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What makes hockey players such good golfers?

NHL players are in the thick of their playoffs, and soon they will head out to vacation and maybe throw some occasional 18 holes on the local golf course.

Timo Meier #28 of the San Jose Sharks
Ethan MillerAFP

Although the Stanley Cup playoffs are not over yet, some hockey players worldwide are already enjoying some much-deserved R&R during the offseason. Some may head to the sunny beaches of Ibiza, some might head to the mountains for skiing (hockey players love the cold, after all), and some might be spending much of their time on the golf course.

Happy’s not the only hockey player turned golfer

Maybe the most famous hockey player turned golfer is Happy Gilmore, who went from the rink to the links in the famous Adam Sandler movie from the 90s. While basically, everything he did on the course in that movie was unconventional, from his run-up swing to his hockey stance putting to heading Bob Barker. Most hockey players are savages on the ice, but gentlemen outside of the rink and more so on the course.

For some reason, many hockey players are drawn to the sport of golf. This is just a theory, but maybe it’s because it’s the exact opposite of hockey. For 82 games, not including playoffs, players are put through physical demands and mental exhaustion, so when they get some time away from the game, you can’t blame them for wanting a change of pace.

Nothing in this world is more relaxing than hitting the links alone or with a couple of buddies. Going out for 18 holes, zipping around beautiful courses, having a couple of cold ones, and trying to go low is a perfect form of stress relief.

Hockey and golf: the same, but very different

While golf and essentially have a similar objective, hitting something hard in an attempt to get that object in the hole or net as quickly as possible, they are polar opposites in every other sense. Hockey games are loud and ruckus. Golf is peaceful and serene. In hockey, you’re liable to be missing a few teeth or have a big black eye by the end of the third period. The only thing missing at the end of 18 holes could be a few Pro-V ones.

The other reason hockey players thrive on the golf course is the swing is very similar. Hear me out. I realize hockey players have a much wider grip on their stick than the closed, intertwined grip of a golfer. But that hand-eye coordination is already there for hockey players. In fact, they are used to hitting a moving target either while moving with the puck or ripping a slap shot on a one-timer.

The stick may have more surface area, and the puck is bigger, but the idea is still the same. A golf ball doesn’t move, and neither does the golfer. In that sense, golf should be a somewhat easy transition from the rink to the links.

Some of hockey’s greatest players have made the transition after hanging up their skates. The Great One, Wayne Gretzky, is about a 10 handicap and has been playing since before his days with the LA Kings. Bobby Orr is another hockey great that is a golfer now, even at the age of 74. Penguins legend Mario Lemieux is a scratch golfer and is probably the greatest hockey player turned golfer.


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