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Opinion & Analysis

Canada: Home of the lefty?

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Golf has become a more prominent sport in Canada, and I believe that Mike Weir has a lot to do with that, since his triumph at the Masters only 16 short years ago. I am not saying it is going to replace hockey as our sport of choice as that kind of talk may get me committed.

We have, since that time, significantly grown our presence on not only the PGA Tour but all professional tours. It does make us exceedingly proud to sport one of the premier LPGA players in Brooke Henderson.

Harkening back to Mike Weir, at this time I also feel, shows a more accurate representation of the current state of golf in Canada. If you spend some time looking at the players at our courses, especially those that have taken up the game since his triumph, I think you may be surprised at what you see.

Welcome to Canada – home of the lefty

It seems to be a revelation of sorts here north of the border. One that, I will be honest, I do not belong to the group, but am intrigued as to what triggered it. We, as a country, have one of the highest per capita numbers of both golfers and courses. The state of the business of golf in Canada is a totally different topic.

Did Mike Weir make it acceptable? At a time when everyone wanted to be like Tiger, a short lefty from Canada wins the Masters and it was instantly cool in Canada to play left-handed? As a dedicated club ho walking through the used section of golf shops here does not reveal the multitude of deals for lefties that it previously did.

In Canada, approximately 30 percent of golfers are now left-handed, which is a staggering number anyway that it is looked at. We are not that far removed from a time when just writing with your left hand was seen as a faux pas!

If we look at the other sports played here I think that we can garner a better perspective of how this number came to be.

The national sport of Canada is lacrosse. However, if you asked most people, I would bet they would answer hockey. Nearly two out of every three people who play hockey in Canada play the sport left-handed. Hockey is a game of hand-eye coordination and transfer of power. Stickhandling, catching a pass or shooting all require good hand-eye to make you successful. But the transfer of power into a slap shot, or even a wrist shot for that matter, is where the correlation to the golf swing can begin.

Looking at the similarities, both involve a plant foot, a long backswing, hip rotation, downswing, acceleration and a follow through to generate power and results. Just as in golf, if any of these components aren’t present, the puck will go nowhere and on the ice, and you may just fall down.

More people play hockey than golf in Canada, and if you already play one left-handed it can be a somewhat natural transition to the other, as the basics for the swing are already ingrained in your mind.

Baseball is also another popular sport in Canada. Many of our successful hitting MLB players have been left, handed hitters. I feel that most will admit to the fact the swing was an easy transition over from hockey. They may field and throw right but the mechanics of the swing are easier to replicate by doing it left-handed.

Whatever the reason for this revelation of the left-handed golfer in Canada, I feel that it is a good thing for the sport. Whatever gets more people on the course is a good thing and if playing that way helps them to achieve personal success at the game faster then we can’t ask for anything more.

Who knows what the future of the left-handed golfer in Canada will hold. Just remember, if you are a lefty golfing north of the border, don’t expect to find the deals in clubs that are extended to our our left-handed friends south of the border!

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23 Comments

23 Comments

  1. Vinny

    Mar 25, 2019 at 8:56 am

    Left handed player from the States here. I play hockey lefty, so I play golf the same way. The same goes for batting.

  2. Paul K

    Mar 24, 2019 at 8:33 pm

    I am one of the right handed Canadians who swing lefty. My brother shot left in hockey so naturally the little brother followed suit, and I kept the same setup into golf (and baseball).
    I honestly have no idea what my left hand is doing through the golf swing and I still can’t imagine how you righties do it ‘properly’ with your dominant hand down below. Just shot best ever 6 over par on Friday so something is working for me!

  3. NTL

    Mar 23, 2019 at 7:26 pm

    No deals for us south of the border either.

  4. Dave r

    Mar 23, 2019 at 11:41 am

    Being Canadian most people south of the border think we live in igloos.

    • F

      Mar 23, 2019 at 7:01 pm

      Well you certainly wear enough pads to play this silly game on ice.
      Why don’t you be real men and remove the pads and helmets and the walls and play the real game of hockey where you can’t use your hands and the stick is one-sided like a golf club.

