Rafa Nadal’s golf swing kind of looks like his legendary backhand

July 12, 2019

Despite all his beauty and grace on the tennis court, Rafa Nadal doesn’t have the world’s prettiest golf swing. It’s not a motion that appeals to the eye, or even looks all that athletic.

But by all accounts, Nadal is a good player. His index hovers around a 2, and when you start taking a deeper look at how it works, the similarities between his golf and tennis swings become quite apparent.

The most eye-catching element of Nadal’s golf swing is his backswing. His right elbow flies and his shoulders tilt severely, which sends the shaft quite steep and closes the clubface along the way. It’s not a move you’d teach a newcomer, but Nadal’s elbow-move mirrors that of his backhand.

Keeping his elbow high and his shoulders tilted allows him to stay centered and add topspin to a tennis shot. That elbow movement may be unconventional in the golf swing, but it works for Nadal.

Through the ball, Nadal’s golf and tennis swings diverge. In tennis, he can stay centered over the ball and turn aggressively through it. The racket face stays shut, but as he strokes subtly up, the ball comes out with a wicked amount of topspin.

In golf, Nadal can’t quite get away with it the same way.

He turns through the ball well, but he tends to get his body caught too far ahead of the ball on the way through. That leaves the face open, which causes misses to the right.

It’s a quirky move with some drawbacks, but he makes it work becuase it’s comfortable for him. It’s a move informed by his years of tennis shots; experience he uses to play better golf.