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True beginner asking me for advice. Screw him up or leave him alone?


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I searched for similar threads before posting this, but surprisingly couldn't find anything. My dad and I golf a fair amount. My dad is a low handicapper. I'm about a 20. My sister's boyfriend has expressed interest in playing with us. It started out with just wanting to play some chippo with us. Then my dad got a simulator and the boyfriend was hitting pretty well for a beginner on it. Now we're all going on a vacation, and he'd like to play with us despite never having played a round of golf before. I intended to get him out on a par 3 and see how he did, but the weather has not cooperated. We have hit at the simulator a bunch of times, and we've got plans to hit the ball for a few hours tonight.

He is pretty natural at it. Much better than I was when I started out. I'm afraid to give him any advice because I'm not a particularly good golfer, and because he really is doing better than I would expect. With say a 7i, he's getting the ball in the air and sending it 100-130 total. He is all over the place with direction, left, right, straight, etc. His chipping is particular good.

He has already asked me, "What am I doing wrong" or "What should I be doing" etc., and I've mostly responded that he's doing great. I am noticing things though. He has very little lower body movement. He takes the club pretty far outside on the way back, and the comes out to in with the face open, but with an iron it results in a weak fade that really isn't terrible given his experience level. He's advancing the ball and getting it in the air almost every shot, which seems pretty good to me. I am inclined to help him stop opening up the clubface on his backswing, but I'm afraid of making things worse.

You never know, but I think his goal is just to be able to go out with us on vacation and maybe a couple times a years. I don't think he really wants to get into golf, and his friends don't golf. I just think he wants to be able to go out with us when the family gets together and the guys go golfing. So I think he just aspires to be good enough not to slow us down. So I don't think lessons are a good recommendation. I doubt he'll be willing to spend the time or money. He doesn't even have clubs. I've been letting him use mine on the simulator, and I have an old set he can use on a course.

In the short term, we'll keep him on a triple bogey and pick up rule to keep up pace of play, etc. I'm not worried about that. He is easy going and won't care about keeping pace. I just want to know if anyone has had any success with getting true beginners into golf, and helping them get good enough to make it through a round and maintain pace of play.

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The fact that you're asking the question shows that you're already in a good place. You're the not obnoxious 20-cap at the range, sidling up to random guys dropping swing tips from the latest issue of Golf Digest. You seem to be pretty aware of your limitations.

That awareness is key. Ability to play does not equal ability to coach: my 7-year-old son is legitimately better at golf than I am, but he doesn't know why. He's a terrible coach ("Um, just do what I'm doing."). Although I'm a middling 12-13 handicap, I've done a ton of study on the swing. I have an idea of what's supposed to be happening, if it I myself am not great at doing it. The fact that you're currently a 20 handicap doesn't mean that you have nothing to offer a new player.

That said, part of knowing your limitations is knowing when you've stopped being helpful. Giving a beginner some tips, especially if he's asking for them, is a good thing. If it looks like he's getting the golf itch, that's when it's going to be good to recommend that he go get advice from someone with more expertise.

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Tell him he needs to marry your sister before he goes on vacation with you to play golf.   😲😉

But yeah, it's ok to offer him some tips.  Just keep it reasonable, and focus on one or two things.  Anything more than that and it will overwhelm your student.

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This is a tough one, I'm also not a teacher and don't feel qualified to give advice.  Both my boys are starting golf and my wife plays a round or two each season.  I'll give them basic advice on thing like setup and aiming, proper grip, and plenty on course etiquette and how to play the game.

I'd start with this though, ask the guy what his goals are for now?  Once bitten with the golf bug it's a hard thing to get rid of.  He might end up wanting clubs, wanting to get better, wanting lessons etc...

But just starting out I'd probably feel comfortable giving advice on some bigger things with the swing and setup.  Maybe just say try this and see what happens.  Give him the caveat that you don't feel qualified to be a teacher but here are a couple things to try out and see if they work better.

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Have him go to an instructor. 

