It is a tale as old as time: baseball and golf can be a fickle relationship. A baseball player either loves to feel the golf club in his hand or despises it, with no in-between. However, the misconceptions between the two are unavoidable as people don’t know the true struggles of juggling two sports that are so similar yet so different.
I am a college baseball player and have devoted a large portion of my life to playing that sport. Golf is a relatively new love that likes to play with my heart strings and pull me away from other obligations. I consider myself a “born-again golfer,” needing to relearn the sport after taking time away.
However, upon my return, I found that baseball had already taken its toll.
The movements seem to be exactly the same: you hold the club in your hand and swing to hit the ball. Now, that sounds a whole lot like baseball. Then, how about this? Golf entices you even more by placing the ball on a tee. Heck, baseball players do that as a warm-up. What a lovely and easy sport to break into, especially since I’ve got a head start.
All of this develops confidence in a baseball player, just to be crushed on the first swing.
It turns out that the swings are essentially nothing alike. A swing in the batter’s box does not translate to the tee box and can actually make it much more difficult. How is that possible?
Well, it is really quite simple once you break it down. A baseball swing requires you to stay inside the ball and keep an angle that follows the plane of a pitch. The legs are much more linear and direct, with greater momentum and drive. A golf swing is a soft, slow dance where the precision of each movement is magnified by the fear of a mishit.
Thinking in that way is not fun, though. The fun part comes when you take everything you know about baseball and put it towards swinging as hard as you can at a little ball. After all, you’re a big strong baseball player; you do this for fun. The ball should explode off the club face and create a sonic boom as it breaks through the atmosphere.
Alas, you go through all of that just to shank it.
The truth is that it is hard to be both a good baseball player and golfer. They are a unique breed and, if you can find one, you must document their existence for science.
Take New York Yankees centerfielder Aaron Hicks, for example. He has put together an eight-year MLB career, dedicating his life to making it on a big stage. It also happens that he is a damn good golfer.
He has become known for his booming drives that give him professional length. The centerfielder also burst onto the celebrity golf scene after making an ace on a 303-yard Par 4…. with a 3-wood. He followed that up by shooting an opening-round 69 in the celebrity division of the LPGA’s Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions.
Of course, it is a different story for pitchers. The pitchers get all the glory: they are centerstage each game, get most of the credit and don’t ruin their golf game. They don’t need to worry about juggling two swings at one time.
Former major leaguers like Hall of Famer John Smoltz and ex-All-Star Mark Mulder are some of the best celebrity golfers out there. They frequent Pro-Am events and have even made PGA Tour event appearances. Golf is the easy way out, and they don’t suffer the baseball consequences.
Meanwhile, as they get to avoid searching for the balls that faded into the woods because of a mechanical breakdown in the swing, baseball’s position players are discouraged during each round.
I am convinced that no matter what I do, or how I approach the game, I will never be able to avoid a fade. It is engrained in every baseball player’s fabric. We are destined to fail at the sport of golf, at least for as long as we play baseball.
Perhaps they will invent a cure some day: a work of magic that can translate the level of play from field to course. Until then, we’ll have to continue playing our fades and hope for the best.
Tyler Wells is a born-again golfer from northeastern Vermont that has to dodge the rain and snow for most of the year. Currently, he is a collegiate baseball player at the University of New Haven, and he'll use the "it's a different swing" excuse on every bad shot. He can be a decent golfer when he doesn't slice his tee shot into the next fairway.
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