Tools of the Trade: Plumbers have wrenches, Artists have paintbrushes, CPAs have titanium putters

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Tax season is over and the golf course and warm weather are calling your name. But in this economy, can you really afford to take time off work? Business advisors have said that clients are out there, you will just have to work harder to get them. Doesn't that mean you should be beating the bushes instead of playing golf? Whatever you do, don't let Debbie Waitkus hear you say that.

Business-golf coach, founder of Golf for Cause LLC, and author of Turn Golf into Gold, Waitkus knows that few places have the network opportunities or the power to cement business relationships that the golf course has. And, she adds, this is especially true for women. "Networking through golf has steadily gained in popularity for several years, " says Waitkus, "but now is exploding as more and more women discover the value of a great day on the greens."

For men and women, golf is a superior business tool. For women working in a male-dominated field, it can also be something of an equalizer. Golf establishes a common ground between the CPA and clients, prospects, and referral sources such as financial planners, attorneys, and bankers. It gives them a chance to enjoy the fresh air and to talk without phones or computers – high touch vs. high tech, as Waitkus likes to say.

Some advisors suggest that enrolling in golf classes is another way to network as you meet other people wanting to sharpen their skills. But don't let your lack of skill stop you from going to the golf course, says Waitkus. "Many veteran networkers say an outing with newbies is the most fun of all." And, she adds, most of the people you meet on the golf course are likely to be hackers rather than top-notch golfers.

The truth is, when someone is considering whether or not to do business with you, your skill as a golfer is less important than the character you display on the course, as well as before and after the game. An honest golfer who pays attention and exhibits a good temperament may translate to a professional adviser with sound judgment and a solid work ethic.

So... while a good golf score may make you smile, in business, what matters more is how you conduct yourself on the course.

To get off to a good start, here are some basic golf etiquettes tips from the Golf for Cause Web site:

Got the Time? Arrive for your tee time at least 30 to 45 minutes early to allow for paying your greens fees in the pro shop, meeting your playing partners, warming up on the driving range, getting the lay of the land, and making it to the first tee by the appointed time.

Can We Talk? Sure you can talk. Talk while you are walking back to the golf cart. Or, as you walk to where your ball lies. Or when you are getting a drink of water. Talk about anything - kids, pets, even golf. Golf provides a perfect opportunity for getting to know someone. But avoid talking (and making noise of any kind, for that matter) when another player is addressing and hitting the ball. Definitely don't talk on your cell phone.

The Eyes Have It. You will endear yourself to your playing partner by standing behind him or her (and off to one side) in order to watch the flight of the ball, especially on the teeing ground. This shows you are attentive and interested in that person's game.

Keep the Pace. Always be ready to hit when it's your turn and keep pace with the group in front of you. A round of 18 holes should take just over 4 hours. No worries. If you experience a little anxiety before your first trip to a golf course or driving range, welcome to the club. But don't worry. You're there to enjoy yourself, so relax and have fun. Everyone else is!

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