I don’t need to ask if this has ever happened to you, because I have a feeling that 99% of all female golfers have had the experience of being golfsplained.
Golfsplaining occurs when one golfer who may be (or just thinks they are) a great player offers unsolicited advice to another player, assuming they need help without being asked. While the intentions behind golfsplaining may be well-meaning, it can be frustrating and demoralizing for the recipient.
Many golfers have shared stories of being on the receiving end of unsolicited advice, maybe from other golfers who assume they lack knowledge or skill.
It’s happened to me dozens of times over the years, and one incident that stands out most in my memory is when I was fairly new to golf and played in a ladies’ day round at my home course. I was struggling with my bunker shots that day and since it was a four-person team format, we were all rooting for and supporting each other. After I made two unsuccessful attempts to hit my ball out of a bunker, one of the ladies on our team walked over and started telling me how to hit a proper bunker shot.
“Put your weight on your left foot, bend your knees more, swing harder…” At this point I couldn’t make sense of the advice because I was already so frustrated — and embarrassed.
It’s hard to imagine that this player didn’t realize it wasn’t appropriate to insert herself into my struggle. She appeared to have no idea that her suggestions on how to hit my shot were not what I needed at that moment.
At that point, for pace-of-play, I had to pick up my ball and let my partners play on, which knocked my confidence down even further. I never told her to stop “helping," but my body language may have tipped her off that I didn’t appreciate her unsolicited advice.
Over the years I’ve heard countless ladies complain about the golfsplaining they receive and how it makes them not want to play with new people. Complete strangers walk up to ladies on the driving range and tell them what they’re “doing wrong." Men see women take their stance for their first tee shot of the round and actually stop them before hitting a drive to tell them they’re “lined up wrong." So many well-intentioned people pipe up with suggestions for our swing, club selection, even whether or not to go for the green instead of lay up.
Of course every golfer's journey is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. Unsolicited and conflicting advice can often become counterproductive, and quite confusing. If you find yourself on the receiving end of unsolicited advice, here are my best tips to prevent golfsplaining:
- Know that just because this person attempts to offer swing advice, don’t take that as any indication that your swing isn’t good enough. Brush it off as their problem, not yours
- Wear earbuds when you practice on the range. This is a great non-verbal way to indicate that you're not interested in anyone's advice
- Don’t ask other players about their swing during a round. Doing so may open up a door that you won’t be able to close for 17 more holes
- If you’re in the middle of a round, resist the urge to take advice, even from a good player. Most of the people we play with are not professional coaches
- Cultivate a network of like-minded golfers who respect each other’s abilities and personal journeys. Play with people who understand how to support you without telling you what to do.
- Lead by Example: We can all play an active role in creating a more inclusive and supportive golfing community by offering encouragement, praise and constructive feedback when asked.
- Try telling the person who’s inserting themselves in your swing, “Thank you for trying to help me, but I’m actually working on my swing at the moment, and hearing new tips is confusing to me.”
By setting boundaries and seeking supportive playing partners we can navigate unsolicited advice and promote a more inclusive and respectful environment out on the course.