Merging Golf and Business

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Michigan State University has taken a new approach to teaching business values and networking — and the growth of the class would make any CEO smile.

Using Golf in Business is a special-topics business class and the first of its kind in the Big Ten. LPGA teaching pro and MSU alum Jan Brintnall created and teaches the course.

Oct. 14th I had the pleasure of being one of dozens of business professionals to join more than 100 students for an outing at The Emerald Golf Course north of St. Johns, Mich. The outing was designed specifically so students could apply what they’ve learned in the classroom and for business pros to evaluate the students’ behavior, engagement, and networking skills.

Brintnall told me, “We seem to have found something that’s missing in business education, and it’s the inclusion of different venues where business has been conducted traditionally,” he says. “Usually it’s thought of taking place in a board room or in an office, or across the table at lunch.

“But this is a whole new venue to look at, with five uninterrupted hours on the course to build rapport and relationships that can’t happen in a traditional business setting. Golf has been used for centuries to deepen relationships, and it’s a special game that reveals character.”

Using Golf in Business was first developed as an optional instructional excursion for the MSU Department of Management’s Managing People and Operations In A Global Market Study Abroad Program in St. Andrews, Scotland, beginning in 2007. It has grown expansively in mid-Michigan to four classes per semester, and last year a summer course offering through MSU’s Troy extension was conducted at Fox Hills Golf Course in Plymouth Township.

Course content includes a USGA rules exam, golf history and course design, etiquette both on the golf course and in the business world, and group instruction. Participants also are required to plan a golf outing from start to finish, research a multinational corporation’s use of golf in business, and present their findings to the class.

A former teaching assistant shared that many former students have reported back to her that they mentioned the class on their resumes or in interviews. It’s apparently taken the interview to a whole new level.

Another former student and teaching assistant told me the class might at first seem like a blow off, but it’s so much more than golf education. He learned about how to conduct business in non-traditional settings, how to be an active listener, plus how to judge the right and wrong time to talk business. He’s confirmed that in some cases people could even end up being interviewed for a job on the golf course — whether they know it or not.

I had the pleasure of playing with three communications/journalism students — Kirsten Freisen, Brent Shuttleworth, and Megan Baughman. If not for being at the outing I wouldn’t necessarily have known they were “college kids” — and using the outing as a barometer, I’d say our future businesses are in good hands.

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