‘Tis the season for building new golfing relationships

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Winter’s on the horizon, and so is the season of corporate golf events. Make the most of it, and improve your game



All golfers have a tale. The one they like to recount for their closest fraternity—the four-ball—on the 19th hole, or when they have a captive audience at dinner parties. Over time the story gets embellished with more details, and dramatic touches are added to the narration. The listeners are all ears; like pilgrims waiting expectantly for reaffirmation; for a celebration—of a shared belief system that can succinctly be summed up as, ‘Golf is great’.  Here then, is mine. For your reading pleasure, and as a long-winded way to emphasise a point I’m trying to make. So, here goes.

Winter, circa 2005, New Delhi.  On a murky frigid Sunday morning, the kind when most of the city’s denizens are perfectly happy to nurse a hot cuppa and stay in, a handful of inveterate golfers, your writer amongst them, ventured onto the first tee at the Qutab Golf Club. 

This was a time when it was still possible to land up at QGC without a booking and pay and play without having to wait for hours. I found myself paired with a senior gentleman who wasted no time in dashing down the tee after his drive. I mumbled a quick introduction and—ebbing in confidence from a disastrous last round—pre-emptively uttered an apology in case play was slowed down on my account. 

Much to everyone’s astonishment, that initial drive soared into the mist, impeccably straight, long, and precise. A pitching wedge approach, landing within two feet of the hole, marked the best shot I’d ever executed on that particular hole. A short putt sealed the deal, granting me a birdie and a surge of newfound confidence. In summary, that day stood out primarily because of the astonishing score I achieved, (which I’ll omit mentioning here lest it create controversy over my handicap). Suffice to say, it was one of those rare instances when every shot follows your intention. To cut a long story short, that day turned into the kind of round you dream about. I could do no wrong.

The gent I was paired with, was suitably impressed. We didn’t speak much during the round and when he handed me his business card at the end of the day, I put it away, and forgot all about it. Fast forward a few months, and I had embarked on a new journey within a significant media establishment, striving to find my footing in the corporate world. 

As I walked lightly across the executive floor, a voice boomed out from the office of the Executive Director, breaking the customary hushed tones in that milieu. As you may have guessed, the ED happened to be same gent I’d played with. He retrieved his putter, and we engaged in a brief conversation about Ben Crenshaw’s putting technique. He wished me well and suggested that we should converse more often. 

Over the subsequent year, we never played golf again, and apart from a couple of meetings, our professional paths scarcely intersected. Although no special favours were granted, our friendship made a significant difference to how I was perceived by all and sundry. Upon reflection, it’s clear to me that golf creates unique connections, unrelated to corporate hierarchies. These relationships, forged in the crucible of shared golfing experiences, offer authentic connections that can’t be replicated elsewhere.

“I’ve been playing golf for the last decade. Let me put it this way—you don’t become friendly with anyone you happen to play with, But golf helps you evaluate who you want to be friends with!” says Tarun Seth, ex-MD, Hitachi Systems. An avid golfer, Seth is currently the Chairman & MD, Aton Capitals, and runs the CEO Club’s Delhi chapter. He adds that a round of golf can, “…give you an insight into a person’s strengths and weaknesses, and most importantly, his integrity.”

Seth and I played a round sometime back, and my performance, or lack thereof, was at the exact other end of the spectrum from the story I narrated. And we haven’t played since! There’s obviously something to be said about the quality of your game. And yet while a rank amateur can still find people to play with, a good player who insists on talking shop on the course has a hard time finding a game on the weekends. 

When people speak about wanting to learn the game so that they can network, they often misunderstand the game’s nature. Golf demands dedication and can become an obsession, often to the detriment of work and family. Authentic relationships are built on the golf course through shared passion, making it unwise to bring up work-related topics with someone you’ve just met on the greens. Doing so identifies you as an imposter and hinders your chances of success, both in golf and in the corporate world.

In the National Capital Region, golfing relationships are an extension of the norms that exist off course. People have closely guarded playing groups and the only time they venture outside their fourballs is during corporate events. The last quarter of the year is when the corporate golf action really picks up pace in the Capital. By extension it’s the best time to forge new golfing, and business relationships, and get your game in shape. In fact, I’ve heard people complain about too much golf and not enough time off on the weekends. Sounds like a parallel world to the one most of us inhabit. Time with the family is lovely, but a well-struck drive? That’s real joy.

Meraj Shah is a Delhi-based writer, golfer and television producer.

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