always check the forward tees.  Any course with a USGA Slope from the forward tee of more than 125  -- or one that plays longer than 5300 yards from the forward tee – could  have challenging features for women golfers. And don’t forget to make a specific tee-time reservation at the golf course!

 Tip Number Six: Host a group lesson.   Many women are interested in learning to play golf.  Consider hosting a group lesson just for your colleagues.   Ask a local instructor that you have met and liked to provide a private lesson either on the practice tee or on a few holes on the course.  Include lunch or cocktails if within your schedule and budget.   For help in finding an instructor go to www.lpga.com or www.playgolfamerica.com.  Both sites offer sections that allow you to search by zip codes for professional instructors.

 Tip Number Seven:  Follow-up.  Whether it's a call the next day to say, "How about that contract?" or a "Thank You" note to cement a relationship, think about your golf experience as an on-going investment.  You are guaranteed to make new friends and hopefully improve your bottom line in business -- and on your scorecard.