  5. Jim Thomson

    Mar 23, 2019 at 10:54 am

    I’m a southpaw Canuck. Every time I get a chance, I ask a fellow lefty golfer if he or she is a “right-handed person,” i.e., do you write, throw, use scissors, etc. with your right hand. I’d estimate 90% answer yes, me included. As a kid I played a lot of hockey and baseball. I don’t buy the argument that playing hockey left-handed influenced my golf swing. Shooting a puck, hitting a baseball, or playing golf left-handed just feel more natural to me for some reason. I’m sure Jordan Spieth who throws left-handed but plays golf right-handed (Johnny Miller and Nick Price as well, perhaps) feel the same way.

  6. eh

    Mar 23, 2019 at 9:17 am

    Canadians tee it up in the fairway. Lefty wackos.

  7. Under the Roof

    Mar 23, 2019 at 7:45 am

    In Canadaian youth hockey, kids are taught to have their dominant hand above the other, which allows for better control of the stick and thus stick handling skills.
    Fast forward as those kids transition into golf, and it’s far more natural to have you “strong hand” , for most right hand, above the other on the grip, thus playing left handed.
    Being “right-handed and playing lefty, or vise versa, should provide an advantage for ball striking, as you naturally are pulling down with your (strong) hand into the ball.

    • Man

      Mar 23, 2019 at 7:02 pm

      ICE hockey.
      We have hockey, and it’s played without pads and helmets and the stick is one-aided and you can’t use your hands to knock the ball down. A real man’s game.

  8. Paul S

    Mar 22, 2019 at 10:41 pm

    Check your stats. There are more golfers in Canada than there are registered hockey and soccer players combined

  9. J

    Mar 22, 2019 at 9:43 pm

    This article is rife with inaccurate statements that were not properly researched. Weir didn’t have the effect the author claimed. Golf was a big sport before in Canada and still is. Canada has always had a larger than average amount of lefty’s, weir did not inspire Anyone to choose leftY.

    This was just disappointing to read. It’s an inaccurate portrayal of golf in Canada

  10. E

    Mar 22, 2019 at 8:57 pm

    People are so easily influenced and gullible. Especially Canadians.

  11. W

    Mar 22, 2019 at 8:56 pm

    Ice hockey is lame, a game for wusses

  12. Yertu

    Mar 22, 2019 at 8:24 pm

    A quick google search will show that there are many more golfers in Canada than there are hockey players.

  13. Moshe

    Mar 22, 2019 at 3:43 pm

    More Canadians play soccer than hockey.

    • Bob Parsons

      Mar 22, 2019 at 4:36 pm

      just look at canada’s dominance at international soccer unlike hockey

    • Jeremy

      Mar 23, 2019 at 3:09 am

      We play hockey, dumb dumb.

      • R

        Mar 23, 2019 at 8:22 am

        No, you play Ice hockey, dummy, hockey is a different sport without the ice, and it’s more respectful because in it the players don’t go around fighting each other

  14. Putt Stuff

    Mar 22, 2019 at 3:33 pm

    Lacrosse is the National Summer Sport.
    Ice Hockey is the National Winter Sport.

    Golf is the BEST SPORT.

  15. Steve

    Mar 22, 2019 at 11:44 am

    As a lefty canadian golfer, one time we had three lefties in a foursome. It was amazing. We made sure that the other guy know that he was swinging on the wrong side lol.

    • Geoffrey Holland

      Mar 24, 2019 at 8:16 am

      I once played in a group that all four of us were lefties. The amazing thing is we were put together as a group of singles none of us knew each other before the round.

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Opinion & Analysis

A conversation with a Drive, Chip and Putt national finalist

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I’ve been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend all of the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals at Augusta National since the inception of this amazing initiative. I’ve also been extremely lucky to have attended the Masters each of the past 10 years that I have been a PGA member. Each year, I’m still like a kid on Christmas morning when I walk through the gates at Augusta National, but nothing compares to my first trip in 2010. I was in absolute awe. For anyone that’s been, you can surely agree that Augusta National and the Masters Tournament is pure perfection.

The past few years at DCP finals, I couldn’t help but notice the looks of sheer excitement on the faces of the young competitors as well as their parents. That led me to reaching out to one of this year’s competitors, Briel Royce. A Central Florida native, Briel finished second overall in the 7-8-year-old girls division. She is a young lady that I know, albeit, not all too well, that competes in some of my youth golf organization’s Tour series in Florida. I spoke to Briel’s mom at Augusta and then reached out to the family after their return to the Orlando area to get a better idea of their DCP and Augusta National experience…

So how cool was it driving Down Magnolia Lane?

