Against the Grain: 8 Struggles of Being a Left-Handed Golfer
There’s no doubt that the joy of golf lies in the challenge it presents. The game is certainly hard enough, but we left-handed golfers face an entirely different set of challenges that most players have never even considered.
Every single step in the left-handed golfer’s journey is more complicated, frustrating, and challenging than it is for our right-handed counterparts. I’m a lifelong lefty in everything I do, not one of those righties who only plays golf left-handed or a gifted ambidextrous athlete who can switch-hit on demand. I’m a southpaw through and through, and I can attest that from the time you shop for equipment until the final putt drops, we lefties are going against the grain. These are the eight struggles of being a left-handed golfer.
1. Limited Equipment at Fittings and Demos
Now that launch monitors are available at pretty much every golf facility, the mandate to play the best golf clubs for your game is more achievable than ever. For right-handers, that is.
I couldn’t have been more excited to go to my iron fitting a few years back. I had no fewer than five iron heads on my list to compare head-to-head to make sure I got the best set for me. In the end, my experience couldn’t have been further from what I had imagined.
One by one I went down my list, but the response from the fitter never changed, “I don’t have that in a left-handed head.” I finally asked to test whatever was available for me, and compared only two irons, neither of which were high on my list before the fitting.
It’s the same story in almost every setting. Whether it’s at a demo day, a big box golf retailer, or a pro shop. Righties get the pick of the litter, while lefties are assigned whatever is available.
2. Driving Range Struggles
Every driving range should have a lefties-only section, but to this day I’ve never seen one. This simple solution would solve two major problems left-handed golfers face at the driving range.
There’s no worse place to be on a driving range as a lefty than backed up to a righty. A single mistimed swing can lead to a shaft-splitting collision. Because you can’t see the person behind you, you’re stuck focusing on the non-visual cues to figure out if it’s safe to swing or work through your feels in slow motion.
Even when the stall behind you is empty, lefties still face challenges at the range. It doesn’t take long for driving range mats to wear, and the first sign of that wear and tear is usually two big-foot-sized depressions right where a lefty wants to hit from. Sure, it’s great for practicing hitting off uneven lies, I guess, but all in all, there’s not much opportunity for quality, focused practice time at the driving range for left-handed golfers.
3. Indoor Golf
We haven’t even made it to the golf course yet and the problems for left-handed golfers are piling up. If the driving range is no good, surely indoor hitting bays are a great alternative, right? Well, not really.
Most indoor golf ranges have a screen with a beautiful projection of a world-famous golf course, but there is still usually a TV mounted somewhere in the bay, and it’s almost always right behind the left-handed golfer. Nevermind the inconvenience of turning around every time you need to change clubs or switch virtual golf activities, the simple fact that there’s an expensive piece of electronics mere millimeters from your clubhead in your backswing is enough to distract any lefty in an indoor golf facility. When I run into this situation, it's an immediate irons-only session.
Even though I probably could take full driver swings without breaking anything, the possibility is too distracting to allow me to get any quality reps in.
4. Golf Instruction Assumes All Golfers Are Right-Handed
It’s so easy to give dexterity-neutral golf instruction, but nobody does. Using terms like “lead” and “trail”, “front” and “back” or “glove hand” is so easy and non-discriminatory, but every golf lesson in print and on the internet instead opts to instruct right-handed golfers when to shift weight from their right leg, how their left wrist should feel during the takeaway, and where the right shoulder should be at impact. Translating these instructions for left-handers is downright dizzying.
5. Golf Courses Are Designed for Right-Handed Players
A golf course architect’s job is to craft the perfect cocktail of challenge and fun, but the ideal blend is not a 1:1 mix. A course needs to present challenges, but no golf course can survive if the golfer doesn’t feel a strong desire to return at the end of the day.
The translation is, while every good golf course presents challenges and opportunities to both left and right-handed players, lefties once again get the short end of the stick.
Think about the golf course you play most often through the lens of an average golfer who tends to miss in the direction of their dexterity (to the left for a left-handed golfer). I’d be willing to bet that after you factor in the locations of penalty areas, bunkers, out-of-bounds, and ideal lines, righties get the upper hand on most courses.
6. Quiet Please
There may not be a left-handed golfer on planet Earth who hasn’t heard the single most obnoxious one-liner in golf.
“You’re standing on the wrong side of the ball.”
This is “baba-booey” and “mashed potatoes” level abhorrent. Righties, please think twice the next time you have the urge to give a left-handed playing partner this piece of sarcastic advice. I can promise you won't even get a courtesy laugh.
7. No Parking Zone
It’s a guarantee that when you ride in a golf cart with a right-handed driver, they’re going to park on the wrong side of your ball at least three times per side. Unlike the failed attempt at humor mentioned above, this violation is truly an honest mistake, but it's almost just as annoying.
The first few times you get out, grab your club, and give the driver that “back it up, partner” nod are no big deal. It’s the fifth, sixth, and seventh times that become insufferable.
8. Shaking Gloves
You’re getting ready to tee off on the first tee when you overhear the starter saying something about “well, if you’re ready to go now...” and see a random fourth approach the tee box. We’ve all been in this scenario, and most of us have been on both sides. It’s part of the game.
For lefties, however, it presents an awkward situation. Do I introduce myself and extend my gloved right hand? Do I take off the glove and offer a clammy handshake? Do I lead with the left in a surprise move?
The uncomfortable truth is there is no good solution.
The Road Left Traveled
Every struggle on this list is a valid complaint, but the truth is, we aren't complaining. The joy of golf lies in the challenge it presents, and lefties get a little more joy from this crazy game. Being left-handed is part of our identity, and no ill-fitting clubs or awkward hand shake is too much to overcome.