Kelly? Mick? Occy? Machado? Which surfers are the best at ruining a perfectly good walk with a game of golf?
“Golf and surfing are kind of ultimate challenges. And they’re almost opposite each other. Surfing is all movement, energy, nature, and whatever. A golf course is kinda just sitting there, waiting for you to make… yourself look bad.” –Kelly Slater
Over the last weekend, a Covid-delayed Masters tournament took place in Augusta, Georgia. Golf and surfing seem to grow friendlier each year. Kelly Slater participates in the Pebble Beach pro-am, he has hosted PGA golfers Adam Scott and Rafa Cabrera Bello at the Surf Ranch, and he sings golf’s praises more loudly than Adele at ANZ Stadium in Sydney. With professional surfers embracing golf as a lay-day activity that compliments swinging on Teahupo’o sets, it begs the question: who can hack it, and who just hacks?
By modern standards, it is tough to imagine Mark Occhilupo earning high scores for diversity of approach while going right. On the backhand, Occhilupo surfed with the repetitive poise of a professional golfer on the driving range. The reproducibility of his backside snaps gave the sense that there was a glitch in the matrix. While four identical snaps in a row may not be a feast for the surf appreciator’s eyes, it could conceivably indicate a propensity for the consistency that is a quality golfer’s goal. On the course, though, Occhilupo’s swing is anything but consistent. The highest possible handicap for a male golfer is 36, but Occhilupo is an out-of-the-box thinker.
Expected Handicap: 40+
Mick Fanning’s retirement sees fans treated to a multitude of new Fanning experiences. While the birth of baby Xander is the sentimental favorite among vicarious Fan-dome experiences, the quarantine, backyard, golf-training regimen is the comedic favorite. Partnering with Callaway Australia may be a bit premature for Fanning, as his power surfing has translated to power swinging but not accuracy. Any money Fanning saves on free clubs may be counterbalanced by the money he spends buying new windows for his neighbors. Golf is as much about style as it is about power, and until Fanning quits holding his driver like it is a dirty diaper, he is going to keep losing more golf balls than hours of sleep.
Expected Handicap: 39, like his age.
Honolua Bay is one protein-shake-fueled Bryson DeChambeau drive away from the The Plantation Course at Kapalua, home of the PGA’s Tournament of Champions. With a world-class wave and golf course cuddling on Maui’s Upper West Side, it is no surprise that Dusty Payne is similarly adept at threading golf balls and right-hand barrels. While recovering from his horrific wipeout at Pipeline, Payne surely rehabilitated with a few extra golf rounds. Payne’s golf game is as tight as his return to surf form.
Expected Handicap: 12
Southern California produces great surfers and great golfers. That Machado is proficient in both is only surprising in the context of his hair. The soul-surfing, soul-searching Machado hosts golf fundraisers, strokes balls with Slater, and over time he has proven himself to be exactly the golfer everyone imagined: barefooted. Having acknowledged that golf requires finesse, it comes as no surprise that Machado’s panache carries over to the links. The stylish goofy-footer golfs righty, but the DNA of his cutback can be seen in the arc of his swing. Machado takes the club back with confidence, ease, and rhythm. Machado prefers to let the waves determine the board he rides. On a wave, he lets the board do the talking by surfing as an extension of the board, rather than fighting to dictate micro adjustments. Shoes off in the tee-box, Machado lets the club do the work and the ball seems to find its way home.
Expected Handicap: Scratch