SI Vault
 
Swim Clubs
Alan Shipnuck
October 08, 2012
DIFFERENT STROKES? MICHAEL PHELPS SWAPS HIS SPEEDO FOR SLACKS AND DIVES INTO GOLF
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
October 08, 2012

Swim Clubs

DIFFERENT STROKES? MICHAEL PHELPS SWAPS HIS SPEEDO FOR SLACKS AND DIVES INTO GOLF

View CoverRead All Articles

It's natural for a recent retiree to look forward to playing some golf, but Michael Phelps has gotten a little carried away. For the 27-year-old gold medal hoarder, golf is less a hobby than a new obsession to replace the endless hours the 18-time Olympic swimming champion spent in the pool. This week Phelps will tee it up at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at St. Andrews, a pro-am that is basically the Crosby Clambake of the PGA European Tour. Playing alongside big-name pros in front of large galleries on championship courses is a pretty audacious step for a guy who's gotten serious about golf only since the London Games.

"I guess I like a challenge," Phelps said last week at Medinah Country Club, where he was a guest of the United States Ryder Cup team. Phelps is being tutored by Hank Haney, Tiger Woods's former coach, for a Golf Channel reality show. During a putting clinic at Medinah for a corporate sponsor, Phelps looked a little stiff over the ball but displayed a smooth, rhythmic stroke. His golf swing is herky-jerky but hints at some of the power he unleashed in the pool. Haney estimates Phelps is around a 30 handicap and hopes to slice that in half by the time the TV show airs in February.

Says Haney, "He has a [6'7"] wingspan, which leads to a huge swing arc, which translates into a ton of clubhead speed. That's the good news, but he's so flexible there are a lot of moving parts to his swing. Hitting the ball a long way isn't Michael's problem. Finding it is."

Walking inside the ropes at the Ryder Cup was both a thrill and an education for Phelps. "I'm just soaking everything in," he said, "trying to focus on all the little details: which side of the tee box they use, what kind of shot they play around the greens. I have a lot to learn."

Phelps remains adamant that he is done with competitive swimming. It's also worth noting that golf returns to the Olympics in 2016. "You've got a better chance of seeing me play golf at those Games than being in the pool," Phelps says.

1