I’ve been coaching golf for coming up to 15 years now. I love it. I have coached all ages and abilities, from all walks of life, and I find it truly rewarding. What I have found though is my experiences of coaching women in golf have shaped and developed me as a coach far more than coaching any other demographic.
Of course being a female coach it offers me a unique insight in to how many women think and feel when playing golf and I regularly see how male coaches have disregarded their quest for improvement. I’ve lost count of the amount of women that have come to see me after having a lesson with a male pro and the best advice they’ve picked up is, ‘Just hit it harder Brenda!’
I’ve witnessed how they dismiss themselves on the course by not wanting to take up too much time by ‘faffing’ with practice swings, worry about appearing too serious and generally being far more concerned with their playing partners’ enjoyment or the golfers playing behind them.
Furthermore I haven’t met many women who play a leisurely round of golf. A game of golf is something to be fitted in and the real achievement is seen as getting around unscathed, having not held anyone else up.
Now you may think, well it’s not just women who feel like that and that may well be true but, as a coach who has taught both men and women for countless hours over the years, I have yet to teach a man who has expressed any concern for holding up another golfer.
So why are a lot of these behaviours unique to women? From a young age women are conditioned to be nice, cross their legs, take up less space, be accommodating, amenable and smile. We are meant to find joy in self-sacrificing and hosting for others.
Now me personally I definitely dodged the conditioning of finding joy in hosting, just ask my husband! But the others I absolutely have felt the pressure of. The fear women feel about being judged, not being good enough and the guilt they experience from prioritising themselves over their family are one of the main reasons the This Girl Can campaign was founded in 2015.
These feelings and experiences are of course not conducive when it comes to playing golf to the best of your ability and it takes time and coaching to change these beliefs and behaviours.
So here is my guide for the women out there that this may have resonated with:
Take up space
You’ve paid your fees, you have the right to be there using up every last one of those 40 seconds we are so generously allocated. Use them! Have a practice swing, line up, enjoy and savour the time to prepare for your shot.
Make it a big finish
Throw that club over your shoulder like your life depended on it. There is nothing to be gained from a shy and pokey finish. Finishing the swing properly will gain you distance, confidence and it makes for a much better photo on golf days!
Do NOT rush
If you are following the general, unwritten rules for speed of play, do not rush or play any shot quickly to simply get out of someone else’s way. It’s extremely counter-productive. Your time and enjoyment is just as valuable as anyone else’s. Be especially aware of this when putting.
How to handle ‘helpful’ advice
Nothing will attract more golfing Samaritans than a few mishit shots by a female golfer. Trust me when I say men do not offer other men advice so freely. Should we feel grateful and appreciative? No!
Because 99% of the time they are chatting utter rubbish. To put this into perspective my dad, who plays off a fairly respectable 12, who has never had a golf lesson in his life because ‘he’s watched a YouTube video and is onto something’ still tells me to keep my eye on the ball!
Now I’ve tried a few different tactics to deal with men giving me advice over the years but nothing works as well as the following: thank them, agree with them, tell them how insightful it was and game-changing, OK maybe not the last two, they will detect sarcasm.
But trust me this works. So to summarise; thank them, agree and then completely disregard. Swing critiques and advice during a round is very rarely beneficial.
Find a coach who listens
There are lots of wonderful coaches out there, male and female who love what they do. Beware of the coaches who are bitter, failed players who resent being only a golf club pro. You know the type. The types who always have a story about how they could have been somebody if it wasn’t for …
Also be wary of any pro who spends more time in the lesson hitting shots than you do. I once worked with a pro who, when he had a competition coming up, would deliberately put in far more demonstrations than necessary to get extra practice in. So find a pro who puts you first, listens and has a genuine interest in your improvement. They are out there.
Prioritise your own enjoyment. Remember why you started playing golf. Hopefully it started and remained with wanting to have fun!
Emma Booth, who won both the English and British under-18 strokeplay championships, is a PGA professional and academy manager at Winchester Golf Academy.