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THE ISLAND GOLFER: Taking up golf? A better chance for success if you excel at tennis

January 12, 2022
By Guest Columnist

Long dubbed country club sports, tennis and golf experienced a resurgence in popularity in the past 20 months due to pandemic-related dynamics. Both sports have risen from a consistent decline over two decades and are now seen as safe outdoor recreational activities for the vaccinated and unvaccinated alike. The Omicron variant of the Covid virus has boosted that dynamic.

In Boca Grande and surrounding communities, islanders have flocked to tennis and golf in growing numbers. This has once again opened the debate among sports aficionados about which game is easier to master.

John Janes, a former three-sport high school athlete from Homewood-Flossmoor on Chicago’s south side, has been the Director of Tennis at the Boca Grande Club for three years. Proficient at tennis, basketball and golf in his youth, Janes excelled on the tennis courts, earning a spot as a walk-on for the Auburn University men’s collegiate team. “When I teach, I use golf as an analogy all the time,” says Janes, who carries a 6.0 handicap index on the links. “Tennis and golf are fundamentally very similar, engaging the core more than the hands and wrists. As for balance and timing, it’s the same in both sports. Tennis is a game of power, finesse and timing. Core body strength and good hand-eye coordination are required in both tennis and golf. Add the increased forearm strength, mental strength, strategic thinking and good posture that are required of skilled tennis players, and you have all the ingredients to transfer success to the golf course. A cheerful outlook helps as well.”

Says Janes, “Tennis players make for better golfers than golfers make for good tennis players. Golfers do not see the golf swing as being like the tennis swing, but it is. Tennis players who have been making that kind of move on a ball in motion can more easily do it with a stationery ball in golf.”

This helps to explain why there are so many low-handicap golfers among elite professional tennis players. Ashleigh Barty is the world’s No.1-ranked women’s tennis player. She is also the ladies club champion at Australia’s Brookwater Golf Club. Barty’s accomplishments on the golf course caught the attention of Tiger Woods, perhaps the greatest living golfer. Woods got to know Barty during the run-up to the 2019 Presidents Cup matches played in Australia.

Tennis legends Ivan Lendl, Raphael Nadal, Roger Federer and Pete Sampras are all single-digit handicappers. Former world’s No.1-ranked men’s tennis player Andy Murray, from Scotland, has made known his interest in becoming a professional caddie when his tennis career is completed. In an interview with Sky Sports, Murray explained, “There’s crossover between tennis and golf on the mental side of things, and helping a golfer with that might be interesting.”