Could These 4 Sports Make You A Better Golfer?

If you play golf, chances are you're not satisfied with carrying the same handicap from year to year. You're always looking for ways to become a better golfer, and you'll even look in unusual places for them, as long as they get results.

But have you considered looking for perspective about your golf game outside of golf altogether?

I know it sounds a little crazy, but there may be something to it. Consider the following:

1. Baseball (pitching, specifically)

Perhaps even more so than hitting technique, a successful baseball pitching motion bears considerable resemblance to a golf swing, just on a different plane. Pitchers are able to command the strike zone by releasing the baseball from the same point on the arc of their throwing motion every single time, and therefore rarely walk more than a batter in an outing. Power pitchers may not quite have this level of control, but the power they generate with their midsections, combined with the snapping motion they can create with their arms, means batters will struggle to catch up to their 98-mph fastballs.

Former hard-throwing Braves great John Smoltz carries a +1.6 handicap index, while the more control-minded former World Series Champion pitcher Livan Hernandez, who aspires to play the Champions Tour when he turns 50, claims a +2 handicap. Golf has its own variety of successful players, from the finesse games of Steve Stricker and Zach Johnson to the brute force of Dustin Johnson and J.B. Holmes.

What you can doI'm not suggesting you risk Tommy John surgery by throwing a bullpen session by yourself, but a light occasional game of catch or some slow-motion imitations of proper pitching mechanics just might unlock a few extra yards for you off the tee. And if you really want to immerse yourself in baseball on a golf vacation, we are fans of The Otesaga Resort and its historic Leatherstocking Golf Course, located near the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

2. Hockey

It's well known that hockey players tend to make an easy transition to golf. Wayne Gretzky's passion for the game is well-known through his association with Dustin Johnson, and many of Gretzky's peers would take to the course in the off-season as well. accomplished PGA Tour players Mike Weir and Jerry Kelly were accomplished ice hockey players at a young age, but ended up winning professional golf tournaments instead of chasing the Stanley Cup. Indeed, the mechanics of a slap shot are similar to those of a powerful golf swing.

What you can doWithout getting on the ice, observe how NHLers with wicked slap shots create a wide arc and use their cores and hips to drive the puck toward the net.

3. Surfing

As I mentioned recently, I was paired with the father of a competitive junior surfer a couple months ago, and over the course of our conversations, it became clear that in order to get better on the links, I may want to jump on a board. See, successful surfing requires considerable lower-body strength and balance, both of which are necessities for a solid golf swing. And at the competitive level, recognizing and selecting a good wave is akin to pulling the right club before hitting an important shot. Is it any wonder that 11-time world surfing champion Kelly Slater plays to a handicap of +2 in golf?

I'm far from the first person to notice the connection between surfing and golf. Heard of the GolfBoard? It's an increasingly popular alternative to taking a golf cart around the course. The company's tagline: Surf The Earth. Unsurprisingly, one of the GolfBoard's developers, Laird Hamilton, is a professional big-wave surfer.

What you can doShould you get on a board in order to lower your golf scores? Why not? If you're looking to hang ten while on a golf vacation, Hawaii is your main destination. For example, Turtle Bay Resort on Oahu is practically next door to the legendary Hans Hedemann Surf School. But if Hawaii's a beach too far for you, Kiawah Island Resort also offers surf lessons for guests.

4. Competitive Spelling?

Just hear me out here. I watched the Scripps National Spelling Bee a few weeks ago and noticed how co-champion Vanya Shivashankar would close her eyes and write out each word on the back of her name tag during each round of the finals. It brought to mind two important aspects of golf: visualization and sticking to a routine, not to mention the virtue of performing with poise and grace under pressure. I'm not sure if Vanya has taken up golf or has any plans to, but if she does, I'm sure she'll have no problem establishing a pre-shot routine. Her process reminded me of Jason Day, who notably closes his eyes while standing behind the ball prior to addressing it.

What you can doNow, adult spelling bees are few and far between, but if you have a disciplined young competitive speller in your family, golf may just be a natural post-spelling-retirement pursuit.

Has studying and/or playing other sports made you a better (or worse) golfer? As always, we'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Tim Gavrich is a Senior Writer for Golf Advisor and the Managing Editor of the Golf Vacation Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @TimGavrich and on Instagram @TimGavrich.
8 Comments
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Commented on

Swing Dancing, especially our Carolina Shag style! Core is built up in a variety of steps, balance and concentration in all steps developing a smooth style that carries over to all golf swings! The real plus is improving your personal relationships!

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Can understand field hockey.Even cricket for that matter as well as squash.All of them require good hand eye co ordination.The squash sure helped my golf as I played football,not the American version.The Americans call it soccer.

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Pitching and spelling make sense exactly for the reasons you state. Being from Tennessee, I probably won't have much opportunity for surfing or hockey - whatever that is. I know from experience that hitting a baseball and hitting a golf ball are two different actions. Baseball players duck hook -(say "flying elbow"), and golfers pop up.

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I don't care about the numbers, I just go out to beat a ball around the course and have a good time.

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I would guess that a football quarterback must have great technique much like a baseball pitcher but with the added difficulty of an odd-shaped object they must get to spiral. Also requires more strength to play that position. Good combination of skills that transfer to golf.

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I have to mildly agree about baseball players have an instinctive swing that gives them more power through more speed. I have played golf with with several who had fairly decent bat speeds that equated to fairly long driver and iron play. One was a known great third baseman, a well known shortstop, a pitcher and two were pitchers, one of which is n the Hall of Fame. One of the most important abilities was their ability to have a constant, repeatable set-up and bat. club speed. Outside of sand traps and in fringe area of green club head speed is supposed to be fairly consistent. That's what separates hackers from those who can play consistent golf.
That comes to the fore when you are playing baseball and golf. You don't try to hit a home run every time at bat, You don't expect to hit your shot over 300 yards every time. You just make good contact with both. Every time I hit one over the fences, it was a surprise. The margin for a home run is about a quarter of inch. Remember that the pitcher is trying to have control of where he places the ball. The golf ball is not moving so the golfer has an advantage.He has to be consistent with hitting the mark. Speed of the club head makes the ball go further. Brute strength does not really help, although having good muscle tone helps.

Commented on

similar to pitching a baseball, throwing a frisbee is very much like a golf swing. especially when you throw the frisbee in an overhand motion (like a baseball or football). plus, as an adult, it can be easier to find someone to play frisbee with rather than a game of catch with a traditional ball. check it out.

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Leatherstocking in Cooperstown is a super golf course. The last three holes in particular are awesome. Play the course from the blue tees -- it is not that long -- for the full effect. Take in a ballgame at historic Doubleday Field and try your luck in the batting cages. Other great tracks not too far away include the courses at the Turning Stone resort in Cooperstown, Orchard Creek Golf course west of Albany and the Colgate University course, Seven Oaks, in Hamilton New York.

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Could These 4 Sports Make You A Better Golfer?
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