Feel like telling someone what’s wrong with their golf swing? Forget about it.
Giving swing tips to another golfer is a tricky thing. While I’ve seen other players proffer advice during a round, I’ve always stayed well clear of doing so myself, largely because however well dressed I am, I’m not a professional and have no idea what I’m talking about.
These two things would also apply to the majority of other golfers and I’m often surprised more golfers don’t refrain from the practice.
There is a tendency to assume that the swing fault you cured two years ago by tucking in your right elbow, taking a shorter backswing, rotating the hands a little more and finishing with your shiny, white belt buckle facing the target, will also cure your partner’s nasty duck hook that has been persistent since the second hole. As tempting as it may be to apply this simple, mid-round tonic and turn his game into something nearing a scratch golfer’s, perish the thought as you may just find yourself playing on your own next week.
We’ve all been given on-course advice by a range of golfers and seemingly no matter how well intended or sound the advice was, it somehow still feels a annoying. “How dare this person imply that my sliced 6-iron out-of-bounds could possibly be due to problems with my swing?!”.
I’ve come to the conclusion that most golfers don’t really want to know what is wrong with their swing anyway. Half the fun is trying to work it out for ourselves is the utter disbelief when one shot goes straight followed by a shank. It appeals deep down to the golfing sadist in all of us.
The only real advice or comment that anyone should think about uttering is: “You need a lesson”.
But this is the golfing equivalent of answering truthfully when someone asks “Do I look fat in this?” Or perhaps telling a mate they’ve had enough to drink. You risk being ostracised from your family, thrown out of the pub, or in this case, finding yourself knee deep in the nearest water hazard.
The truth is though, every golfer, barring Bubba Watson perhaps, needs a golf lesson. Even the very best, playing at their very best get golf lessons. A small tweak here, a slight grip change there and a 25 handicap can shrink to a 21 in months. And although the progress more subtle for lower handicappers, most single figure handicappers will be all too aware of the improvements that can be made by having a lesson.
Yet despite these truths, even merely entertaining the thought that your playing partner, or someone on the next fairway should go seek some professional golf advice, and you’re seen to be a Larry Know-it-all.
There is an element of pride here too. Many golfers still believe getting a lesson is a sign of weakness or giving in. It also serves as a reminder of all the months or perhaps years of golfing hardship, where we failed to do something as simple as dialling the pro shop to book in the lesson.
Maybe it’s also the work involved after the lesson. There is no point forking out for a lesson if we’re not going to hit hundreds of balls to make the changes concrete. And who has time to do that these days? We’ve all got work to do and statuses to update.
So I’ve only ever uttered the phrase a few times. Each time, only to good friends, secure in the knowledge that if it wasn’t taken so well, I’d hopefully still get a lift home before parting ways and unfriending each other on Facebook. But so far it’s gone down quite well and we’re all still good friends. Just as long as they don’t even think about giving me any advice of course.
This article originally appeared in Inside Golf where Michael Green writes a monthly column.