Stan Smith Q&A: When the tennis legend puts down his racket, turns out he’s a pretty good stick

Stan Smith

At age 76, Stan Smith still maintains a single-digit handicap.

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This interview was first published in the January/February 2023 edition of GOLF Magazine.

GOLF: Being the top tennis player in the world takes up a lot of time. How did you manage to get into golf?

Stan Smith: I never played until I moved to Hilton Head Island in ’71. I had a Wilson tennis racket named after me at the time, so I went to their factory and picked out some clubs.

G: Were you good at golf right away?

SS: Most tennis players pick up the game fairly quickly. There was a golf pro at Harbour Town named Stan Graff, who happened to be a former Stanford quarterback. He related golf movement to other sports, which helped me understand the game better. Golf and tennis swings are very similar in their kinetic link back and forward.

G: How good were you at your best?

SS: I might’ve gotten down to a three at one point. My index is 7.8 now. I feel like I’ve lost something like 20 yards over the last year. I think I might be missing a link or two.

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G: Hey, not too shabby for a 76-year-old!

SS: Well, my short game has always been pretty good. I putt fairly well. My iron play is erratic. I drive the ball consistently; it’s just not goin’ very far.

G: Your strength on the short shots — do you relate that to your finesse game on court?

SS: I served hard, and I could hit my ground strokes pretty hard, but the rest of my game had a little more variety. I would try and mix it up and keep opponents off balance. But yes, in golf you hit the ball hard, but you’re also required to hit delicate shots that require good hands and certainly a fine touch very similar to tennis where you’re hitting drop shots and finessing short shots.

G: The Stan Smith tennis shoe from Adidas is iconic. But they also have a Stan Smith golf shoe?

SS: Yes! They first came out with it about 15 years ago, and it looked just like my tennis shoe but with nubs on the bottom. Then, last year, Adidas came out with a green [Stan Smith] shoe for the Masters, and I did a little video with Dustin Johnson for that. Then they had a white shoe for the U.S. Open, and Jessica Korda and I did a commercial for that. There were a couple more models for the Ryder Cup and the ZOZO Cup in Japan. They also have one with a little kiltie over the laces, like players from the ’60s and ’70s. We partnered with Vice Golf and made a bright orange and a lime shoe. Boy, you notice someone wearin’ those if you’re standing nearby!

Stan Smith’s biography, Some People Think I’m a Shoe, has been made into a documentary by LeBron James’ production company. It’s titled Who Is Stan Smith? and premiered last fall.

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