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Making Green on the Green: Study abroad class allows students to experience golf in Scotland


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Grand Blanc sophomore Brian Caine tees off near the coast at the Dunbar Golf Club course May 27 in Dunbar, Scotland. Caine was playing the course as part of the "Selling on the Green" study abroad class, which teaches students how to network on a golf course.

There is nothing but the sound of the sea. It comes and goes, waves breaking against the rocks and creating an awe-inspiring, almost spiritual, experience. Even the gulls and ravens that fly overhead and pick over the shore do so silently, allowing the ocean to speak its piece.

Among the fishermen, dog-walkers and sight-seers wandering along the shore, 10 Central Michigan University students work their way up and down the rolling hills of Dunbar Golf Club’s course.

Golfers have been playing in Dunbar, situated on the east coast of Scotland, for more than 400 years. The CMU students made the historic course their classroom for a day as part of the BIS 342 “Selling on the Green” study abroad course held in May.

Students stayed in Edinburgh for one week, where they played at Braid Hills, Dunbar, and watched a classmate participate in the Edinburgh Marathon Festival. While in Edinburgh, they had ample time to explore the city and experience various aspects of Scottish culture like haggis, the art of Scotch making and Edinburgh Castle.

"I knew it would be cool to get to experience another country," Grand Blanc sophomore Brian Caine said, "but the relationships that you build with your professors and other classmates is unlike anything else."

"Selling on the Green" is just one of more than 150 study abroad experiences offered at CMU, with options in nearly 50 different countries around the world. It's a faculty-led course, which means it's only two weeks long and a faculty member has created an agenda to guide the trip. Faculty-led programs can be a good option for students who are nervous about traveling abroad for the first time, although there are unguided full semester programs available for those who are looking for a more independent trip.

The course was split into two parts. After spending seven days in Edinburgh, students took a train to St. Andrews, where they would spend another week. Here, they had a chance to play the Old Course -- one of the most famous golf courses in the world, where the Open Championship has been held 29 times.

Getting on the green of the Old Course wasn’t easy. Indiana senior Bri Hart said that in order to get a tee time at the busy, booked course, she camped outside in the rain with five other students from midnight until it opened at 6 a.m.

“Camping out with the six of us is something I’ll never forget,” Hart said. “Being there later in the day, playing the Old Course and knowing how many famous people and celebrities had played there before me ... being a part of that history was really cool.”

Golf courses in Scotland are quite different from the fairways Americans might be used to. Taller grass, brutally deep sand bunkers and patches of the spiny, yellow-flowering gorse shrub all set them apart from their state-side counterparts. In addition, dog-walkers, horseback riders and other pedestrians are often seen strolling through the courses.

Macomb junior Mitchell Bazinski hits a drive May 25 at the Braid Hills Golf Course in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Although the students toured many beautiful Scottish courses, they weren’t only there to golf -- they were on a business trip. Led by marketing and hospitality faculty member Deborah Gray, students were taught how to plan company outings, talk to potential clients on the course and develop a sales pitch to present at the end of the game. 

“It’s a business communications course. We teach students how to use golf as a business networking tool,” Gray said. “We don’t teach students how to golf, we teach them how to use it to grow their business, further their career, and expand their network.”

At each golf course, two students were in charge of planning the outing. This meant they chose the rules for the game, made arrangements at the course and picked teams. While playing, students had to get to know their teammates and develop a sales pitch explaining their strengths to a potential employer.

Hart, who is studying finance, and Beal City senior Bill Chillman, an economics and accounting double major, said they used their experiences on courses in Scotland during their internships this summer. Chillman said he felt comfortable talking to a client on while playing golf because of what he learned from Gray.

"I said, 'Why don't we go to the course and play a round? After we can talk a little bit more,'" he said. "This individual was really responsive to that. Coming back from the trip and using those skills, that was really cool."

Students raise a glass while learning about the art of Scotch making May 28 in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Students on the trip said they came back from Scotland with something they didn’t expect --  lots of new friends. Macomb junior Mitchell Bazinski said his favorite part of the trip was getting to know his fellow classmates and faculty members on the trip.

“We didn’t really know what we were getting into when we signed up,” Bazinski said. “It was fun to be with a bunch of friends that turn into family after two weeks.”

Students looking to study abroad can get started as soon as next week. The Study Abroad Fair will offer information about available programs 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 17 in the Bovee University Center Rotunda.

"Selling on the Green" will be taking place again May 13-27, 2020. Interested students can contact Deborah Gray at deborah.gray@cmich.edu or fill out an application on the Office of Study Abroad website.

Even though the course is centered around golf and business, Mount Pleasant senior Alex Schafer said students who aren’t avid golfers can still participate and apply the skills they learn to many different disciplines.

“There’s so much more to it besides just golf,” Schafer said. “If people are worried about not being good at golf, I wouldn’t worry about that. You don’t have to be good at golf to take this course (and the skills you learn) extend well beyond the course.”

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