Briel: “Driving down Magnolia Lane was awesome.  Usually, you do not get to experience the scenic ride unless you are a tour player or a member. Everyone got extremely quiet upon entry. There were tons of security along our slow ride. Seeing the beautiful trees and the Masters Flag at Founder’s Circle in the distance was surreal. Having earned the right and opportunity to drive down this prestigious lane was breathtaking. I would love to do it again someday.”

What was the coolest part of your time at Drive, Chip and Putt at Augusta National?

Briel: “Everything was cool about the DCP. Not too often do you see people taking walks in the morning with green jackets on. We were not treated like kids. We were treated like tour players, like we were members at Augusta. The icing on the cake was when they took us to the practice green and we were putting alongside Zach Johnson and Charl Schwartzel. Everyone was confused when we first got there because we weren’t certain we should be putting on the same green around the pros. Again, we were treated like we were tour players. Where else would I be able to do this? Nowhere other than DCP at Augusta. One of my favorite reflections is having Bubba Watson watch us chip and congratulating each of us for our efforts. He did not need to do that. He took time out of practicing for a very important week in his career to support the DCP players. I think his actions show what the game of golf is about: the sportsmanship, the camaraderie, and support.”

How did you prepare for the finals?

Briel: “I prepared just like I did for every other tournament, practicing distance control, etc. But to be honest, you really can’t practice for this experience. The greens are like no other. The balls roll like they are on conveyor belts. I didn’t practice being in front of so many cameras, Bubba Watson, Condeleeza Rice as well as many other folks wearing green jackets. You need to practice playing under extreme pressure and scrutiny. When it is game time, you need to just do your thing and concentrate; have tunnel vision just like the ride down Magnolia Lane.”

What tour pros did you get to meet and talk to?

Briel: “WOW! I spoke to so many tour pros while I was there. I spoke to Keegan Bradley, Annika Sorenstam, Nancy Lopez, Zach Johnson, Mark O’Meara, Gary Player and Patrick Reed. I also met up with the U.S. Woman’s Amateur Champion, Jennifer Kupcho, and 14-year-old baller Alexa Pano. I’m still in awe!”

 

How fast were those greens?

Briel: “Those greens were lightning quick. The balls rolled like they were on a conveyor belt; you didn’t know when to expect them to stop. Had I practiced these speeds a little more, I would have putted the 30-foot like a 15-foot and the 15-foot like a 6-foot putt.”

I also wanted to ask Briel’s parents a few questions in order to get a better idea from the standpoint of the mom and dad, on what an increasable experience this must have been.

So how cool was it driving up Magnolia Lane for you guys?

Mom and Dad: “Going down Magnolia Lane was a dream come true and we wouldn’t have EVER been able to do it without Briel’s accomplishment. Driving down was so peaceful; the way the trees are shaped like a tunnel and at the end of that tunnel, you see the Masters Flag and Founder’s Circle. Just thinking about all the legends, presidents, influential people driving down that road and we were doing the same thing was extraordinary. We appreciated how slow the driver took to get us down the lane for us to take it all in. A lot of tears. It was heavenly.”

What was the coolest part during your time at Drive, Chip and Putt and Augusta National?

Mom and Dad“The coolest part was seeing 9-year-old Briel compete at Augusta National! Seeing the whole set up and everything that goes into making this event what it is, we have no words. They made these kids feel like they were royalty. We are so truly blessed, thankful, and grateful for everything that was provided to Briel to make this a truly awesome experience. We don’t want to share too much as it needs to be a surprise to anyone else that’s reading this that may make it there.”

How impactful do you feel this initiative is to golf in general?

Mom and Dad: “You can’t possibly make any bigger impact on golf than to let golf’s future attend the best golf course and the coolest event, Drive, Chip and Putt at none other Augusta National during Masters week. The day after the event, we had a handful of people walk up to Briel to tell her that she was an inspiration to their older daughters who now want to play golf. They even requested a picture with Briel; how cool! This initiative is definately, without question, growing the game.”

