Why tennis players make the best golfers

It's all to do with their posture

Bob Warters's picture
Mon, 24 Jun 2002
Why tennis players make the best golfers
Of all the ball sports golfers might play before they get hooked, tennis gives them perhaps the best chance of reaching a reasonable standard. Whereas football, rugby, table-tennis or cricket, might give them the hand-eye co-ordination and a certain degree of suppleness and fitness, tennis provides the perfect action to adjust to golf.

Only a small adjustment is needed in posture to turn a two-handed forehand or backhand into the ideal golf swing. Consider the alert, athletic position taken up on the tennis court as you await the service to come over the net – feet astride, shoulders relaxed, body poised square on to the approaching ball.

Replace the racquet held across the body with a golf club gripped in front of you, tilt your upper body slightly to lay the clubhead on the ground - and hey presto, the golf address position!

Turn, rather than tilt, the shoulders and the tennis player creates the perfect arc of the golf swing back and through at roughly a 45-degree angle to the backhand follow -through (for a right-hander).

For the left-hander it’s a forehand and follow-through.

Cricketers, like Ian Botham, who take up golf inevitably have terrific timing when striking the ball but also have an obvious flaw in their golf swing – they’re likely to hit it large, somewhere over extra-cover – slicer’s territory.

Batting demands the bat to be picked and played through on the line on which the ball is delivered by the bowler. Instead of turning their shoulders the tendency is to tilt them, the recipe for a carve to the right or a pull to the left for the right-hander with a golf club in his or her hand.

Table tennis, badminton and squash players, while having a good eye for the ball, tend to be too wristy at first for golf where the technique is to swing the club using the shoulders and arms. They’re handy around the green where feel is required but off the tee lack control as the right hand climbs over the left too soon, requiring timing to be too precise for consistency.

Footballers and rugby players, being ultra competitive in team events, discover they cannot easily retain the individual concentration levels needed to maintain consistency. They tend to follow pars and birdies with bogeys and worst, before regaining their composure.

My experience also with some soccer and rugby pros playing the game for fun, is their inability to keep count accurately and to be economical with the truth about their handicaps. Every player I’ve always known seemed to be off 14 but without any certificate to back it up!

Tennis players on the other end can keep score and more often their play is built around ‘how many’ rather than ‘how far.’

Few competing at Wimbledon this week will be using any spare time to hit the fairways, but when the fortnight’s over they will look forward to playing golf to a high level.

Tim Henman is a handy four-handicap golfer who regards American Scott Draper as the best player on the ATP tour and Yefgany Kafelnikov as the most competitive. Pete Sampras, left-hander Andre Agassi and World No.1 Leyton Hewitt – a big fan of Greg Norman - all play to single figures

Says Sampras: "If I hadn’t been a pro tennis player, there’s no doubt I would have played golf professionally. It’s a sport you can play for 30 years, whereas in tennis your career last 10-12 years because your body takes a pounding."