How this NFL cornerback became a single-digit handicap
Getty Images / @realpatrickpeterson
Patrick Peterson likes to say he didn’t find golf. Golf found him.
When the LSU product got drafted in 2011, he wasn’t much of a golfer. But when he moved out to Arizona for his rookie season with the Cardinals, the game was everywhere.
“Being there, my wife was in med school and I was by myself so I had to find something to do to kill time in the offseason,” Peterson said. “The golf bug kinda bit me. So that’s how I started to get serious.”
In the decade since finding the game, Peterson has become obsessed — and he’s become a pretty solid player, too. Despite not taking up the game until his 20s, Peterson plays off a 5 index. In a recent interview with GOLF.com, Peterson shared his insight on how he’s become a single-digit handicapper, learning from Butch Harmon, and more.
On how he got to single digits:
“For me, it’s been all about the short game. My hand-eye coordination is probably among the best in the world as a professional athlete. The power is there, too. But with my iron play and my woods, I work on them, but it’s not something that has hindered me. I feel like I have a pretty good grasp of that. But the short game, around the greens is key. You’re not gonna hit perfect iron shots every time. You may hit a good shot but it rolls off the green, so you may have to chip it up. So for me, it’s all about everything within 30 yards and in. I love working on chipping, pitch shots, bump-and-runs, because you never know when you may need those shots. So for me, working on my game around the green was one of the key components that helped bring my handicap down.”
On where he does most of his short-game practice:
“I do most of my short-game work in my backyard. I have a pretty sweet setup in my backyard. I have a replica of Augusta 12 green, so the longest shot in my backyard is about 100 yards even. The shortest shot is about 37 yards. So I have a range from about 100 to 37 yards to work on, and then I can work on the green as well. So just having the access to that in my backyard is huge for me.”
On the most difficult area of improvement:
“Course management, definitely. When you’re a ball player and you have so much power, you want to overpower the course, but you can put yourself in bad situations or bad positions. For the most part, it’s all about taking your pride out of it. You want to give yourself the best opportunity possible to score your best. Learning course management was the biggest thing for me. Implementing that into my game helped me a lot, because it’s you vs. the course. Having an understanding of that and being able to take your medicine in certain situations can turn your game around.”
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On learning from Butch Harmon:
“I was about three or four years into my game when I went to go see him. And he was the one who gave me a better understanding of golf. A better understanding of course management. A better understanding of taking your medicine. A better understanding of why the ball did what it did. It’s not the club’s fault, it’s the guy who’s swinging it. Once you figure out why the ball did this, it’s going to help you shave those bad shots off your game. And when I went to go see coach Harmon in Vegas, it was like a light switch went off. The game started to make sense to me and slow down. And after those lessons I had with him, he gives you a big binder of photos and videos with the key points that he’s telling you in the lessons. I just continued to go back to that, because when I was with him, that was the best I ever hit the ball.”
On his goals in golf:
“I’m a competitor, so I want to be as good as I can be. Golf is a game that’s impossible to master, but I want to continue to put myself in a position to shoot some of my career-best rounds. To be able to compete with some of the big dogs and the retired players who play a ton of golf in celebrity events like that. I just want to continue trending in the right direction, because I know I’m coming up on the end of my career in football, so I know I’ll have more time to focus on my game. Once I have the opportunity to really dial in and focus on it, I think I can be a really dangerous player. So I just want to continue working on my game and hopefully someday win some of these celebrity tournaments.”