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His setup and grip look ok. Probably not perfect, but not glaringly problematic. He opens the club face on the way back, but that doesn't seem like a super difficult fix. After that, I could absolutely be wrong, but it seems to me he needs to rotate better. Gun to my head, I'd show him how rotating around his spine would put the club more on path. Maybe show him a video about rotation and another about the transition. But again, he's getting the ball in the air and advancing it. Maybe I should keep my mouth shut and let him figure it out.

Like MGP MPR said, golf skill and instruction skill doesn't always correlate.  My dad is an excellent golfer.  He believes he is an excellent teacher.  But he has watched my terrible OTT swing and has said things like, "don't swing so hard."  He is a natural athlete and doesn't have to think much about his swing. 

I really don't think lessons make sense for someone so casually interested in golf.  If he gets the bug, sure.  In the short term, I'm pretty sure he'd be happy to go out, lose some balls, shoot about a 120, drink some beers, and not slow anyone down.  Plus he has a, "you two play golf, just tell me what to do" mentally, which my dad also buys into.

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Maybe I'll just try to keep the advice to the bare minimum and only show him some videos if he insists.

Edited by bonvivantva
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I just got back.  We did the driving range first and got his 7i from 90 yards out to 130.  His 3h from 110 to 150.  Then I think I overloaded him with swing thoughts, and he started breaking down.  I switched over to a course, stopped giving instruction, and told him to just try to think about the target.  He did pretty well.  Exception given his experience.  We're planning on one more practice session before we actually play in real life.  I'm thinking he'll do fine.  Day of, I'll emphasize just enjoying it out there and not worrying about performance.  I'm looking forward to it.

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Plus 1 for what @hckymeyer said.  I'd also let him know that he shouldn't expect to be able to score well straight away, golf is difficult to be good at.  Stress that it should be fun, and that any good shot should be looked at as a win.

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8 hours ago, Peaksy68 said:

Plus 1 for what @hckymeyer said.  I'd also let him know that he shouldn't expect to be able to score well straight away, golf is difficult to be good at.  Stress that it should be fun, and that any good shot should be looked at as a win.

I agree that's sound advice.  I'll try to follow yours as well.  Honestly, he's having too easy a time.  I think I saw him hit maybe one worm burner.  He literally gets the ball in the air every time.  Even on bad shots, he's sending it 100 yards.  I tried to tell him he had no business playing that well with no experience, but I doubt it got that.  You'd definitely right that the most important thing is keeping it fun.

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I have mixed thoughts when it comes to whether yall should use a scorecard. One side I think you should leave it in the clubhouse to avoid any frustrations. Being a guy I feel we are often expectant of being able to get close to par at all times Haha. The other side is I personally would love to be able to go back and look at my first scorecard Haha.

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17 minutes ago, tchat07 said:

I have mixed thoughts when it comes to whether yall should use a scorecard. One side I think you should leave it in the clubhouse to avoid any frustrations. Being a guy I feel we are often expectant of being able to get close to par at all times Haha. The other side is I personally would love to be able to go back and look at my first scorecard Haha.

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I hadn't considered this, but it's a good point.  We're just playing 9, which is probably a good call, but it's a full length 9.  It's in the Cayman Islands, so it would be a cool memento.  I guess I'll keep it, but try to keep him from seeing/focusing on it.  I could also maybe keep his score on my watch without him knowing.

Edited by bonvivantva
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You haven't said what your low handicapper dad thinks about his maybe future son-in-law.  Does he agree with your assessment?  Has he been at your sessions?  I'm not saying that your skills as a "coach" aren't suitable, but your dad may be able to see the most critical issue in his swing.  Even though his setup and grip look OK... just OK may not be OK.  I would be careful about what's happening with the club face in the backswing; it's what happens in the downswing that really matters.  Think Furyk or Matt Wolff.  A golf lesson with a teaching pro will do wonders to getting him started on the right track, if you have time before your trip. 

You said his chipping was pretty good.  That's great!!  How is his putting?  Can he control the speed?  Does he see the line for a putt, and can he start the ball on that line? He will have a lot more fun if he can do well on the green.  How long before you go on vacation?  As much as you can, focus on the green game, and when he makes a few putts, he will enjoy it more.

