It’s no secret that professional athletes enjoy playing a lot of golf during the time they have away from their sports career. When those careers finally end with retirement, many of these athletes are happy to head to the links on an almost daily basis. While golf is appealing to current and former pros for a variety of reasons, it is not always the case that the athletic skills they possess easily translate to the game of golf.
In fact, there are many former athletes who have devoted a great deal of time to working on their golf game but still struggle to enjoy even a modest level of success on the links. Charles Barkley’s devastatingly bad swing is a prime example of this, and even some of the best swing coaches in the game have been unable to offer poor Sir Charles any helpful advice. For hockey players, however, this does not seem to be the case. When a hockey player picks up a set of golf clubs they often experience a great deal of familiarity, especially as it relates to the swing mechanics required to make a golf ball travel a long distance down the fairway.
Most hockey players agree that golf is a natural sport for them to play. The weight transfer used to shoot a puck is quite similar to the weight transfer used in hitting a golf ball, and the setup is fairly similar with the swing’s force being directed at either a puck or a golf ball located at their feet. The swing plane is nearly identical, and hockey players have spent years upon years in training on the ice to learn how subtle changes in their swing plane can alter the flight of the puck following impact. For some of the following 15 NHLers, golf is a sport they are so good at that an eventual pro career on the links is not necessarily out of the question.
15 Alex Ovechkin
In one of the more remarkable golf debuts ever, Ovechkin sunk a hole-in-one during the first round he ever played as part of a preseason charity tournament held back in 2006. It’s not like the hole was particularly easy either, as Ovechkin holed out on a 160-yard par-three on a Springfield, Virginia golf course. While the hockey superstar is not quite on the level of golfer as the other NHLers appearing on this list, his impressive debut performance has at least given him the confidence to challenge Rory McIlroy to a round.
14 Teemu Selanne
The retired Finnish hockey player and Anaheim Ducks legend became so enthralled with golf that he had two par-threes installed on his property so that he could practice the game without having to leave home. The home-course installation and lessons from a local club pro have helped Selanne to a 5-handicap, and his love for the sport of golf led to an opportunity to serve as a caddy for pro golfer Mikko Ilonen. Selanne carried Ilonen's bag this year at the annual Masters Par Three Contest hosted at Augusta National Golf Club, which is held the same week as the tournament in which golf’s best vie for the coveted Green Jacket.
13 Mike Cammalleri
The Flames left-winger not only uses golf as a way to relax off the ice, but also takes the lessons learned on the putting green and applies them to the world of professional hockey. When the Calgary power-play unit was struggling during the 2013 season, Cammalleri told the Calgary Sun of how the strategies used in golf could be applied to the difficulties his unit was experiencing, saying, “I learned by listening to the golfers. They say the best putters in the world never worry about whether the ball goes in the hole or not. They just worry about making a good stroke. That’s all they can control.” Cammalleri apparently spends a fair amount of time not just listening to golfers, but also playing the game, as he is able to boast an impressive 3.6-handicap.
12 Brenden Morrow
Morrow, a left-winger with the Tampa Bay Lightning, lists golf as his favorite sport outside of hockey, and with good reason: The former NHL All-Star and Olympic gold medalist carries an exceptional 3.5-handicap. The active NHLer will likely see that handicap continue to drop once he opts for retirement, unless, of course, he experiences a Barkley-like breakdown in which his swing completely falls apart the more he plays. In all likelihood, Morrow will easily become a scratch golfer if he devotes more time to the game in retirement.
11 Daniel Alfredsson
The recently retired Alfredsson is undoubtedly spending more time on the links now that his 17-year NHL career has come to an end. The longtime right-winger of the Ottawa Senators carries a 3-handicap, and, following the decision to leave Ottawa for Detroit in free agency during the summer of 2013, Alfredsson found solace on the golf course on his first official day as a member of the Red Wings. Even though the departure caught many in Ottawa off-guard, the team and Alfredsson remained on good enough terms that he was able to sign a one-day deal so that he could retire as a Senator.
10 Joe Sakic
One of the most outstanding NHLers ever, the former MVP and three-time NHL First All-Star Team selection is also a standout on the links. Carrying a 2-handicap, Sakic hosts an annual charity golf tournament and has participated in several Pro-Am golf tournaments as well. No stranger to success on big stages, Sakic made his first hole-in-one while playing in the 2011 American Century Celebrity Golf Championship on a 163-yard par-three while using an 8-iron. The shot earned him $1 million, half of which he donated to charity.
