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How golf helped Carlos Alcaraz put his season back on tracks

Updated: Jun 11

Professional tennis player Carlos Alcaraz on a golf court with a golf club in hands

Carlos Alcaraz discovers his passion for golf

During the Miami Open that was presented last week, Carlos Alcaraz said in a press conference that golf helped him relax outside the court and put his season back on tracks, giving him the little something he needed to win Indian Wells.

I was not feeling well on the court, not feeling good in my game and probably enjoying my self less on the court. Above all, what I changed is trying to feel better away from the court [...] Golf is something that calms me down a lot and in Indian Wells I played almost every day, which helped me a lot obviously [...]

There is no doubt that it had a positive impact on the Spaniard mental health since he only dropped 40 games and 2 sets to his opponents in his 6 matches en route to the Indian Wells title.

Besides, he has a pretty clean swing. Nothing too surprising for an elite athlete of his level.

Tennis and Golf : So similar, yet so different

Despite technological progress in tennis rackets and golf clubs, a key point binds the 2 sports : control. A golfer can drive 350 yards, he'll just find himself deeper in the forest if his drive isn't accurate. Same observation on the tennis side, a 100 mph forehand has a chance of injuring someone 2 courts away without proper control. Your author speaks from experience in both scenarios.

What sets the 2 sports apart is the way to achieve this control that enables powerful, yet accurate shots. In golf, the wrists and elbows must stay in place through the swing motion to achieve a consistent swing and a precise contact with the ball opposed to tennis where you need to pronate your wrists and change your shoulders, elbows and hips position depending on the shot you're hitting.

Concentration and mental toughness also play a crucial role in tennis and golf alike, but yet again in different ways. A golf player is usually alone with his thoughts when hitting a shot and must remain focused. Tennis players on the other hand must stay focused on their technique and movement into the thick of battle and out of breath. They only get a fraction of a second to do their shot preparation.

Another side of concentration that sets golf and tennis apart is the duration of the said focus. A concentration lapse in tennis isn't too big of a deal, the player might fall behind, but could turn things around later in the game or the set. In golf tournaments, the players are in competition with hundreds of other players, a 30 minutes concentration lapse usually spells doom and puts the title out of reach.

The opinion of Pascal Garneau - PGA Canada Pro

In order to confirm our theories, we discussed with Pascal Garneau, a professional golf coach from the PGA Canada and big fan of tennis. He has a vast experience in dealing with tennis players on the golf courses since he owns and runs Golf 3R, a virtual golf center located inside a tennis club. As a consequence, he often coaches tennis players in golf and is a privileged witness to the technical challenges characterizing the 2 sports.

"We're talking about two single-player sports that require an excellent hand-eye coordination. The main difference lies in the position of the ball when hit. In tennis, the ball is in constant movement while in golf it is static. The racket bed of a tennis racket and a tennis ball are way bigger. (Luckily)
The importance of stabilizing the lower body, accelerating the movement using the core muscles and keeping the body and head still at contact are similar in both sports.
The main difference is how the weight is distributed. In tennis, the weight will often shifts to the toes while in golf the weight is in the heels. The length of a golf club being one of the main reasons.
In both sports, a fraction of an inch off at the contact point can make all the difference in the quality of the shot. Practice makes perfect."

Either way, tennis and golf are not forgiving sports and require a near-perfect execution in challenging conditions. Tennis and golf professional players are tremendous athletes and it is not surprising that they can perform in other sports too.

Former and current pro tennis players that play golf

Ivan Lendl

The former number 1 player in the world Ivan Lendl had to retire at the early age of 34-year old because of injuries. That's when he decided to trade his tennis rackets for golf clubs and try his luck at making a professional career in golf. Despite playing an impressive 250 rounds per year, he was never able to achieve his dream.

Tim Henman

After retiring from tennis, Tim Henman never tried to make it to the golf pro circuit, but he remains an elite golfer that once played rounds of 69 at Augusta and 68 at St. Andrews. He also often participates in Pro-Am tournaments.

Ashley Barty

Probably the most impressive story of this list. Ash Barty retired from tennis at 25 year-old following her win at the Australian Open and while she was still the number 1 player in the world. The former professional cricket player won the Brookwater Golf and Country Club championship in Queensland just a few weeks after lifting the Australian Open trophy. Barty was recently making her comeback on the golf courses after giving birth, but unfortunately missed the cut despite an impressive round of 63 (-8) at the Pro-Am New Zealand Championship.

Mardy Fish

The former Olympic silver medalist was the first athlete in history to both participate in a professional tennis and professional golf tournament. He made his first and only appearance on the PGA Tour when he got a sponsor invitation to the 3M Open in 2022. Fish missed the cut after scoring 81 and 74, good for a final score of +13.

Rafael Nadal

Despite an unorthodox swing, the tennis legend Rafael Nadal is a great golfer. Demonstrated by his performance while he was away from the tennis courts to nurse an injury at the Baleares Mid-Amateur Championship where he won the title with a 7-stroke lead. Here he is driving a ball with a swing that weirdly looks like his backhand swing.

In the end it is not surprising that tennis professional players possess the skills to perform in other sports. Like with any elite athlete, they have above average physical and mental capacities that gives them a head start in any sport.

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