124th U.S. Open

Pinehurst No. 2

The Loop

Playing from the wrong side of the ball on purpose

December 12, 2015

Michelle Wie once told Guy Yocom, in an interview in Golf Digest, that if she ever got bored with golf she'd take it up again, left-handed -- one of many reasons to join her fan club. A few years ago, Mike Zimmerman, a reader in Glendale, Wisconsin, decided to try the same thing, mostly because he thought switching sides would pose an interesting challenge, especially for a guy in his late forties. He has now written a book about his experience, called The Wrong Side of the Ball.


The book, which Zimmerman published himself, contains slightly more autobiographical detail than people who don't know him are likely to be fascinated by, but there's lots of interesting stuff, too, including the fact that, of the four left-handed players who have won majors -- Bob Charles, Mike Weir, Phil Mickelson, and Bubba Watson -- only Watson is a natural lefty. There's also the even more surprising fact that six other natural lefties have won majors, but all while playing right-handed: Johnny Miller, Greg Norman, Curtis Strange, Nick Price, David Graham, and Byron Nelson. I'm going to add my brother, John, to that list, because he's a natural lefty who, while playing right-handed, served as the captain of his high-school and college golf teams, won the club championship at two different clubs, and won my club's member-guest (with me):


Teaching pros (and our late father, handicap 36) sometimes used to say that every golfer ought to play from the opposite side, because then the dominant arm could "pull" the club through the ball. I don't think there's any actual science to back up that idea, but lack of actual science has never been an impediment to golf-swing theorizing. In the old days, the main reason lefties played righty was the scarcity of left-handed golf equipment. That's less of an issue now, although it's still a consideration, especially when it comes to demo clubs. But a challenge is a challenge. Here's where Zimmerman honed his new swing (his wife is still wondering what happened to their bedspread):


And here's a video of Zimmerman's first public demonstration of his transformed technique. He doesn't actually swing until almost the very end, but the long build-up helps to create dramatic tension:

The Champions Tour is probably safe. Still, Zimmerman gets major credit for trying. Here he is again (on the far left, of course), with the guys he regularly plays with -- who lend support to my theory that middle-aged male golfers are all basically the same person:

zimmerman pals.jpg