9 Mike Modano
Though Modano is able to maintain an outstanding 1.3-handicap, he is not even close to being the best golfer in his household. The former NHL standout is married to Allison Micheletti, who just so happens to be a professional golfer. They play together often, and Modano has been able to take advantage of her professional advice during the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship at Lake Tahoe, as Micheletti served as his caddy during the tournament.
8 Mario Lemieux
The legendary NHLer is a member of Oakmont Country Club, a course that has over a century worth of history and has hosted the U.S. Open with relative frequency. Playing on a course that is difficult enough to host one of the PGA’s major tournaments has undoubtedly helped Lemieux’s golf game, as the former Penguins center and Hockey Hall of Famer has won the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship and is able to maintain a handicap of 1.1.
7 John-Michael Liles
The defenseman with the Carolina Hurricanes is also one of the NHL’s best golfers, sporting a handicap that is a minuscule 0.8. His golf-playing days go all the way back to high school, as Liles was a member of the golf team at Culver Military Academy in Indiana. Though Liles has obviously devoted more of his time to developing his hockey talents, it should be clear that he also has the talent to excel on the golf course as well.
6 Jamie Langenbrunner
Langenbrunner, a former New Jersey Devils captain and a two-time Stanley Cup winner, belongs to multiple golf clubs and has won the club championship at Cloquet Country Club in Minnesota. Holding a 0.8-handicap, it should be no surprise that Langenbrunner is now experiencing the same kind of success on the links as he once did on the ice during an 18-year NHL career that included stops in Dallas, New Jersey and St. Louis.
5 Marc Savard
Savard, whose NHL playing career essentially ended due to post-concussion syndrome, had a fairly lengthy recovery that has somewhat limited his time on the golf course. He has said recently that he has been able to play about three times per week and at one point held a 0.6-handicap. The former Bruins center famously kept a putting green in his Boston home and came within a single stroke of qualifying for the 2008 Canadian Open. Most recently, he has played in several PGA Tour events on a sponsor’s exemption, including the 2014 Players Cup in Winnipeg.
4 Brett Hull
Hull, one of the game’s greatest scorers and a 2009 inductee to the Hockey Hall of Fame, has kept his competitive fires burning in retirement by playing the game of golf on a frequent basis. A member of multiple golf clubs that include Brook Hollow and Preston Trail, Hull has won the Tillinghast Cup at Baltusrol while shooting one-under par on a course that often hosts the U.S. Open. A scratch golfer, Hull has competed in U.S. Open qualifying tournaments and has earned prize money on several occasions while playing in the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship held annually in Lake Tahoe.
3 Jeremy Roenick
One of the NHL’s all-time greats, Roenick is a Hall of Famer who also happens to be an avid golfer. A scratch golfer, Roenick competes frequently in the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship and is the owner of his own golf course, Pembroke Country Club in Massachusetts. Just the third American-born NHLer to reach the 500-goal plateau, Roenick now spends most of his free time on the links, playing four to five times per week.
2 Grant Fuhr
Fuhr, a Hockey Hall of Famer who tended goal for the great Edmonton Oilers teams of the 1980s, is now the director of golf at Desert Dunes, a golf club located in Palm Springs, California. Fuhr played golf frequently during his NHL offseasons, and in retirement he once came very close to qualifying for a spot on the Canadian PGA Tour in 2004. The five-time Stanley Cup champion is a scratch golfer who regularly competes in the Lake Tahoe event that attracts so many other NHLers on this list.
1 Dan Quinn
Quinn is perhaps as well known for his golf career as he is for his NHL career, as the 14-year veteran of the NHL has become a regular winner of the American Century Celebrity Golf Classic. A five-time champion at the event, Quinn has also caddied for pro golfers John Daly and Ernie Els. Quinn, who once racked up 94 points in a single season while playing with Mario Lemieux, has carried Els’ bag at several major tournaments, including the Masters Championship held at Augusta National. Of course, Quinn is a talented golfer in his own right, having carried an obscene handicap of plus-2.1.
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