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Golf vs Tennis: Which Sport Is Tougher?

As someone who plays golf and tennis, I find both sports demanding in different ways. Although tennis is lot more challenging physically, the mental game of golf is very tough. That’s not to say you don’t need to me in great shape to be a top golfer these days. Looking at how often professional golfers can rip the ball over 300 yards consistently, it shows they clearly work on their technique, hit the gym and probably watch their diet.  

Moreover, although being fast and strong with great technique is important for tennis, the mental side is vital. Look at the dominance of Djokovic, Nadal and Federer over the years. They clearly know how to focus and deal with pressure in big games.

So what makes a top golfer? And what attributes do you need to become an awesome tennis player? Let’s take a look at this in more detail.

Do golfers make good tennis players (and vice versa)?

Despite both sports focused on hitting a small ball, there are quite a few other similarities in terms of what you need to play tennis and golf.

  1. Coordination

You need excellent hand eye coordination to excel in both sports. Whether you are taking out a driver and hitting off the tee, or hitting a slice serve in tennis, your body needs respond quickly to what you can see, so you have control on your shots.

  • Mental toughness

Although you need to be physically fit to play tennis, don’t underestimate the importance of being mentally strong. When players are on the court, they’re on their own and only they can find a way to win. To become a good golfer, you need to be extremely tough mentally. In fact the great Jack Nicklaus once said “The game of golf is 90% mental and 10% physical

  • Strength

You need a strong core to hit powerful shots in golf and tennis, not to mention great forearm strength. It also helps your balance and timing on your shots.

Can you be good at both sports?

Although I can’t find evidence of golfers who play tennis to a high level, there are many examples the other way. According to Tennis Life magazine, Rafael Nadal has 2.5 handicap, Federer has a single figure handicap and Pete Sampras plays off scratch. Andy Roddick, Andy Murray and Tim Henman are also very skilled golfers.

Does tennis mess up your golf swing?

Despite the differences between the two sports, there are some similarities between swinging a golf club and a tennis racket, particularly for forehand and backhand groundstrokes. According to the American Junior Golf Association, hitting forehands helps develop the rotational power and movement of the body, which follows a similar path to a golf swing. Hitting backhands can help decelerate the golf swing after you’ve made contact and develop the powerful whip action on golf shots.

The only aspect of tennis which can mess with your golf swing is the serve. Some tennis players really arch their back after they’ve tossed the ball, which strengthens the spine. However, you want to avoid this at all costs in your golf swing and make sure you have the proper set up, leaning your upper body slightly forwards at the address position.

Who makes more money:  Golfers or tennis players?

Players at the top of the rankings earn vast sums of money, but golfers earn slightly more overall. In 2016, the top golfers earned around $43 million in that year alone in prize money and endorsements. Tennis players earned slightly less, at $38 million including earnings and sponsorships. Also, if you bear in mind that golfers can have a much longer career than tennis players, it stands to reason that their lifetime earnings will be considerably higher.

How should you train to become a better golfer?

You need to strengthen the main muscles you use in the golf swing. In the legs, this involves working on the glutes. Here are some exercises you can do:

  1. Perform lunges whilst rotating
  2. Side stepping with a resistance band around your legs (just above your knees)
  3. Core rotations with medicine balls.

Here you can find more advice on how to perform these exercises.

You can also work other muscles in the chest by doing push-ups, and perform bicep curls to strengthen your arms.

In terms of improving your game, you should practice like you are playing. On the driving range you can aim for different targets, and put a club on the floor to check your alignment. Apparently Nick Faldo, would go even further and actually pretend he was playing an actual course when he was practicing.  In 1996, he played a game by himself on the driving range going through every shot he would have hole by hole at the Masters taking into account everything including doglegs, bunker placement and water hazards.

How do you become a professional golfer?

In the USA, first of all you need to be a member of the Professional Golfers Association. For this, you need to play 36 holes in one day and achieve a certain score, complete various levels of coursework, pay fees to join, take courses, pass a test and a have a job in the golfing industry. Doing all this can take a long time so you need to be patient and work hard.

How should you train to become a better tennis player?

Like golf, you need to strengthen a lot of the core muscles, and you can do this in the gym. You also need strong glutes in the legs to withstand the impact your body faces, especially playing on hard courts. Lunges are also important, and you can add dumbbells to make it harder. For working on your upper body, you can do bench presses, and internal/external rotations for the shoulder muscles. Here are some tips on strengthening your body to play tennis.

For fitness, you need to work on short bursts of activity for 20-30 seconds followed by a rest for 20-30 seconds. This replicates a match scenario in between points. You can do wall sprints, side steps and running in between tramlines.

The guys over at Top Tennis Training have a number of great videos on fitness, which I try to do when I can:

Finally, for improving your game, you just need to work on all the different types of shot. You’ll need to perform lots of drills hitting forehands, backhands and volleys.

How do you become a professional tennis player

Like golf, it’s a long and hard road to become a professional tennis player. You need to put in a lot of hours from a young age so hitting all your forehands, backhands, serves and volleys are basically second nature. In your teenage years, you’d be expected to challenge at junior grand slams and ITF tournaments, before turning pro on the ATP Tour. Some tennis players go to college and progress to the ATP Tour afterwards. For example, John Isner, Cameron Norrie and Kevin Anderson all attended college or university before turning pro.

Which sport has the most participants?

According to Statista, there are 24.3 million participants in the USA who played golf in 2019, and for tennis it’s a bit less at 17.7 million.

Which is easier, golf or tennis?

This is obviously a bit subjective as some people may naturally take to one sport more than the other. That being said, tennis is obviously easier to pick up and get going. You just need a racket and some balls to get started. For golf, you’ll need a set of irons, golf shoes, woods, golf balls, a bag and possibly a golf stand. Of course, you could just hire some clubs to get started, but it’s always nicer when you have your own gear!

Both sports demand high levels of concentration. However, in tennis you have to be completely switched on for at least 2 hours. If you drop your focus, you can easily lose a few games on the spin. A round of golf is a lot longer, and you can have little breaks in between your shots and walking to the next hole.

I would also argue tennis is a little easier to start playing at a reasonable level.  After a couple of lessons, most people can probably start rallying the ball with a partner. Learning the different types of shots and how to serve takes more time though. Golf takes longer as you need to have so many fundamentals right to actually make contact with the ball on your swing! You need the right grip, ball position and proper alignment.

Is golf more expensive than tennis?

As much as it is nice to play a round of 18 on a warm sunny day, unfortunately golf is an expensive sport to play. In fact, according to Today’s Golfer, in the UK it’s the most expensive sport to play. In 2016, the average golfer spent a whopping £214 a month on the sport. This includes clothing, golf club membership, equipment and competition fees.  Tennis came in at around £80 a month. This figure likely includes tennis club membership and equipment too.

golfers vs tennis players
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How many professional tennis players are there?

There are 1,814 professional tennis players on the ATP tour and 1,106 on the WTA tour.

How many professional golf players are there?

There are 27,000 golf pros in the United States, but this number includes many players who coach as well as play. At the highest level, where golfers only play on the PGA Tour the number is far fewer.