Most of us have played a round with someone who thought they were playing beneath their own ability. Some players can shrug it off, and stay positive, but it’s certainly a challenge to hit bad shot followed by more bad shots. It can be tempting to offer advice to the struggling golfer, especially if your playing partner is starting to blow their top. The reality is that everyone’s golf swing is more complicated than what’s happening on the surface, and a simple suggestion of “swing through the ball” or “hit it to right field” may be the last thing a struggling player needs to hear.
The offering of advice can be interpreted as arrogant, and come off as rude. Even if you are a far superior player, unless your words are delivered perfectly, they will typically fall on deaf ears. For the one playing poorly it feels like piling on. They know it went into the water, or into the woods, or didn’t get a good bounce. Any advice feels closer to “I told you so” rather than “you can do it”. Your advice might also get into their head in a bad way, and throw them off their game even more. In a worst case scenario, their frustrations with their own game might get re-directed towards you, for offering your two cents.
From my experience, offering a little consolation and encouragement is the best path to take. Giving unsolicited advice can push a player even farther from their own natural swing, and probably won’t help. Your personal swing thoughts, might not resonate or translate with what your friend is working with. A little encouragement is the most polite thing to do. Phrases like – “You can still make bogey from there” or “that’s solid contact, just need to adjust the aim” will go a lot further in helping along your playing partner.
The irony of my advice – of “not offering advice” is not lost on me and of course should be taken with a grain of salt. Playing a casual round with friends, feel free to say whatever you want. Your buddies will let you know that you’re no Tiger Woods either. However if you get paired up with a random two-some – and you’re playing with people you just met on the first tee – this is the polite thing to do. After all golf is the gentleman’s game and no one wants to unknowingly commit a faux pas, or break an un-written rule.
Save the swing advice for yourself, focus on your shots, and don’t let their bad round bring you down to their level too. It’s you against the course, and playing with someone who is struggling can be added layer of difficulty to an already difficult game. Just keep hitting your shots, and leave the commentary for Jim Nantz.