Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Are your comments gamesmanship or compliments?

Gamesmanship between competitors can occur intentionally or innocently during a round of golf. Among friends, it may be part of the game. If you're playing in a business golf round, however, it could be the cause of some hard feelings, which you want to avoid.

The Wall Street Journal recently had an article entitled, "The Art of Gamesmanship." The writer talks about why golf is conducive to gamesmanship. First, the ball is not moving and is less violent physically. Thus, players are more vulnerable psychologically. Second, the players are in close contact with one another on tees and greens.

The article summarizes four categories of gamesmanship. First, a player gives unwanted tips on a player's swing or stroke. Second, a player deliberately becomes an irritant, such as by talking about controversial topics or by walking slowly when playing with a fast player. Next, the player becomes a physical distraction, such as by standing too close or jangling coins. Finally, a player knowingly gives false information about the course or states "Wow, I really hit that putt" even though the ball is short of the hole.

So be aware of how your comments may be construed as gamesmanship by your business golf playing partners. After you've determined how well someone plays, you can safely say, "Nice shot!" or "Great putt!"


Mental Golf Blog said...

In my opinion intentional gamesmanship is cheating, full stop. To me it shows a lack of integrity and character and there will be others who feel the same way, so in a business environment could a golfer afford to take the risk of proving themselves to be dishonest?

Suzanne Woo said...

Hi Mental Golf Blogger,

Thanks for your comment. I agree with you. If an experienced player uses gamesmanship intentionally, he or she is cheating.

In a business environment, a golfer shouldn't uses intentional gamesmanship for several reasons.

First, during a business golf round, it shouldn't be about winning or losing, but building relationships.

Second, using gamesmanship to try to win shows poor sportsmanship. I believe if I beat another golfer, I should do it based on my ability to play that day. I want him to be playing as well that day as possible. It should be both of us playing at our best with no excuses.

Third, if a golfer has to resort to gamesmanship to win, it shows how petty he is. He'll win at any cost -- whether it's his integrity, his relationship, or his pride. I'd be very wary of doing business with a player who uses gamesmanship.

It reveals so much about someone's character who is willing to win at any cost. Relationships aren't important, as long as she is the victor. There is also no sense of being a team player and doing a deal together for the benefit of both parties.

I played in a tournament where my opponent used gamesmanship on several holes. Initially I was trying to determine if comments were innocent or to cause me to play poorly. Indeed it became apparent after several holes of similar comments that it was the latter. As I focused and became more determined, her bad intentions were the fuel to play my best.

Avoid the players who resorts to gamesmanship. Who you see on the course is who you'll get off the course.