- The Washington Times - Friday, October 20, 2006

Some business students might have to squeeze in tee time between studying for traditional subjects like economics and law.

A growing number of universities are offering golf courses designed to teach business students how to play the game while networking and learning about clients.

“In business, when you’re trying to do deals or get clients, you’re not only trying to sell your product, but you’re trying to sell yourself,” said Jeff Maynor, who teaches a golf class at the University of Maryland. “On the golf course, you let your guard down. You can see whether they’re aggressive or conservative in their shot, if they get frustrated easily or laugh off mistakes.”

Mr. Maynor, the Professional Golfers’ Association of America director of golf, teaches the three-credit elective “Golf for Business and Life” at Maryland, one of 59 colleges and universities that offer the course.

The PGA program, founded in 1999, has grown from being offered at just 15 schools in 2000.

At schools where it is offered, it’s in high demand. At Maryland, 24 students are in the course this semester — 16 are business students and eight are in other majors, such as kinesiology — and 31 were on the waiting list.

The University of Texas at Austin has about 15 sections of the course with up to 50 students per section, said Bob Childress, campus relations and special projects coordinator at the university.

Each school’s course syllabus is different. At Maryland, students spend half the semester learning the game and the second half learning golf etiquette, such as Mr. Maynor’s recommendation against bringing up business before the fifth hole or after the 15th.

Golfers’ behavior on the course is a direct reflection of their personality, Mr. Maynor said.

“If you’re making excuses [on the course], what you’re telling them is you’re going to make excuses [in business],” he said. “You don’t realize you’re doing it, but you show what your personality is like.”

Golfers also learn to pick up on cues such as dress and style of clubs to understand how to deal with their golf partners in business.

“Whether you are conservative in dress and clubs, or you’re [Washington Redskins owners] Dan Snyder, who would have the most expensive [gear], they’re not going to approach you the same way,” Mr. Maynor said.

At the Krannert School of Management at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., the class is part of a noncredit series of leadership, ethics and nonclassroom lessons for master’s of business administration students.

“What I often hear from students when they’re here is that they signed up and wanted to hit a bucket of balls every morning, but found out there was really a lot more to it than that,” said Jerry Lynch, professor of economics and director of the master’s program.

There, students learn golf etiquette as well as the basics of the game.

“Let’s face it, it’s embarrassing to take a client out for golf and shoot triple bogies,” he said.

Golf is offered as a noncredit course or undergraduate elective at many business schools, such as the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. Many graduate level business schools have golf clubs and participate in MBA golf tournaments.

But it’s not required of business students.

That’s not the case in China, where Xiamen University, in the southeastern Chinese city of the same name, plans to require its law, business and computer software students to complete a golf class, the official Xinhua news agency said this week.

“The aim is to help the students find good jobs,” said a sports professor at the school, Chen Xiao. “Many Chinese business deals are clinched on golf courses.”

While golf is already a staple in corporate culture in the United States, Japan and Korea,it’s just starting to grow in China.

“More and more Chinese are playing and often now, when I travel [to China], contacts of mine will often invite me on the weekend to play golf with them,” said Chris Runckel, president of Runckel & Associates, an international business consulting group in Portland, Ore.

“A lot of young Chinese students have told me that they’re privately taking golf lessons because they see it as something that they, as they move up, will need to gain familiarity in.”

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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