Left, Right, Left

Discovering the joys of switching sides
Lipping Out - Left, Right, Left

My dad texted me a picture in November 2019 that is only now changing my golf life. My grandmother had passed away, and in the process of going through her belongings, he found and sent me a photo of a lefty Wilson Walker Cup niblick, mashie and mashie niblick, along with a lefty Walter Hagen “Iron Man” lofted wedge. They had hickory shafts and leather grips. The grooves were dots. I texted him immediately, “I want them.” Thing is, I play right-handed. 

As the youngest of three kids, I got plenty of hand-me-downs growing up. One was a set of right-handed clubs after neither of my older siblings took up the game. Thing was, I am naturally left-handed. But I took to the game instantly. I was 7 when Tiger Woods won the Masters in 1997, and I got absolutely hooked. I was fortunate to have a long hallway in my parents’ house that broke both ways, and I began getting weekly lessons around the age of 10. I stayed righty and maintained my golf obsession through adulthood, pulling my handicap down to around a 7.

Plenty of golfers out there, all the way up to Phil Mickelson and Jordan Spieth, play opposite to their dominant side. But every time I saw my grandmother’s clubs, I wondered how I would have been as a lefty. Then, last fall, I went on a golf binge, including a three-day buddies’ trip to Bandon Dunes, where I won our final match after shooting 78 at Sheep Ranch. I came home to Southern California needing a golf break. Turns out what I really needed was a right-handed rest, because one day in November I grabbed the left-handed clubs and went to the range.

The first couple balls off the mat were tops and chunks. It was humbling, especially while wearing a Bandon Dunes hat and carrying a monogrammed golf bag. I started by playing the ball back in my stance, thinking back to where my right-handed swing started. I thought back in the stance would force a shorter swing that would increase the chances of getting my hands and club face square at contact. I quickly realized I should just teach myself my right-handed swing. I focused on repeating my grip, my head tilt to start the swing and playing the ball up in my stance. I began to find the center of the club face and hit some pretty good shots. My miss was high and left, mirroring my high-and-right miss from the other side. And, like my other swing, I had to remind my trailing hand to turn over to ensure I got through the ball. After consecutive days of hitting about 60 balls from the left side, I deemed it time to go play my home course, a nearby nine-hole par 3.

I ended up shooting 13 over, which was pretty good considering I made a quad on the first. Instead of my usual swearing, I laughed while making doubles from this side. And I made my first left-handed par on the ninth.

I immediately texted my dad as if I were 13 and had just birdied a hole that had always been my nemesis. And, just like when I was a kid, I got hooked.

Soon after that, my left-handed swing challenged my right. So I went out to the par 3 and gave my left-handed side 11 strokes and one mulligan. It was back and forth early, but my left-handed swing ended up winning, 3&2. I was 9 over from that side and 3 over from the right.

Admittedly, I was more focused on the left side. I was learning new things about the game and myself in real time. It increased my already deep interest in golf course architecture, because suddenly this course I’d played countless times looked new.

So my left-handed odyssey continues. How cool would it be to beat my Bandon buddies from the left side as well?