Golf and Surfing: Why Surfers (and Kelly Slater) Love Golf

“I’ll tell you…golf is the greatest game in the world,” said Kelly Slater. “You can literally break down any barriers with the people you play with.” Photo: PGA

One is a beacon of country club civility, the other a pursuit once relegated to society’s fringes. Though the two sports make unlikely bedfellows, surfers love golf. It’s nothing new. Legendary watermen Mike Diffenderfer, Mike Hynson, and Miki Dora were avid golfers. Their passion has left a legacy among a new generation like Kelly Slater, Rob Machado, Bruce Irons, and three quarters of the ASP World Tour. But what do these two seemingly antithetical sports have in common?

“I think both offer a similar challenge,” says Pebble Beach Pro-Am competitor, Kelly Slater. “You might just do something you’ve never done on the next shot or hole.”

“I think the reason they go hand in hand is the sheer independence of being on your own,” says Kahuku Golf Team alumnus and one-time caddy for Adam Scott, Benji Weatherly. “You’re in your own world when you golf, and you’re in your own world when you surf.”

Alpha-golfer Ross Williams has a more practical theory: time and convenience. “There are a lot of good golf courses where we’re surfing,” says Williams. “We’re always waiting for the waves to get better. Golf’s a great way to kill time.”

All explanations seem plausible. But the connection might be deeper, especially since the same man dominates both sports.

“The best golfer in surfing is the best surfer,” says Benji Weatherly. “He’s the most focused. Kelly can float through a whole round and not even know it happened. If we had a competition and everyone had to play with a single handicap, Kelly would win every time.”

But Kelly attributes his golf addiction to the bonds he’s forged on the course. “You can literally break down any barriers with the people you play with,” says Slater. “I’ve spent some of the greatest times of my life with friends on the course talking about life. And it’s for everyone…you or I could play against Tiger and have a shot. And although it’s not the same freedom and instincts of surfing and being in the ocean, it’s one of life’s great challenges.”

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