Knowing when to refrain
If you’re like me, you’ve probably played in a Pro-Am or two in your lifetime. One of the more delicate issues that comes up is whether to help our amateur partners with their golf games.
Of course, this can be dangerous territory. Our amateur partner hacks a few shots, and the inevitable “What am I doing wrong?” is uttered. We try to help, but often our “help” makes things worse. The amateur finishes the 18 holes much more frustrated than when he started, and he probably wonders why he even played in the event in the first place.
Occasionally our advice proves golden, making our amateur teammate into a veritable Tiger Woods with his net birdies and eagles. It’s times like these that remind us of why we became teachers in the first place: to help improve the games of our students.
When to give advice or when to hold back can be a difficult dilemma for those not used to playing in Pro-Ams. Heck, it can even be difficult for those more experienced in such matters.
I’ve found the best way to handle a Pro-Am is to tell my amateur partners up front, “If you want help with your game, just ask. Otherwise, I won’t say anything.” Right away you are putting the amateurs at ease, because they were probably wondering if it was okay to ask for your help. Some pros are glad to offer, some aren’t. If you aren’t comfortable helping your amateur partners, simply say, “I’ve found it counterproductive to try to help people on the golf course. If you want, I’ll be glad to help after the round.”
The advice that tends to work quickly on the golf course is when you see a simple, direct correlation from what the student is doing to the ball flight. For example, suppose your amateur partner has a decent swing, but he is slicing because his top-hand grip is terribly weak. It shouldn’t be too difficult to give a quick grip lesson, explaining why this should reduce the severity of the slice, if not correct it outright.
Advice that tends not to work would be if the student seems to have a complicated problem. In this example, let’s say our student is hitting pull slices. You notice his foot stance is closed, his shoulder alignment is open and his ball position is too far forward. He takes the club back inside too far, reverse-pivots, then comes over-the-top. As you can see, this is a problem that one quick fix won’t solve.
In a case like this, if my amateur asks me, “What am I doing wrong?”, I state that I don’t have any simple fixes for what he’s doing, and that it would take some time to show him some things which would help. Even so, I would offer an explanation as to what he’s doing and what would help, but I would emphasize that now is not the time to try to change anything. When I make it this clear, usually I have no problems with such a person.
Apart from the Pro-Am scenario, there are times when we may wonder if we should offer advice to others. We might be working on our own games on the range when the person next to us is getting extremely frustrated. We might be playing a casual round of golf with someone, and when they find out we’re a teaching pro, the questions start to fly.
As much as I might desire to help that person next to me on the range, I always refrain. From a selfish standpoint, I’m there to work on my game and enjoy myself, and at the moment I’m off-duty. From a more practical standpoint, free advice is rarely, if ever, appreciated. Of the times I’ve volunteered to help my friends with their games, I’ve had some of them tell me a few months later how they took this great lesson from the local pro. When I asked what he showed them, they would inevitably reply with the same exact instruction I gave them!
So, I figure if a friend isn’t likely to appreciate free advice, a stranger certainly won’t.
On the golf course, when I’m paired with a stranger and he asks what I do for a living, I don’t lie. This might bring the standard, “Good. You can help me with my game.” I may or may not say anything, but if later he asks, “What did I do there?”, I say, “I’m sorry, I haven’t been watching you swing.” This almost always prevents any future questions, as it’s a clear sign I’m concentrating on my own game.
There’s many ways besides what I presented to handle these situations, and you have to pick the way that is comfortable to you.