Is it ever ok to give your playing partners unsolicited golf swing advice?

golfer giving a thumbs down

Is this golfer giving a thumbs down to unsolicited swing advice, or is it actually a silent cry for help?

Giving your playing partners unsolicited golf swing advice is generally considered a no-no in the game, but should it be? Enter GOLF’s resident low-handicaps, who are here to offer some helpful advice, golfer-to-golfer.

1. Answer #1: No!

Dylan Dethier (+3.3 handicap): The short answer is NO — but with the caveat that “unsolicited” can have a lot of grey area. Sometimes screaming to the heavens is essentially the same thing as asking for swing advice. Asking for help is tricky, and giving help is tricky. So before you offer any advice, ask yourself these three things:

1. Are you sure?

2. Is it simple?

3. Will it help right now?

Sometimes less is more.

2. Answer #1: Yes!

Luke Kerr-Dineen (2.2 handicap): Yes, it’s totally ok, but like everything in life, it depends on the tone and the timing of the delivery. Don’t go barreling in there on the first tee, vomiting a bunch of stuff in your playing partner’s direction. Don’t start getting all in their personal space, trying to put them into certain positions. And if your partners are playing well, leave them alone. They won’t want or need your advice.

But if you see them struggling, you don’t need them to ask you for advice. You just need to be mindful of how they want it delivered. Waiting until after the round is over is a safe bet.

Example: “Hey, Tim, I noticed that your trail-hand grip was looking a little too strong, which I think might be causing that huge hook”

Or after they hit a good shot during a round where they’re struggling.

Example: “Nice shot, Tim! Your trail hand grip didn’t look as strong as on that one!”

You can also just offer up something that worked for you in the past as some back-door advice.

Example: “Thanks for the compliment on my drive, Tim. I tried weakening my trail hand grip and found it really helped me not hit huge hooks”

Tone and timing; as long as you’re conscientious of those two things, your buddies will love you for it.

3. Answer #3: It Depends

Josh Sens (2.5 handicap): It all depends on context. If you’re playing with a friend or family member, especially one who is just starting out in the game, absolutely it’s ok. Just don’t be imperious or condescending about it.

With more distant acquaintances or strangers, we’re talking fraught territory. Not worth the social risk, especially when, as in my case, I can’t pretend to be much of an instructor to begin with. As a baseline rule: if you don’t have them in your cell phone contact list, you probably have no business appointing yourself as their Butch Harmon.

4. Answer #4: Yes!

Ashley Mayo (3.1 handicap): Of course it’s OK! It just depends on a number of factors. As with everything in life, it’ll be important to read the situation before you divulge your swing theories.

How well do you know your playing partner? The better you know him or her, the more OK it is to offer unsolicited swing advice. How frustrated is your partner?

If levels of frustration are high, that’s your cue to back away. How glaringly obvious is the issue you’d like to fix? If you feel certain that a simple tip would help, go for it. But if you simply feel like throwing out a possible solution that’s complicated and could make matters worse, you’d be wise to keep that solution to yourself.

5. Answer #5: Sometimes

Joe Summa (4.9 handicap): I think this narrows down to how well do you know the unsolicited student? I have never been the one to toss around advice, especially when your playing partner is having an off day and emotions are setting in. However, a few small, simple, soft-spoken tips might be beneficial if you notice an obvious or standout mistake that player might be encountering. A general rule of thumb I have used, and appears to be working is only giving advice when asked. Taking away any potential hard feelings unsolicited advice might trigger.

Luke Kerr-Dineen

Golf.com Contributor

Luke Kerr-Dineen is the Director of Game Improvement Content at GOLF Magazine and GOLF.com. In his role he oversees all the brand’s service journalism spanning instruction, equipment, health and fitness, across all of GOLF’s multimedia platforms.

An alumni of the International Junior Golf Academy and the University of South Carolina–Beaufort golf team, where he helped them to No. 1 in the national NAIA rankings, Luke moved to New York in 2012 to pursue his Masters degree in Journalism from Columbia University and in 2017 was named News Media Alliance’s “Rising Star.” His work has also appeared in USA Today, Golf Digest, Newsweek and The Daily Beast.