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 do: I'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.
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 do: Without 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.
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 do: Should 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 do: Now, 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!