Left-handers, can you play great golf as a southpaw?



Left-handers, can you play great golf as a southpaw?

Dr. Jean Harris works with left-handed student Sissy Grande, allowing the student mirror the teacher. CHAD SCHLOMER

Left-handed people make-up 12 to 15 percent of the population and are thought to include only 5 percent of all golfers, both male and female.

Until recently we didn't see many left-handed golf professionals on TV. There are currently seven left-handed golfers on the men's tour on a regular basis.

The most successful is Phil Mickelson with 44 victories and five majors. What is interesting about Mickelson is that he is right-handed in everything but golf.

Next is Bubba Watson with 12 wins and two Masters green jackets. Savannah native Brian Harman has two tour wins. There are two female LPGA golfers playing left-handed on the tour. Neither has won a tournament yet.

So, why are there so few lefties playing golf professionally when tennis and baseball have many great left-handed players? I think it has to do with equipment.

To start in golf as a left-handed person, you should go to a club fitter to find good left-handed clubs. Local golf stores, with fitting systems, have left-handed clubs from most companies. Many charge nothing for you to try different shafts and club heads.

Retail stores do not keep a good supply of left-handed clubs in stock, especially for women and juniors. Also, buying online is not recommended unless you know what you are looking for.

If you are a beginner and not sure what to do, try both right-handed and left-handed clubs and see which feels more natural. A good golf professional can help you make the decision.

It is also difficult for a lefty to take up the game without professional help because most instructional tips online, magazine articles and books use right-handed language and right-handed models. I did find a book that I would recommend by a PGA Master Professional Steve Anderson, called "On the Other Hand." It includes 85 color pictures and instruction from the left side.

As an LPGA Master professional, I love teaching lefties because I can face them and they can mirror my movements. I also make it a point to use language such as "target side" and "rear side" or "upper hand" and "lower hand." Make sure you have your teacher change the language when working with you as a left-handed student.

Finally, everything I have read about left-handed people is that they use their right brain more, which is the creative side. This is the side that great players use for "feel" on the course. Golfers who stay in their left brain become too analytical and this causes too much thinking on the golf course.

Dr. Jean Harris is an LPGA Master Professional and teaches at local courses. jean.golfdoctor.harris@gmail.com; golfdoctorjean.com