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Wed, Dec. 11

Gunby: A few ground rules for couples playing golf together
Tee it Up

Playing golf with your spouse can be fulfilling. The dream is to do something together with your spouse that enhances your relationship.

Here’s what I have often observed. At the start of playing golf with your spouse, the husband (usually) offers a few “tips” to “help” his wife.

The husband becomes obsessed with his wife’s golf game and/or swing and spews out a myriad of golf advice (most of these he heard from his buddies and are myths), in order to be her “hero” and “fix” her problems. Pretty soon the wife becomes confused and resentful, the over-coaching is not working well, and the tension spills out past the golf course and into their daily lives.

Their original high hopes have failed to materialize and have actually backfired. It can end up building a wall between the couple and send the husband off to play golf exclusively with the guys and the wife off to play exclusively with her female friends.

Let me offer three ground rules, that if followed all the time, will improve the situation.

First, only give advice when asked. Never offer advice to another person unless asked. Never. Any coaching must be initiated by the student. Keep your mouth shut, as difficult as it seems to be, until asked. This goes for the parent/junior and friend/friend coaching as well.

If your spouse tops a shot and shouts “What did I do wrong?”, that is not an invitation to come to the rescue. If this happens to you, I recommend that you respond by asking “Would you like me to give you some advice?” before uttering any other word. The language used to request coaching or advice must be clear and agreed to beforehand.

Second, only coach what you are asked to coach. Again, this must be stated by the student and be very specific. For example, the husband states to his wife that he would like to seek advice on the length of his backswing.

He communicates what he “feels” or is “experiencing”. “It feels like the club is parallel at the top of my backswing” he says. In a good coaching relationship, the wife would respond with something like this, “It was about one foot short of parallel”.

She is now his eyes. She would not interject anything else, such as “Your club was about one foot short of parallel at the top of your backswing and you came outside/in on your downswing”. The coach should only be used as the eyes of the student and only directed to the specific information the student asked for.

Third, only coach for a specific and agreed upon amount of time. Ten minutes is probably the maximum. Setting a time limit allows both spouses to focus on their own golf games after that time period. This also avoids an uncomfortable situation when one person asks the other to stop giving advice.

To sum it up, the best coaching situation would begin with the student making a request such as this: “I would like to be coached on the length of my backswing for ten minutes.”

The student would swing and then describe what they felt or experienced. The coach would then respond with what he/she saw, for ten minutes only. After that timeframe, they would go back to their relationship, be it husband/wife, child/parent, or friend/friend. An even better way to be coached is to find a reputable and experienced PGA or LPGA Coach/Instructor that is not emotionally involved with the student.

John Gunby Sr. is a columnist for The Daily Courier. Reach him by email at

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