It goes without saying that you were incredibly proud of your daughter but what may have surprised you most on how she handled this awesome experience?

Mom and Dad: “We are so incredibly proud of Briel! She handled this challenging and overwhelming experience very well for only being 9 years old. She was cool, calm and collected the whole time. The atmosphere at Drive, Chip and Putt can chew you up if you let it, but she didn’t let all of the distractions get to her, she embraced them.  Out of all the competitions she participated in to earn her invitation to Augusta, we truly feel she treated this whole experience like she was not at a competition but a birthday party where she was having a blast. She made many new golf friends and we met amazing golf families we anticipate spending more time with in the future. You don’t get to go to many parties where Bubba Watson is hanging out with you like he’s your best friend.”

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Podcasts

The 19th Hole (Ep 76): Rees Jones on how Tiger won at Augusta and will win at Bethpage!

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The Open Doctor Rees Jones talks with host Michael Williams about the key holes that shaped Tiger’s win in Augusta and his chances for victory at Bethpage Black in the PGA Championship. Also features John Farrell of Sea Pines Resort (host of this week’s RBC Heritage Classic) and Ed Brown of Clear Sports.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

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Opinion & Analysis

Municipal golf matters. Here’s why

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With another golf season upon us, it’s the time for many to consider the options for how and where they plan to play their golf this season. A good number of golfers would have already started paying dues towards their club memberships, some are waiting to buy a pack of prepaid passes for their local course, and like many, I’m eagerly awaiting the opening of my local municipal golf course — my muni.

Growing up, my friends and I were what you would call course rats: kids who would be there when the sun came up and there as the sun went down. Spending hours on the range often picking our own balls to avoid paying for another bucket — since that meant an extra burger after practice. It was the best “babysitter” our parents could have asked for — endless hours spent outside day after day and for the low price of just $350 for the season — plus about $5 a day for that burger I was talking about. We all ended up being pretty decent players without much instruction, based on the simple truth that we were given the opportunity to play as much as we wanted, and we were always trying to beat each other — we learned to play golf, not “golf swing.”

Living outside of the city in a smaller town, this was a “mom and pop” course that is still around today and busy, but I often wonder now as an adult if other kids that loved golf got to share in the same experience. Looking back, I don’t think I could have gotten a better education in being polite, responsible, honest, and confident — I guess this was The First Tee before The First Tee. The memories from those summers are some of the fondest I have from growing up, and with so many young families living in cities, along with the high cost of organized sports, and the closing of golf courses, municipal golf is one of the last places where this type of opportunity is available to juniors and adults alike at an affordable price.

Municipal golf has been around for a LONG time, and in this day and age it has, for some cities, become a lightning rod for budget cuts along with concerns about tax dollars being spent to fund an “elite” sport. The issue I have is cities spend a huge amount of money to help subsidize other sports fields and recreation facilities including swimming pools, ice ricks, soccer and baseball fields yet none of these sports have the “elite” tag attached to them like golf — with a young family I utilize most of these facilities too. This could end up sounding like a blasphemous statement from a Canadian, but hockey, for example, has become a much more elite and expensive sport as far as access and barrier to entry, including equipment, yet a lot of (non-hockey playing) people would chain themselves to an arena to prevent it from closing its doors.

I’m not here to argue the merits of a city budget, but I am fully aware of the perception many people have about golf. Recently, speaking to one of the golf professionals at a city-owned course near me, he told me they are one of the few city recreational facilities that actually turns a profit thanks to high traffic the course sees, along with efficient use of the clubhouse facilities for events during the season, and in the offseason.

What I love about “muni” golf is that it really is the course for the people. St Andrews in Scotland, for example, is by definition a “muni” public golf course. The course and the “R & A Club” are separate entities, and if you can show a handicap card (and can get a tee time), you can play one of the many courses located in the town.

The munis I play the most because of proximity are Kings Forest Golf Course and Chedoke Civic Golf Courses in the city of Hamilton. The Chedoke courses are in no way a “Championship Test” heck, the shorter Martin Course tops out at just over a whooping 5,700 yards ( that’s a VERY generous number based of the tees actually used), but like St. Andrews it’s home to more than just golfers. Early morning and late afternoon you will find people strolling the paths, walking their dogs and just enjoying the green space — something that as cities continue to grow will be needed even more. It’s not closed on Sundays and doesn’t become a park like St Andrews, but even during winter you will still find dog walkers, cross country skiers, and people sledding down hills. That seems pretty multipurpose if you ask me.

