Saturday, May 16, 2009

Golf vs. Tennis

A few months ago, a tennis player friend of mine disclosed his interest in learning golf.  I agreed to help him get started.  With my limited knowledge, I started teaching him what I know about the game.  At the same time, he started to teach me how to play tennis.  It was a give and take relationship that works out well.  He is enjoying golf and I am enjoying tennis.  A couple of nights ago, after playing 9 holes of golf with him, we started talking about the two...  Do I have to continue or do you already know where the conversation lead to?  Yes, we jumped in to the great Golf vs Tennis debate.  While having the somewhat heated discussion, I realized that we have somehow turned in to the Golfer and Tennis Player stereotypes that I often read about.  It particularly reminded me of an article that I have read by Caroline Clarke.  A few years ago, she surveyed golfers and tennis players on why their particular sport is their sport of choice.  Here's an excerpt:

"Golfers won't even talk tennis--or any other sport for that matter. To them, there's golf, then everything else. Their game is more than a hobby or pastime, they insist. It's an obsession that takes hold and doesn't let go. To them, golf represents the "ultimate" in competition and requires the ultimate in discipline, patience, and respect for the game and one's opponents.

Tennis players agree that golf is the ultimate--but only if you're talking about expense. "It costs way too much," many of them said--and, worse, it's way too slow. Tennis is a game for athletes, they declare, noting the fact that, unlike golf, they actually have to wear sneakers to play. Golf is a game for former athletes, they say, and anyone else who likes to mosey along in pretty settings swinging a big club at a little ball, barely breaking a sweat."

Of course I was quite biased... I tried explaining to my friend that golf is harder because it is only you versus the golf course and only you against yourself when you play golf.  A golfer tries to hit a ball as consistent as possible but still gets different results with each swing because of so many factors that affect it (the landscape, the lie, the wind, the hazards, etc.).  I particularly told him that when a golfer makes a bad shot, there is no one else to blame but himself and nothing fulfilling will come out of it while in tennis, when a player makes a bad shot (in a flat rectangular court that is the same everywhere), if the opponent misses the bad shot, the bad shot could still be gratifying to some extent.  In the midst of this heated discussion was when I remembered Clarke's article and I stopped and told my self that I don't want and refuse to be a stereotype.  And then it hit me, why am I even having this debate when I enjoy playing tennis too!?  So I lightened up, and he did too.  We both ended up laughing about what just transpired.  But in the back of my head, I wanted to tell him what David Owen wrote in a Golf Digest article a long time ago... but didn't.

"There is only one moment in tennis when that game comes within shouting distance of golf. That moment occurs when your opponent, having been driven to the baseline by the fury of your return, takes a lunging, desperate swipe at the ball and catches just enough of it to lob it 50 feet into the air, a marshmallow, and the ball is spinning so slowly that you can see the seams on its cover, and it floats high above the net and drifts gently toward the farthest corner of your end of the court, and you instantaneously calculate its trajectory and drop back into the perfect position to smack it to oblivion, and all your options are spread out before you, and you can see your opponent shuffling nervously at the edge of your field of vision, and you know exactly what you want to do, and you set your feet and take your racquet back slowly, and the ball drops perfectly into the circumference of your swing--teed up, as it were--and you dump the thing into the net.

A golf moment.  The only one in tennis.  Case closed." -David Owen


  1. I really liked your blog, even how you kinda killed tennis in the end. haha! But why do we even have to compare? Tennis "IS" different from golf. Thats obvious. I think the real question is " Why do you play?" Tennis, Golf, Mountain Biking, Snowboarding, Motorcycle riding, Racing Cars ...the list goes on and on. I've been playing tennis for over half my life, and during that time, i've made a lot of good memories. It's about the people we meet, the places we go, the laughs that we had, and the people who are there to share that experience! Its about remembering that one "AWESOME" shot that you had and trying to repeat it. Its about remembering that time when you had to play hurt, and you had to dig down deep to see how much "HEART" you had left to finish out the game. And at the end of the day when you're with your friends, we can all look back and laugh! Thats why i play tennis and golf. So why do you play?

    Even now, whenever someone asks me to play tennis, i say

    "Lets do it!"

    see you on the courts...

  2. Thanks for the comment. What you just described is wonderful though it goes for all be able to really enjoy a sport, one has to play with heart and most especially, with good friends. You ask me why I play tennis or golf? I play tennis for the workout, I play golf because it is timeless. In the future, when I look like one of the Golden Girls, I will still be able to play golf and enjoy it as much as I do now. But on top of that, I play golf because it is the "Ultimate in Competition"... Haha!

  3. As an avid golfer and a tournament tennis player I can say a few things about each..
    Tennis pro's
    Tennis is much less expensive..
    Tennis does not take up so much time.
    Tennis is better cardio exercise.

    Tennis cons:
    Only fun when you play someone fairly equal...
    Not nearly as social since you are competing against each other.
    Opponents can consistenly pick on your weakness and demoralize you.
    More likely to get injured in Tennis

    Golf Pro's
    Much more social-- You are not really playing each other but the course...
    Better for weight loss than you think (I always walk)
    You can play to your strengths
    Players of uneven ability still have fun..

    Golf Con's

  4. I totally agree, thanks for the comment!
    I am not quite sure though with what you mean when you said TIME as one of Golf's Cons... If you are talking about 6-hour rounds when the course is packed or when a slow group ahead does not let you play through, then I am totally with you!

    Cheers! :)