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The Right End of the (Business) Stick

How networking on the golf course can help you seal deals, connect with compatible industry peers and climb the corporate ladder.

The old adage that the golf course is a gentleman’s domain is slowly but surely changing. More and more women are taking up golf to get fit, have fun and connect with others in a relatively relaxed business environment. We asked two prominent women from the golf industry to share their insights about golf networking for mutual business benefits and how to seize an opportunity to broker big deals. Who knows? Maybe you will meet precisely who you need to achieve your business goals on the green, in the clubhouse carpark or even sipping drinks at the 19th.

According to a 2016 study with Sports and Leisure Research Group (SLRG) entitled “A New Context for Business Golf,” female executives agree that golf builds confidence and is an important part of business. Nearly 80 percent of women believe that playing golf in a business environment is a great networking tool for relationships with peers, clients and potential clients, and suppliers or vendors. Over half of businesswomen who golf say that golf has helped make them more disciplined, comfortable taking risks and assertive. Nearly 60 percent of women golfers felt that playing golf has contributed to their professional success and made them feel more included.


Company Director 

 The Australian Women’s Golf Network was founded on the belief that golf would provide unique networking opportunities for women in the construction industry. As a new golfer, I was excited to play regularly although rarely found women on the golf course. I suggested to my business partner that I was keen to organise an International Women's Day event, a golf day specifically for women in the construction sector. He agreed it was a great idea and with the support of our parent company Bison United, invitations were sent and in less than 24 hours the event had sold out, and we were scheduling a second event!

 My coach suggested connecting with Lisa Jean - an incredible golfer and well-known coach who has played internationally and represented Australia. Our partnership has been fantastic both on and off the golf course. Pro golfer Lisa Jean facilitates the events, while I introduce our members, encouraging them to network and build lasting relationships. I feel these connections can’t be made just over coffee or in a traditional boardroom environment.

The women who attend our events participate as much for the networking opportunities as the golf. The majority of participants are beginners and it’s wonderful to see them all enjoying such a fun day together. 

The feedback has been excellent, both for new business opportunities and personally for mental health and wellness. It’s really just a great opportunity to connect on a deeper level with professional women in a beautiful environment! We are thrilled with the response and have monthly events scheduled at some of Australia’s most stunning golf courses, Our next event is at Peninsula Kingswood in mid-August. Industry support has been phenomenal from sponsors to coaches and clubs who are approaching us regularly.

We are excited about the future and where the next 12 months will take us. With over 350 female members in less than 6 months, the uptake is encouraging. It’s a very good time for women equally in business and golf.

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Bonnie Boezeman

Director Australian Golf Foundation   

Bonnie is the original boss lady on the course when it comes to doing deals on the green.  

With over 40 years’ experience as a corporate CEO, board member and most importantly the director of the Australian Golf Foundation.

Bonnie when in your corporate career did you stay to play golf and why?

I did not pick up golf until I was 39 years old. To be honest, I always thought golf was for fat lazy men with a beer belly. Talk about stereotyping! I was the Managing Director of Time Life South Pacific, a subsidiary of Time Warner, and I was always marvelling when the suppliers, and agencies I worked with, would go and play golf mid-week. My colleagues always talked about it being such an easy way to do deals. As a rare female MD of a company in the early eighties, I wanted to somehow find a way to get the same competitive advantage.

How did you lock in that first tee time with a potential business deal?

I was really keen to get a meeting with the CEO of Paramount Studios, to discuss the Star Trek franchise. I just couldn’t get a meeting with the CEO until I found out he was a golfer. So our mutual travel agent organised a Friday afternoon of golf. When we got to the first tee, I suggested the four of us play skins and have a little bet. I never brought up business until we got to the 8th hole, by which stage I had won a few skins holes and was playing quite well. In those days the starter handicap for women was 36, and I had dropped to 16 after about 4 years. It was a very interesting discussion in such a relaxed way; sunny day, beautiful course, getting exercise and a fun competition. After I gently made my pitch over about 4 holes, and followed it up afterwards with a drink, I was invited to come and discuss a potential deal the following Monday morning. A great rights deal was cemented and I realised what I was missing all my business life!

What is your go to flow for the day when balancing business and golf? I’m sure nobody wants to hear a NO off the 1st tee.

If I have a really busy week, I try to put my name down early in the women’s competition and afterwards, go to work. If it is business related, I try for Friday afternoons which does not interfere with Wednesday or Saturday men’s competition day. 

Top 3  tips on closing the deal?

Firstly, be very prepared before you play with the outcome you hope to achieve. Secondly, do not play golf as if you are the weaker sex and trying to let them win so they feel superior. Use your handicap (that is what a handicap is for) and play seriously. And thirdly, if you want a deal, chat about a compelling offer in a relaxed manner and make sure it is a win win situation for both parties.

Can you share with us a few learnings you have had along the way?

My biggest learning from picking up golf, is that it is a “game for life” and very transformative, especially if you have a love a sport. You can play with anyone at any level with a handicap. Fathers can bond with their daughters, mothers with their sons, develop close friendships with men and women from  different clubs, go on overseas or interstate golfing trips with family and friends and see the world but with the express purpose of playing different and beautiful scenic golf courses. Some of my best vacations have been golf vacations.

For instance, my golf club is Killara Golf Club in Sydney. As a non-executive board director for many years, I had a busy schedule. About 50 Killara ladies annually have a ‘girls on tour’ and they travel all over Australia to play golf for 3 days. I always declined due to work. Finally 6 years ago, I made sure I did not have any scheduled meetings on those three days. I have not missed one of those trips in the past 6 years. We have such a laugh, play not so serious competitions, but more importantly I have forged friendships with so many ladies which have been priceless.

The Australian Golf Foundation is the national foundation for Golf in Australia.

They support Golf Australia’s vision to grow golf by investing in targeted initiatives to inspire all
Australians to enjoy and play the game of golf.
Their purpose is to provide support for programs, activities and events, that encourage participation and promote golf as 'a game for life’.