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The Island Golfer: Which is the better game, tennis or golf?

February 15, 2022
By Guest Columnist


An age-old debate among fans of both sports is whether golf or tennis is the more enjoyable game.  Both have experienced strong, double-digit growth in recent years. There are those who love to play tennis and others who enjoy the game of golf. Then there are those who spend a lot of their free time playing both sports.

Islander Bill Bax is a mid-handicapper who plays golf at Coral Creek Club and tennis at the Boca Bay Pass Club. He did not start playing either sport regularly until he finished college, took a job and started entertaining clients. “I can play golf a lot better now than I ever did before, but I don’t put in the short-game practice required to be a low-handicapper,” Bax admitted. “I am more proficient at tennis because of my consistency and athleticism. I can make all the shots in golf, but never on the same day.”

Bax is not alone. People who play both often say that golf is their favorite game, but tennis is their favorite sport. To become proficient at golf, one needs to put in time on the range under the watchful eye of a teaching professional. Practice makes perfect … or at least as perfect as your golf game can get while grinding away on the range with an imperfect swing.

“Of the tennis players I have met while teaching golf – especially among those that played competitively at some level – I’ve discovered that they are all physically fit regardless of age,” said Jim Lohbauer, head golf professional at Coral Creek Club. “Tennis players learning golf bring a set of fundamentals that make it easier to teach them. They allow me to dive in faster, deeper, and we can pinpoint things for development more quickly.”

Tennis players who play golf understand there is a shelf life to their involvement with the sport. Most racquet sports, including tennis, often result in great wear and tear on a player’s joints, especially when competing on hard courts. Golf is comparatively easier on the joints and can be enjoyed well into an aging body for lifelong enjoyment.

Chuck Young, who plays tennis regularly in the Monday night GOAT competition at the Pass Club, has a passion for both sports but sees them differently. “Tennis is a great workout. Mentally, it is easier on you than golf. I always feel better about myself after playing tennis than golf. Golf is such a skill game, having as much to do with chess as it does with a track meet.”

Coral Creek’s Lohbauer, who played many sports as a kid growing up in Westchester County, New York, says that golf is a lifelong sport that can be picked up at any age. Tennis? Not so much, due to its physicality. “Professional tennis players retire at a very young age, whereas professional golfers continue to compete well into their golden years,” Lohbauer said.  “There is such a demand on fitness in tennis. It can wear a body down.”

Golf is seen as more social than tennis. Playing in a foursome, hanging out at the golf club and enjoying post-round libations with friends are viewed as valued aspects by players of the sport. For many tennis players the sport provides good-natured fun. But the essence of the game is competitive, mano a mano, you against me, with just a little post-competition socializing.

“A significant difference between the two sports is in the camaraderie you experience,” said Bax. “The ability to wander around the golf course with friends for four hours, getting to know them better. You do not really have that in tennis. I enjoy both sports for different reasons.”

The physicality of tennis. The skill proficiency required in golf. The pursuit of happiness and well-being on the links and off the courts. Those lucky enough to enjoy both sports, especially into their later years, are lucky indeed.

Scott Cotherman enjoys the mental challenge from golf and physicality from tennis as a member of Coral Creek Club and the Boca Grande Club.