As much as I pick on, and use my local Chedoke as my example, I do it out of love, like a little brother. The Martin course is a Stanley Thompson design with a bunch of very cool holes build into the Niagara Escarpment. It’s a ton of fun to play.

What makes muni golf accessible for so many players from juniors to seniors and everyone in between is the affordability. Sure the conditions might leave something to be desired on a day-to-day basis, but it’s understandable when you have a course staff of 5-6 versus more than a dozen like at high-end facilities. At the end of the day, it’s 18 tees with 18 greens and the company you are with that makes a round of golf, not the height of the fairways or rough or the occasional bunker in need of a good raking.

Locally, a junior membership is right around $500 bucks and that gets you unlimited golf with no tee time restrictions. It’s a pretty nice deal if you ask me. What makes golf different from other individual activities and team sports (something I would like to note I was very active in as a younger person) is that it can be played at any time, and you can easily be pair up with three other random people to just play the game together regardless of gender, age, or skill. It’s often those rounds that are the most fun. No scheduled practice and “game days” like other sports. That means seven days a week access, not just a few hours here and there like many other organized sports.

If we look at the bigger picture and data from the National Golf Foundation (2017), there are just over 11,000 PUBLIC golf facilities in the United States. The average price paid for an 18 hole round of golf was only $34 at these public facilities, which sounds to me like a very reasonable cost. If the “average” golfer plays 10 times a year, that’s only $340 (yeah, I know I’m good at math) and with the buyers’ market in the used equipment space, even if you need a full set up of clubs to get started it can easily be had for less than $400, and you can have those clubs for a long time. A true recreational player will have just as much fun with a 580XD, and 3-PW set of Ping Eye 2s, as they would with a shiny new set of clubs.

Whats even more interesting is there are recent examples of municipal/small, privately-owned golf courses making big comebacks thanks to passionate individuals and cities willing to understand the value a course really has.

The best two are Goat Hill Park and the Winter Park 9 – I’ll let Andy Johnson from The Fried Egg give you the rundown: The Fried Egg Profiles Winter Park. Two courses on opposite sides of the country achieving fantastic results and offering extremely affordably priced fun golf to boot. It’s the sense of community that these places created that make them beacons in the landscape. I may be an outlier but I know that if given the opportunity to volunteer at my course for a few hours once a week to help fix a bunker, clean up fallen branches, or just help with general course maintenance in exchange for the ability to golf I would be first to sign up.

It’s a program like this that could also work for juniors (within a reasonable age obviously) to not only help grant more access to golf but teach about agronomy and respect for the course itself. I can only imagine that this type of “education” and team environment would help create more life-long golfers. (Please remember this would be 100 percent voluntary and open to both kids and adults alike. I’m not asking or suggesting free hard labour.) Some retirees already do something like this as course marshals.

At this point, I think it’s important to state that I am NOT anti-country club and private course; I love private courses too! Conditions are top notch, the architecture is in most cases primo, which also has a lot to do with the land they were put on when they were founded (especially in North America) rounds are played quickly, perfect practice facilities, I could go on and on. I have a lot of friends that are members at clubs, and like many people in the industry I know a lot of pros that are happy to grant the occasional access on slower days to “friends in the industry.” I love playing golf one way or the other, but at heart I’m a muni kid that has a huge amount of respect for the game and both sides of the fence, regardless of where someone started in the game, or where you choose to play now, we’re all playing golf, and that’s the most important thing.

Sure the pros on T.V. play high-end often expensive and private courses, which is great for entertainment and sponsorships, but municipal golf where you are going to find the largest percentage of golfers who are really the heart and soul of the game. If we really want to #GrowTheGame (a phrase used way too often) and maintain some semblance of accessibility for the next generation of “muni kids” having municipal golf is a critical part of that.

Ask your local course manager or pro how you can help, attend city council meetings. I know I have many times to listen to arguments from both sides and to participate in the discussion. Golf as a whole will be better off for it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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