There seems to be a weirdly huge crossover between ice hockey and golf, which I guess makes sense. They’re both stick-and-ball sports, and many hockey motions hit the same key muscle groups that are fantastic for the golf swing.
Cameron Young is perhaps the best current example on the PGA Tour. Young is a rising star and one of the longest hitters in the game, and last year I asked his dad, who doubles as his coach, what the secret was.
“Anybody who wants to get good at golf, they should make them play hockey,” he said. “A lot of sequence motions and movements are very similar in hockey…Cam built up his legs and his arms and his hands to where he could generate a lot of speed with the golf club.”
It’s why a lot of hockey players tend to have really powerful golf swings. But the techniques are ultimately different, and create certain tendencies that will pop up in their golf swing.
So, with the 2024 Discover NHL Winter Classic (which you can watch on our sister company TNT or stream it on Max), we thought it’d be fun to break down a few former hockey players’ golf swings — and hopefully provide some helpful tips to any golf-loving hockey players who may be reading.
1. Lower body stays very stable
Operating on a slippery surface like ice means hockey players are often trained to use their legs to provide a stable surface for their upper body. It’s why you’ll often see these players brace the ground with a wide stance when they land on a golf course, like you see with Jeremy Roenick here.
This is a good angle of John-Michael Liles’ golf swing, too. You can see him standing wide and stable.
That’s good in golf, but only up to a point. Too much width and stability can often lead to hockey players restricting their hip turn, which puts tension on their lower back. This is actually something TNT NHL Panelist and all-time great Wayne Gretzky worked hard on in his own golf swing; narrowing his stance, and moving his left knee towards his right knee on the backswing.
2. Lead shoulder down, arms more around
Another tendency you’ll see in hockey players’ golf swings is for the club to move more around them. The golf swing is a similar motion to a slap shot, but it operates on a more inclined plane. The club moves up-and-down. Hockey players, used to operating closer to the ground, move the stick deeper and more around them, and dip their lead shulder towards the ground. In golf, it lands them in what’s known as a “flat” backswing. As you see in two-time Stanley Cup champion Joe Sakic’s swing here.
3. Less clubface rotation
A flatter, more rounded backswing, combined with the fact that there is more rotation in the wrists in golf swing compared to a wrist shot or slap shot in hockey, means it’ll often result in a closed clubface at the top of the swing. That creates a tendency to hit the ball left, which means the ball will draw slightly right-to-left on good days, and hook wildly on the bad ones.
You can tell a clubface is closed when it’s pointing up towards the sky on the backswing, like it is in Shawn Thornton’s golf swing here.
Unless, of course, you’re TNT Broadcaster and former goaltender Darren Pang, whose golf swing is legitimately very good. Clean lines all the way through and nice rotation on either side of the ball.
All of which is to say: If you’re ever playing a goalie, make sure he’s giving you strokes.
Whether you’re shooting slap shots or ripping drives, we have something special for you: The 2024 Discover NHL Winter Classic on New Year’s Day! Watch as the Vegas Golden Knights visit the Seattle Kraken, outdoors at T-Mobile Park. NHL on TNT will cover the game live from Seattle starting at 2:00 pm ET. Watch it on TNT or stream it on Max.
This article was originally published on golfdigest.com