Real estate golfers sealing deals on the green

It’s axiomatic that the subtext of golf is business. The game is a social lubricant that seals deals — including New York City real estate deals.

With real estate golfers getting closer to the time of year when they pack away their putters, here is what they had to say about how business etiquette on the course has evolved.

“I conduct a lot of business on the course and woo clients all summer long,” said Pam Liebman, CEO of the Corcoran Group, who boasts a 14 handicap. “Golf is really 19 holes. It helps you get beyond the superficial and see if you bond and build trust. The way someone behaves on the course is a good barometer of how they act all the time.”

Abraham Hidary, president of Hidrock Realty, said, “It’s really a time to get to know people and see them in a different light. With everyone text messaging and e-mailing and getting down to business quickly, golf provides a way to build relationships the old-fashioned way,” he said.

Not content to excel at doing real estate deals, there are some industry honchos who lead the pack when it comes to golf, too.

Among the top golfers in the city’s real estate industry, the names that come up often are Tod Waterman, formerly of Reckson Associates Realty Corp., who founded commercial real estate investment and operating company Waterman Interests earlier this year; Steve Witkoff, building owner and developer; and Anthony Westreich, president of building owner Monday Properties.

“There are a lot of excellent golfers in the industry, plenty of ones and twos [handicaps],” said Michael Fascitelli, president of Vornado Realty Trust, himself a seven handicap.

Birdies of a feather, of course, flock together.

“The good golfers in the industry tend to gravitate toward each other,” said William Adamski at NY Credit Advisors.

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There are many high-powered rounds played by pro-class golfers at neatly manicured private clubs, like Old Oaks in Westchester, where a lot of real estate professionals play, said Robert Ivanhoe, a lawyer at Greenberg Traurig.

But there are also more laid-back events where prowess on the course isn’t particularly prized, including REBNY’s annual networking events — the fall outing will be held Sept. 10 at the Metropolis Country Club in White Plains — or a charity function like the one sponsored by Liebman to fight leukemia, held July 30 at the famed Winged Foot Golf Club in Westchester.

Then there are the gatherings hosted by Hidary and his cohorts at public courses in Brooklyn and New Jersey.

“It’s never been a problem because most people aren’t that good, so we just try to have fun and not take it too seriously,” he said. Hidary said he doesn’t really have a handicap, but he shoots around 100.

Some other people don’t play well — on purpose. “In some circumstances, depending on the situation, it can be impolite to go all out, so you have to use discretion,” said Liebman. Still, it’s good to be good when playing with the testosterone set.

“I never hold back,” said Adamski, who said he is a four to six handicap. “When people think you’re a good golfer, they expect you to play well.”

Ivanhoe agrees. “People expect you to be ‘on’ all the time, like you can’t have a bad day, so when you shoot an 85, it’s a little embarrassing,” he said.

He discovered early that success on the course can translate into success in the board room, smoothing the way to a higher standing in the pecking order.

“I was a second-year associate, and my boss was George Ross, a stern man who worked for [Donald] Trump and was a judge on ‘The Apprentice,'” Ivanhoe said. “He invited three clients to a round, and one couldn’t make it, so I got a call late Sunday night: ‘Get your clubs and meet me at the Quaker Ridge club [in Westchester] at 10 tomorrow.’ Click. Well, I had one for the ages. Shot a 72, won everything — longest drive, closest to par — and from that day on, he treated me totally differently and gave me a lot of respect.”