The only golf lessons I ever got before I first hit the course for some casual nine-hole rounds came from my husband and his friends. The gist: Knees bent, hands stacked and interlocked, eye on the ball, and swing all the way through.
But as a somewhat busty woman, none of my teachers could answer my biggest question about my golf form: What was I supposed to do with my boobs?
If you’re a woman with an un-squash-down-able chest, as you bring your arms together to grip the club, there are two quite obvious obstacles you have to go over, under, or squeeze together. Sometimes my boobs would get in the way of my back swing, messing up my range of motion. How to execute a golf swing while taking into account this biological reality seemed like a pretty important question—one that none of the male golfers in my life had ever thought about!
I recently had the opportunity to meet three Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) rookie year players competing in the JM Eagle L.A. Championship thanks to tournament sponsor Zinus, which makes mattresses and furniture. These impressive Zinus ambassadors were giving lessons to a group of us on “chipping”, which are short distance shots meant to get a ball that has landed near to the green, but not on the green, in range of the hole. As I watched the players execute these tricky maneuvers, I couldn’t ignore my burning question about my bust.
The first player I asked, Polly Mack, had to laugh. It’s not really an issue for her personally, but she appreciated that it could be for others—and even saw the upside. She explained that in a golf swing, your upper body wants to move together like a unit, and you want to create a large radius with your arms. So having to maneuver with your boobs could help you keep your upper body together while also enforcing that larger radius.
“It’s honestly almost a good thing if you have bigger boobs because you want to have that radius off your arm,” Mack says. “It makes you want to go through the ball with your upper body and take your upper body with you.”
Another LPGA player, Riley Rennell, was very familiar with the question. Her father and caddy is a longtime ladies golf teacher, so “the question would always be over or under,” Rennell says.
For Rennell, she is firmly on team “over.” That is, place your arms over your chest and press down on your boobs, which also has the upside of enforcing that bigger radius, as Mack pointed out.
“For some bigger-chested ladies, you definitely have to go over. It’s a lot more comfortable,” Rennell says. “Get on top and that way you can have freer mobility, whereas if you’re stuck a little bit under, it can be hard to get the golf club in the correct position. And, a sports bra is the way to go.”
Bailey Tardy takes a different approach, particularly when she’s putting.
“I honestly think it’s a built-in training aid for us,” Tardy says. “You want to think of just rocking your shoulders when you putt, and we’ve got something to squeeze.”
The idea is by squeezing your boobs together, you can keep that upper body moving as one solid unit during your putts.
“Even now when I’m putting, my elbows stay by my side and I literally squeeze my boobs together,” Tardy says. “It just keeps everything together and everything locked.”
While considering whether I was team go over or team squeeze together, I had to question whether my quandary was a little bit offensive. Was it similar to the line of thinking of “Oh no, what does a woman president do when she’s on her period”? Was I giving too much importance to a biological difference, and thus implying that golf is a man’s activity that women simply have to adapt to?
Tardy reflects that her putting form “is definitely different than what the men do.” Maybe acknowledging those differences is not insulting, but instead is necessary, and even validating, to making golf more accessible and welcoming to women.
“I’ve never really been taught by a woman,” Tardy says. “It would be great to get some women’s insight.”