ROTHERHAM, England — If anybody questions Alan Haines’s left-handed golf swing, he jokingly reminds them that he occurs to be the one standing on the proper aspect of the ball.
Haines, 73, was sitting in a clubhouse right here not too long ago, ready for a fellow lefty to tee off on the primary gap on what was a moderately overcast day. After that participant had pushed on the downhill par 4, one other golfer with a left-handed swing adopted. Then one other. And one other — till, ultimately, 36 consecutive gamers had teed off with their proper shoulder towards the goal.
“If you get a variety of us collectively,” stated Chris Birch, 60, “folks do discover.” Birch stated his grandfather, father, son and grandson have been (or are), like him, left-handed.
One other participant, Frank McCabe, 84, concurred. “We’ve been taking part in and somebody has stated, ‘Crikey! I’ve simply seen 4 left-handers taking part in collectively,’” McCabe stated. “I’ve needed to say, ‘Effectively, no; there’s really 30 of us.’”
Haines, McCabe and Birch assist run a solidaric group referred to as the British Left Handed Golfers Affiliation, or B.L.H.G.A., a decades-old society that goals to advertise left-handedness in a sport whose sinistral figures don’t essentially replicate these of on a regular basis society.
Whereas round 10 % of the world’s inhabitants are believed to be left-handed, their presence on golf programs is much extra uncommon. The P.G.A. of America estimated that solely about 5 % of PGA Tour members play left-handed, and since 1860, solely 4 — Bob Charles, Mike Weir, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson — have gained a serious. Just one girl, Bonnie Bryant in 1974, has ever gained an L.P.G.A. occasion whereas taking part in left-handed.
Many left-handed gamers put such figures down to 2 predominant obstacles from years passed by: entry to tools and the provision of left-handed teaching.
“Going again 50, 60 years, you could possibly by no means discover a set of left-handed golf golf equipment in a professional store,” Charles, who turned the primary left-handed main champion when he gained the 1963 British Open, stated in a phone interview. “The golf equipment weren’t available.”
McCabe, the chairman of the B.L.H.G.A., described how, when he was taking over the game within the Nineteen Sixties, his native golf membership required new gamers to undergo classes with the membership professional earlier than taking part in a observe spherical with them. “He solely made it by two holes,” McCabe stated of the latter requirement, “after which we stopped as a result of he wished to check out my putter, which, to him, was the opposite means round.”
Because of this surroundings, many lefties opted — and a few nonetheless choose — to play right-handed, whereas a choose few continued combating the great combat for his or her most popular aspect of the ball.
Occasions celebrating left-handed golfers are hardly new; a few of the earliest examples date to the Twenties, when lefty tournaments have been reportedly held in New England and Washington state. The Nationwide Affiliation of Left-Handed Golfers (N.A.L.G.) was established in 1936, leading to a corporation that immediately has round 270 people on its mailing checklist and native associates 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 Nineteen Thirties, earlier than a newspaper discover attracted plenty of lefties to satisfy on programs in and round London within the Fifties. These gatherings resulted within the founding of the B.L.H.G.A. in 1959.
As we speak, members pay an annual payment of £20 (about $23) for the privilege of being a part of a society that prioritizes camaraderie over competitiveness. The group performs on eight programs a yr, every handpicked to even out journey for members, round half of whom are retired, and to verify as many as potential can attend occasions.
“The factor I take pleasure in most is that the one qualification is to be left-handed,” stated Alan Strains, 78, who was chosen because the group’s captain for 2022. He had joined 12 years earlier, after studying of its existence by word-of-mouth.
Strains stated he hoped to sooner or later play on the planet championship for these along with his distinctive swing, a multiday occasion that’s overseen by the World Affiliation of Left Handed Golfers (W.A.L.G.). That group was shaped in 1979, after the primary international competitors was held in Sydney, Australia.
The W.A.L.G. web site accommodates contact particulars for 21 nationwide organizations, every with comparable grass-roots backgrounds to that of the B.L.H.G.A. An affiliation within the Republic of Eire, for instance, emerged within the Nineteen Eighties after fliers have been despatched to golf equipment recruiting any left-handers who have been prepared to reply. A corporation in Japan reported membership numbers of greater than 1,000 within the Nineteen Nineties. Nationwide teams additionally sprung up fin international locations as far-flung as Sri Lanka, France, Taiwan, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Sweden.
However whereas such societies rose from circumstances of the previous, some have extra not too long ago expressed considerations about declining attendance numbers, and the way forward for their occasions. The gamers who turned up in Rotherham voiced comparable worries.
“I believe it’s simpler now” for left-handers, stated Terry Sims, a professional who runs a store out of Silvermere Golf Advanced in Surrey, southwest of London, that’s devoted to promoting solely left-handed tools. “There’s much more package deal units made left-handed. It’s additionally not taboo now to be taught left-handed.”
Sims, whose left-handed brother was initially pressured to take up the sport right-handed within the Nineteen Eighties, stated that since he opened his retailer in 2004, most main producers have began making their right-handed fashions obtainable to left-handers, apart from the odd putter and a few hybrid golf equipment. On-line ordering has helped, too, he stated, making the type of golf equipment that native professional retailers may not inventory obtainable on the click on of a button. But even within the web age, secondhand choices are nonetheless tough to come back by.
Organizers at some societies have blamed their declining numbers at occasions on components seen elsewhere in golf: a scarcity of curiosity in becoming a member of societal teams from youthful gamers; value; and the ripple results of the coronavirus on journey.
Haines sees it as much more simple than that: The expansion of society golf, he stated, had its heyday within the ’80s and ’90s, and plenty of of these gamers are growing older 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 stated, it counted round 300 members. Over the previous few years, that determine has ebbed at round 150. However people who stay play on.
After their afternoon spherical at Rotherham Golf Membership, the group of British lefties regrouped for his or her annual normal assembly, which might contain dinner and a dialogue of the agenda for the yr forward. Whereas different programs might rotate on the group’s calendar, Rotherham — with its Neo-gothic clubhouse and it standing as the house course of the previous Masters champion Danny Willett — has been a continuing for greater than 50 years. That regularity, Haines admitted, removes one amusing component of confusion that the group has beforehand seen when new programs have been added to their rotation.
“Generally, we go to golf programs the place they put the knife and the fork the opposite means round on the desk,” he stated. “That all the time brings a smile to our faces.”