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These Left-Handed Golfers Are Content to Go Their Own Way


ROTHERHAM, England — If anyone questions Alan Haines’s left-handed golf swing, he jokingly reminds them that he happens to be the one standing on the appropriate side of the ball.

Haines, 73, was sitting in a clubhouse here recently, waiting for a fellow lefty to tee off on the primary hole on what was a quite overcast day. After that player had driven on the downhill par 4, one other golfer with a left-handed swing followed. Then one other. And one other — until, eventually, 36 consecutive players had teed off with their right shoulder toward the goal.

“Whenever you get quite a lot of us together,” said Chris Birch, 60, “people do notice.” Birch said his grandfather, father, son and grandson were (or are), like him, left-handed.

One other player, Frank McCabe, 84, concurred. “We’ve been playing and someone has said, ‘Crikey! I’ve just seen 4 left-handers playing together,’” McCabe said. “I’ve needed to say, ‘Well, no; there’s actually 30 of us.’”

Haines, McCabe and Birch help run a solidaric group referred to as the British Left Handed Golfers Association, or B.L.H.G.A., a decades-old society that goals to advertise left-handedness in a sport whose sinistral figures don’t necessarily reflect those of on a regular basis society.

While around 10 percent of the world’s population are believed to be left-handed, their presence on golf courses is way more rare. The P.G.A. of America estimated that only about five percent of PGA Tour members play left-handed, and since 1860, only 4 — Bob Charles, Mike Weir, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson — have won a significant. Just one woman, Bonnie Bryant in 1974, has ever won an L.P.G.A. event while playing left-handed.

Many left-handed players put such figures right down to two important obstacles from years passed by: access to equipment and the supply of left-handed coaching.

“Going back 50, 60 years, you may never discover a set of left-handed golf clubs in a professional shop,” Charles, who became the primary left-handed major champion when he won the 1963 British Open, said in a telephone interview. “The clubs weren’t available.”

McCabe, the chairman of the B.L.H.G.A., described how, when he was taking over the game within the Sixties, his local golf club required latest players to undergo lessons with the club pro before playing a practice round with them. “He only made it through two holes,” McCabe said of the latter requirement, “after which we stopped because he desired to check out my putter, which, to him, was the opposite way around.”

Because of this of this environment, many lefties opted — and a few still opt — to play right-handed, while a select few continued fighting the nice fight for his or her preferred side of the ball.

Events celebrating left-handed golfers are hardly latest; a few of the earliest examples date to the Twenties, when lefty tournaments were reportedly held in Recent England and Washington state. The National Association of Left-Handed Golfers (N.A.L.G.) was established in 1936, leading to a corporation that today has around 270 individuals on its mailing list and native affiliates in 12 American states, in line with Sid Miner, the chairman of the N.A.L.G.

In Britain, a trophy for left-handed golfers referred to as the Mees Cup was first contested within the Thirties, before a newspaper notice attracted quite a few lefties to fulfill on courses in and around London within the Nineteen Fifties. These gatherings resulted within the founding of the B.L.H.G.A. in 1959.

Today, members pay an annual fee of £20 (about $23) for the privilege of being a part of a society that prioritizes camaraderie over competitiveness. The group plays on eight courses a yr, each handpicked to even out travel for members, around half of whom are retired, and to ensure as many as possible can attend events.

“The thing I enjoy most is that the one qualification is to be left-handed,” said Alan Lines, 78, who was chosen because the group’s captain for 2022. He had joined 12 years earlier, after learning of its existence through word-of-mouth.

Lines said he hoped to someday play on this planet championship for those along with his unique swing, a multiday event that’s overseen by the World Association of Left Handed Golfers (W.A.L.G.). That organization was formed in 1979, after the primary global competition was held in Sydney, Australia.

The W.A.L.G. website incorporates contact details for 21 national organizations, each with similar grass-roots backgrounds to that of the B.L.H.G.A. An association within the Republic of Ireland, for instance, emerged within the Nineteen Eighties after fliers were sent to clubs recruiting any left-handers who were willing to reply. A company in Japan reported membership numbers of greater than 1,000 within the Nineties. National groups also sprung up fin countries as far-flung as Sri Lanka, France, Taiwan, Australia, Canada, Recent Zealand and Sweden.

But while such societies rose from circumstances of the past, some have more recently expressed concerns about declining attendance numbers, and the longer term of their events. The players who turned up in Rotherham voiced similar worries.

“I believe it’s easier now” for left-handers, said Terry Sims, a professional who runs a store out of Silvermere Golf Complex in Surrey, southwest of London, that is devoted to selling only left-handed equipment. “There’s lots more package sets made left-handed. It’s also not taboo now to learn left-handed.”

Sims, whose left-handed brother was initially forced to take up the sport right-handed within the Nineteen Eighties, said that since he opened his store in 2004, most major manufacturers have began making their right-handed models available to left-handers, excluding the odd putter and a few hybrid clubs. Online ordering has helped, too, he said, making the type of clubs that local pro shops may not stock available at the clicking of a button. Yet even in the web age, secondhand options are still difficult to return by.

Organizers at some societies have blamed their declining numbers at events on aspects seen elsewhere in golf: a scarcity of interest in joining societal groups from younger players; cost; and the ripple effects of the coronavirus on travel.

Haines sees it as much more straightforward than that: The expansion of society golf, he said, had its heyday within the ’80s and ’90s, and lots of of those players are aging out.

Haines has been secretary of the B.L.H.G.A. since 1995 and a member for greater than 40 years. Within the group’s heyday, he said, it counted around 300 members. Over the past few years, that figure has ebbed at around 150. But those who remain play on.

After their afternoon round at Rotherham Golf Club, the group of British lefties regrouped for his or her annual general meeting, which might involve dinner and a discussion of the agenda for the yr ahead. While other courses may rotate on the group’s calendar, Rotherham — with its Neo-gothic clubhouse and it status because the home course of the previous Masters champion Danny Willett — has been a relentless for greater than 50 years. That regularity, Haines admitted, removes one amusing element of confusion that the group has previously seen when latest courses have been added to their rotation.

“Sometimes, we go to golf courses where they put the knife and the fork the opposite way around on the table,” he said. “That at all times brings a smile to our faces.”

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