From the early days of just six National Hockey League teams across Canada and the U.S., to what’s now a multibillion dollar 32-team league, you could say it has changed quite a bit. Today, the NHL is one of the most valuable sports leagues in the world.
A century ago (and a few months prior to the founding of the NHL), Rodman Wanamaker founded the PGA at the Taplow club in New York, arguing that the sport of golf needed a professional organization of its own. The first PGA Championship was held at the Siwanoy Country Club and the prize was $2,580, as well as what is known today as the Wanamaker Trophy.
Today, there are 27,000 pro golfers (both on the business side and playing side) and record-setting prize money on the PGA Tour. It isn’t a surprise why Happy Gilmore switched over!
There are plenty of athletes that do well in this crossover, not just Happy Gilmore or even Allen Doyle, who is known for his slapshot-like golf swing. In a celebrity golf event known simply as “The Match,'' athletes from different backgrounds play exhibition golf for charity.
Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady played alongside Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickelson in the most recent edition of the team match. With every year, it’s always interesting to see how skills translate from different sports and why the overlap works so well.
The Fundamentals and Overlap Between Golf and Hockey
Hockey players love to play golf. The same can be said for basketball players (look at what J.R. Smith is doing at North Carolina A&T), football players and more. It’s the perfect offseason activity because golf keeps the mind and body fresh, while allowing for a competitive outlet.
Let’s look at hockey specifically, because there are some fundamental similarities between the two sports. There’s demand on your upper and lower body, both to create width and, in essence, power.
A hockey slapshot requires a shoulder turn like a golf swing, and significant strength and stability at impact to produce the best result. If you’re off-balance shooting a puck, you aren’t going to get the result you want. If you’re off-balance during the golf swing, you aren’t going to make solid contact.
Posture is also important for both hockey and golf. With hockey, the shooting motion is often done at top speed, a golf swing is started from a stationary position (and the ball isn’t moving, either). Without a strong, sound posture, neither motion can be properly executed -- which makes balance and stability extremely important.
Hockey players and golfers are top-end athletes, and some of the required skills are translatable between sports.
What’s something that your coach would say to you when you were on a youth sports team? One answer probably is, to “keep your eye on the ball,” which aims to build hand-eye coordination. This is because no matter the sport, if there is a ball (or puck), hand-eye coordination is key to success.
The required hand-eye coordination in hockey and golf are very similar. Just as your eyes, brain, and muscles work together simultaneously to fire a puck, they function the same way to hit a golf ball. Hockey players already are used to this motion, but they normally do so while skating on the ice, not just standing still, which gives them an edge when playing golf.
Flexibility and Mobility
Flexibility and mobility help both golfers and hockey players and can even prevent injury. Imagine trying to race an opponent down the ice to an empty net, but not being able to move effectively; the other player is going to win more often than not. Similarly, if you aren’t flexible, you may not even make it all the way down without pulling a muscle. Flexibility and mobility overlap with golf by ensuring the ability to have a proper golf swing -- both help with distance and accuracy without destroying your back.
Has there ever been a time someone said something hurtful unwarrantedly, but you had to keep your cool for the sake of the people around you? Hockey players have to go through this time and time again, and must handle trash talk, unsportsmanlike conduct, or overly aggressive behavior for the sake of their team. They simply don’t let it bother them and they continue playing (most of the time…unless the gloves come off).
It’s this mindset that sets hockey players up for success in golf. No matter how bad they’re hitting the ball, they remain composed and keep their head in the game. As you may know, the biggest opponent in golf is one's own mind, and frankly, hockey players possess the toughness to mentally overcome obstacles they may encounter.
Training Like a Hockey Player (or a Golfer)
As we mentioned earlier, strength and stability are the most important elements for both hockey and golf. But that’s not all.
At Joey D Golf, we’re obviously focused on helping golfers gain more speed, power and strength to improve their game -- and there are several ways to accomplish those goals. For instance, these squat drills help with lower-body strength and stability.
To work on your posture, try these drills from Joey D.
And as Joey D will often say, speed training is all about the fundamentals. Here’s a blog that will get you pointed in the right direction.