David Givens

David B. Givens Ph.D.

Your Body at Work

The Better Business of Golf

David Givens explains why golf and business go together.

Posted Aug 27, 2010

What makes golf such an integral part of today's business world? In France, deals are made at Parc du Golf in the heart of the major business district in Aix les Milles. In Japan, golf has become an essential tool for younger workers who play to adapt to their new company's corporate culture. In the U.S., according to Golf magazine, ninety-eight percent of CEOs play golf. There's something decidedly business-friendly about the game. As we'll see, it's not just the score that matters, but the setting. Golf provides an evolutionary correct landscape for corporate walkabout and rapport.

"You need clubs and balls in your bag for golf. Bring other tools to conduct business," writes Ben Miller in Puget Sound Business magazine. Mr. Miller offers sage advice in his article on "Business Golf Has Little to Do with Putting." It seems the score doesn't matter as much as the bipedal blueprint of the game. Miller shares an opinion from Ms. Patty Pearcy, a controller at Seattle Pacific Industries: "[Golf] has helped me network. It is becoming a requirement, like an M.B.A. A lot of relationships are built outside the office."

Originally known as colf, golf was played in Holland from at least the year 1297 A.D. with balls made of fine-grained hardwoods such as elm, box, and beech. In 1848 a superior ball was made from tree sap, a rubbery substance known as gutta percha, which was boiled and shaped in iron molds.

Nonverbally, golf reconnects players to their ancestral tree-climbing lives and savannah-grassland experiences--what our nomadic forebears originally knew in East Africa--and to their hunter-gatherer roots. Golfers focus incredible attention on gripping the club, which in shape and thickness resembles a tree limb. Blending power and precision grips, players strike vinyl balls as if swatting small prey animals on the turf.

The basic body movements of golf--gripping, arm-swinging, body-bending, and striding--are embedded in primeval motor centers of our brain. Golfing is an evolutionary correct way to rekindle the savannah-grassland experiences our nomadic ancestors once enjoyed. Today's game is enjoyed by small, face-to-face bands of players who wander through artificial grasslands in pursuit of spherical prey, dimpled white balls, which they strike with high-tech branch substitutes called clubs. The English word club derives from Old Norse klubba, "heavy stick weapon."

In the career realm, important deals are nurtured on golf courses. Stalking through grassy fields in close-knit, face-to-face groups, sticks in hand--hunting for game balls and walloping them--business people enjoy the same concentration, competition, and camaraderie their ancestors once experienced in Africa. No gas station, subway, or billboard signs disturb the "natural" view. It's a setting not for commerce but for business camaraderie.