Converting Athleticism to Golf
One of the things that I think is interesting is to watch how other sport athletes struggle with golf. You’ll see major sports stars from tennis, baseball, etc. tackle this game with difficulty. This topic was chosen today in response to a question by Robert, who wrote in to TheWedgeGuy (and won a FREE EIDOLON V-SOLE wedge for being chosen):
“I am a 49 year old ex-athlete who just recently picked up the game (2 years ago). I have finally taken a few lessons and have been shooting in the low 90's and occasional high 80's. My question is that my instructor has changed my swing into something that is extremely uncomfortable to me. If I grip the club comfortably and swing the club rhythmically (which feels good to me), he re-directs me into something that feels uncomfortable, herky-jerky, out-of-tempo, etc. How can I find a happy medium?
Well, Robert, yours is not an unusual problem for other sport athletes. You don’t mention what sport you excelled in, so let me just cover the bases. It seems that the best “other sport” golfers are from hockey, or they are baseball pitchers or football quarterbacks. In my experience, the baseball hitters and tennis players have difficulty with golf because it is really a totally different exercise in ball striking. I think a huge problem with those sports translating to golf is that they are very right hand/master eye centric – they are totally built around your eye/hand coordination.

In baseball and tennis, you learn swing basics, but you then apply them to a completely reactive endeavor. The same goes for basketball and some other sports. The ball is always in a different place in relation to your body core and you have split seconds to decide how to put a racket or bat on it, or to shoot it. Eye/hand coordination and reflex time are in play completely.

Golf, on the other hand, is a totally proactive swing activity. You have total control over where the ball is in position to your body core, time to perfect your posture and alignment, and you don’t have to “pull the trigger” until you are completely prepared and ready for the action. That requires (and allows) a peaceful presence of mind, and the ability to focus intensely on each swing.

John Smolz’ recent tour experienced notwithstanding, baseball pitchers seem to be the best golfers, along with NFL quarterbacks. In my opinion, that’s because they are more trained in mental preparation, and isolation of each mini-performance. They know the way the last pitch or throw can and will affect the next one, much like the way your last golf shot will get in your mind for the next one.

If you think of your golf swing as much more like a pitcher standing on the mound facing a hitter and focused only on the catcher’s glove, and not like the hitter standing in the box waiting on a pitch, you will begin to dissect this game down to its basics:
  1. You must learn the “static” fundamentals of grip, posture, ball position – if those are not correct, you cannot make a solid fundamentally correct golf swing.

  2. You rehearse the rhythmic and graceful swing of the golf club through an imaginary impact zone until you feel like you can rely on it.

  3. You learn how to position yourself so that the ball will be in the way of that rehearsed swing each and every shot you face.

  4. And you navigate around 150 acres of real estate, making swing after swing, always with a defined objective in mind.
That might be an oversimplification, but is it really? You guys tell me.
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[ comments ]
Michael Colucci says:
Wedge Guy, since you live south of the Mason Dixon line you don't interact with many hockey players. In my experience they are far and away the best golfers. I think the act of shooting a slap shot (weight shifting, hips opening, rotation of the stick) translate very well to the act of swinging the golf club.
5/3/11
 
gpickin says:
Michael, I wonder if the Wedge Guy edited his post after your comment, because I think your reasoning is one of the reasons Terry the Wedge guy listed them first in the list of GOOD CONVERTERS along with baseball pitchers and NFL quarterbacks.

I know my heavy sporting background has left me with an interesting golf game.
My cricket and field hockey background probably best help me, but playing a large range of sports, you soon realize that many key points in one sport relate to most other sports.
-Keeping your head still, and usually over the ball is one of the main ones, it helps your balance, and balance is key to most sports.
-Most sports with a swing, follow through is vital.
-Its not how hard you hit it but how good your timing is. Swing Better not Harder.
-The most important piece of equipment is priceless, its the stuff between your ears.
5/3/11
 
gpickin says:
I think the best thing a baseball hitting can translate from baseball is their eyes, following that puppy as it flies away is vital, especially if you hit a lot of FOUL balls :)
I know this from experience :)
5/3/11
 
Kurt the Knife says:
Maybe my problem is the sport I was best at was fencing.This golf thing is getting discouraging. Put me up against Chi Chi Rodriguez and his moves and maybe I'd have a chance.
5/3/11
 
Kurt the Knife says:
"its the stuff between your ears"
I don't see how cotton is gonna help my game.
5/3/11
 
mjaber says:
Oddly, I was watching a local show that was showing a guy going through a one-day course on polo yesterday (it was a show about a tourist destination in CT). The instructor said that one of the best converts to polo was a golfer, because of the hand-eye coordination. I wonder if it would translate back the other way.

If it does, I'm gonna hire Mr. Ed as my caddie.
5/3/11
 
SD Charlie says:
Ha - "..nice shhhaaank Wilbuuurrr!"
5/3/11
 
architectartvandelay says:
Being that it is a left hand dominate game would it make more sense for an athlete to pick up the game as left handed golfer to allow the right hand to dominate?
5/3/11
 
dartboss04 says:
@wedge guy - are you still giving away the 5 wedges from last week's feedback?...
5/3/11
 
Banker85 says:
ya nice theory george costanza... if i could naturally do anything with my left hand i would have tried golf as a lefty. not gonna happen...
5/3/11
 
Banker85 says:
and back to the article. My best golfer friend was a HS quaterback and the 2nd best (3rd after me) was a pitcher. I tend to agree there. My friend who was a good hitter over swings everytime and sucks
5/3/11
 
aaronm04 says:
I can sympathize with "Robert." At first, nothing about the golf swing feels natural. At least to me it didn't to me. Over time, though, that changes.
5/3/11
 
mjaber says:
I think the best athletes that make the best golfers are runners (track and/or cross-country)... only because I was one :)
5/4/11
 
...the Murseless says:
That's the thing, banker: play left-sided golf, and you will actually be using your right side as dominant.

I am a righty, but golf from the left side. For me, my backhand tennis and badminton shots were always very comfortable; and the golf swing, just like the backhand, is all about pulling through contact.

Question: if you had to hit a one-handed golf shot, which would be easier: using only your right hand (basically, a forehand shot) or using only your left hand (a backhand)?
5/4/11
 
carbod says:
I've seen a man with only one arm play golf - he only had use of his left arm. He played from the position of a right handed golfer, club in left hand. He hit it dead straight every time, and could hit it over 200 yards.
5/4/11
 
Kurt the Knife says:
@carbod
50% fewer things to go wrong.

For me, would prolly be more like 75%
5/4/11
 
Joness says:
Happy Gilmour seemed to copy OK with the long game.
5/6/11
 
larrynjr says:
So, who was it that one the wedges from last weeks column? Was it ME????
5/6/11
 
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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