Updated: Apr 8, 2021
I woke up early yesterday morning for a 7:11AM tee time to play 18 holes at my home course in the Roxborough neighborhood of Philadelphia. I was a single golfer added to a group of 3 men to make it a “foursome”. One man was a middle-aged English teacher, another a retired Army veteran and finally an elderly educator who was the Dean of the International studies program at Penn. On the 16th hole I teed up and hit a picturesque 142 yard drive to the green. I was freaking elated! Before that, the Army vet and English teacher had also hit shots just outside the green. Next, the International studies Dean teed up with either a 3 or 4 wood and took a swing. I could tell he was dissatisfied with the first shot he took, so I offered him some friendly advice that was given to me when hitting with that kind of club as he teed up for a second shot off the tee. I said, “Hey, dig your tee into the ground a little more.”, to which he replied “Ah advice from the new expert.” I felt as embarrassed as he probably did receiving unsolicited advice from a golfer he’d just met earlier that morning.
I had broken an unwritten rule in golf which is to not offer advice to other players during practice or play. I had mistaken the Dean’s kindness throughout the round and his being a brand new golfer, as an invitation for me to give him advice. Being helpful is in my nature. The game of golf has the unique ability to assassinate one’s ego all on its own, and being moved to assist another player may not be welcome. I reflected on how I felt when people (usually men that had been playing a long time) offered the same type of advice to me and wishing they’d mind their own business. Each one offering their own unique tips to help me improve, each one more confusing than the next. Some of them were helpful, although I don’t apply any of those tips to my game today.
The moral of the story, don’t give advice unless asked, and even then, it’s better to qualify any advice with “This technique helped me... but in the end, play the way that is most natural for you.”
If you find yourself itching to be helpful to another golfer, this is an excellent opportunity, perhaps at the 19th hole over a beer or glass of wine to refer the person to a golf professional you’ve received lessons from. Never forget what it’s like to be a beginner and keep swinging to achieve your personal goals on the links.