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Robert Trigaux

Golf and CEOs: Are links between the two waning?



Golfball Wake up and good morning.Tuesday morning pop quiz! Name the activity CEOs are most likely to publicly engage in amid this recession:

1. Fly on the corporate jet to testify before Congress.

2. Play a round of golf with some business clients.

3. Send the corporate grounds maintenance employees over to the home and spruce up the landscaping.

The answer, of course is No. 2 (though with some CEOs you never know what they'll choose). But CEOs playing golf, once a basic slice of upper management's lifestyle, is increasingly becoming an endangered pastime as more chief executives have been shamed into playing less golf, or at least humiliated enough by their tanking public image to play their rounds on the sly.

So says a USA Today story examining the treasured CEO perk of playing golf in a time of extraordinary public scrutiny. The story quotes Steve Bennett, who retired as CEO of Intuit in December 2007 after being ranked by Golf Digest magazine as the ninth-best golfer among large-company CEOs in 2006:

"CEOs are golfing less … and those that are still golfing are probably talking about it less."

A 2006 USA Today analysis of 115 golfing CEOs of large companies found 25 belonging to three or more country clubs at the same time. But an unscientific survey for the newspaper of 163 CEO golfers by the CEO organization Vistage International this month found that 29 percent had reduced their rounds and another 11 percent have stopped playing altogether.

In Miami, the new contract for the CEO of the Beacon Council, the area's principal economic development group, excludes a traditional golf course membership, says the Miami Herald.

More businesses also shun golf sponsorships these days. But one CNBC sports business reporter suggests a smart CEO would show up at a recent U.S. Open hospitality tent, for example, invite the media and explain the marketing benefits of sports marketing at major golf tournaments.

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist

[Last modified: Tuesday, June 1, 2010 11:25am]


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