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1 hour ago, Kenny B said:

You haven't said what your low handicapper dad thinks about his maybe future son-in-law.  Does he agree with your assessment?  Has he been at your sessions?  I'm not saying that your skills as a "coach" aren't suitable, but your dad may be able to see the most critical issue in his swing.  Even though his setup and grip look OK... just OK may not be OK.  I would be careful about what's happening with the club face in the backswing; it's what happens in the downswing that really matters.  Think Furyk or Matt Wolff.  A golf lesson with a teaching pro will do wonders to getting him started on the right track, if you have time before your trip. 

You said his chipping was pretty good.  That's great!!  How is his putting?  Can he control the speed?  Does he see the line for a putt, and can he start the ball on that line? He will have a lot more fun if he can do well on the green.  How long before you go on vacation?  As much as you can, focus on the green game, and when he makes a few putts, he will enjoy it more.

Thanks for the response.  We leave Saturday, and the weather hasn't been great here, or I would have got him out on a par 3 once or twice.  He grew up playing mini golf and still plays with his nieces, so I assume he can putt well enough.  I realize that's not exactly the same, but you typically know the motion and have some concept of distance control.  I haven't actually seen him putt, so I can't say for sure.  My dad is probably better qualified for a putting lesson anyway.

His chipping is incredible.  I haven't said anything to him about it, other than that he is very good.  I did show him how opening and closing the face changes the loft, but that's it.  He has a real feel for it, and maybe I should be taking lessons from him.

My dad agrees that the boyfriend is better than he should be given his experience.  We did find out that he's been to a range/top golf a few times.  My dad is a naturally gifted athlete, and I don't think he has to think about his swing very much.  I tried to explain face to path to him once, and he looked at me like I was an alien.  He just hits a draw or a fade without knowing how he does it.  Once time he was trying to coach me some at the range, I said that I thought my problem was my OTT path.  After I explained what that meant, he said no, I'm just swinging too hard (as it turns out, I think the path was caused by early hip rotation/bad sequence, but I had to figure that one out myself). Long story short, my dad is an excellent golfer, but I don't think teaching is his strong suit, at least when it comes to golf.  Despite my dad and I witnessing the boyfriend make great chip after chip, my dad told him to use an 8i and take a putting stroke.  Basically a little run up shot from just off the green.  That's something I do and it seemed reasonable for the shot in question, but my thought process is why mess with success.  Well, it didn't work out for the boyfriend, and then that got it his head.  The boyfriend is obviously a lot more self-conscious around my dad than he is with me.  But for the most part, my dad just let him swing the club.  He was complimentary on his good shots, so that definitely helped him have a good time.  We're going to try to get some more simulator time in Thursday (more rain scheduled).

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  • 2 weeks later...

Just got back.  The boyfriend had a great time and shot a 55 (playing 9 on a full length course from forward tees).  He had several incredible shots.  The only thing I think I would do differently is try to manage his expectations better.  He had a few pars, he hit some greens in regulation, and his shortest shot off the tee all day still probably went about 110, so he played great for a first timer, but he was pretty upset about missing an island green 5 times in a row on 18.  But bottom line is that he killed it and really enjoyed it.  I think he'll keep coming out, and we'll see if he actually gets into golf.  Here was one of his best shots:

 

 

Edited by bonvivantva
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2 hours ago, bonvivantva said:

Just got back.  The boyfriend had a great time and shot a 55 (playing 9 on a full length course from forward tees).  He had several incredible shots.  The only thing I think I would do differently is try to manage his expectations better.  He had a few pars, he hit some greens in regulation, and his shortest shot off the tee all day still probably went about 110, so he played great for a first timer, but he was pretty upset about missing an island green 5 times in a row on 18.  But bottom line is that he killed it and really enjoyed it.  I think he'll keep coming out, and we'll see if he actually gets into golf.  Here was one of his best shots:

 

Looks like you guys had a lot of fun, and the course looks great.  Lots of things going on in his swing.  If he is truly interested in pursuing golf, I think he would benefit greatly from lessons with a pro and would quickly improve.  JMHO.

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