How pitching helped John Smoltz become one of the best pro-athlete golfers in the world

With a +1.5 index, John Smoltz is an elite amateur. Here are the ways he says being a pitcher benefitted his golf game.

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In addition to being a MLB Hall of Famer, World Series broadcaster John Smoltz is also better than scratch on the course, carrying a +1.5 index. Perhaps even more impressively, Smoltz says he has never even taken a lesson until recently, when he worked on getting his right hand through the ball.

Though Smoltz is obviously one of the most athletically-gifted humans on the planet, turns out, there are plenty of parallels between pitching and golf that Smoltz says have benefitted him in his game, like staying centered over the ball. Another similarity? The focus required over a tough shot.

John Smoltz
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“When I see something clearly, like whether it’s a line on a putt or a shot through a narrow gap, it reminds me of pitching. When I see all this space, not as good. So actually some of the shots that really have a tighter window made me feel like I was on the mound looking at a square inch off the plate or trying to hit the glove.”

Like many former pro athletes, Smoltz turned to golf as a way to keep his competitive juices flowing. But even when playing at such a high level as an amateur, Smoltz says it would be nice to be able to depend on some teammates when things go awry.

“The big thing about golf is you are out by yourself and you wait to hit,” Smoltz told GOLF.com. “Pitching, you start the action. But then, when you release the ball, you get help to bail you out, or not so much help. In golf, you gotta play your foul balls. That’s the difference”

For more from Smoltz, check out the video below.

jessica marksbury

Golf.com Photographer

As a four-year member of Columbia’s inaugural class of female varsity golfers, Jessica can out-birdie everyone on the masthead. She can out-hustle them in the office, too, where she’s primarily responsible for producing both print and online features, and overseeing major special projects, such as GOLF’s inaugural Style Is­sue, which debuted in February 2018. Her origi­nal interview series, “A Round With,” debuted in November of 2015, and appeared in both in the magazine and in video form on GOLF.com.