Stephen Curry's Golf Obsession Runs Deep and Has Him Looking Toward the Future

Adam Kramer@kegsneggsNational College Football Lead WriterNovember 24, 2020

Stephen Curry on the Silverado Resort North Course during the pro-am event of the Safeway Open PGA golf tournament Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019, in Napa, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Eric Risberg/Associated Press

His every angle is perfect. His body positioning is nearly flawless. The balance and transfer of energy has a certain flow and smoothness that makes the motion feel entirely too easy. 

It's a movement that Stephen Curry has been perfecting over the past few decades; a mix of meticulous training, relentless repetition and his natural gifts. No, it isn't his jump shot—the greatest jump shot basketball has ever seen. A jump shot that has won him a scoring title, three NBA championships and two MVPs with the Golden State Warriors. 

It's his golf swing. 

While no one would dare question whether he chose the right path in selecting basketball over golf, Curry can't help but wonder what life would be like had he chose the road not taken. 

"There was always that question," Curry says. "If I had to put as much time into golf as I did basketball, could I have made it? We'll never know, but it's always competed in terms of my attention."

Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

On Friday at 3 p.m. ET, the world will get a glimpse of Curry on the course rather than the court when he competes alongside Phil Mickelson, Charles Barkley and Peyton Manning in Capital One's "The Match: Champions for Change." The event will be broadcast on TNT.  

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The four will be competing at Stone Canyon Golf Club in Oro Valley, Arizona. Curry will be paired with Manning, which means Mickelson and Barkley will team up. 

For some, this will likely mark their first time seeing Curry tee it up. And while many athletes moonlight as golfers during their offseason and downtime, Curry's connection to the sport is far more advanced and personal—a connection that dates back to his youth.

His father, former professional basketball player Dell Curry, played golf as a hobby. Stephen would drive his golf cart at first. Then he would take a shot here and there. Before he knew it, he was hooked. 

"I got bit by the bug pretty early and became obsessed," he says. "I'd find myself on the basketball court sometimes thinking about my next round. I kind of still do that in the league, which is kind of weird."

Lance Iversen/Associated Press

Although basketball ultimately won the tug-of-war for his sport of choice, golf has always been a close second. "The little stepbrother," he says. 

When the NBA schedule is released every year, he pours over the matchups and what the season ahead might look like. In his mind, he walks through each game and the path to another championship. Then, when he's processed the journey, he can't help but loosely plan out where he might be able to sneak in a tee time here or there on the road. 

To Curry, it isn't just a hobby. It's a fixation. And while his primary focus will be on basketball for as long as he plays, Curry has dabbled with the idea of playing professional golf over the past few years. 

In 2017, he competed in the Ellie Mae Classic, a Korn Ferry Tour event. He missed the cut when he carded back-to-back 74s, although he still gave it a run. He played the same event a year later and again was unable to make it past Day 2. 

"I've played in NBA Finals, I've played in world championships and played with Team USA," Curry says. "I've played in a lot of big games. There is no comparison to how nervous I was on the first tee, standing there with other professionals, trying to compete."

Eric Risberg/Associated Press

Curry prides himself on his short game, and the connection between his jump shot and the touch required on the greens is something he's always viewed as an advantage. While the physical motions are vastly different, there's a certain feel and creativity required that allows him to excel at both. 

Those who have seen Curry play in person can attest to his short game. They've also marveled at the other elements of his game, and the way he makes his secondary sport look almost easy at times. 

"If basketball didn't exist and he was able to go a full 12 months and just focus on golf, I think he could be competitive on a weekly basis in the pro golf circuit," says Will Gray, a golf writer for NBC Sports who watched Curry play in a pro-am event last year. "His game has very few holes, and he's absolutely legit."

Alan Shipnuck, a senior writer at Golf.com, once played a round with Curry at the renowned Spyglass Hill Golf Course in California. What caught his attention first wasn't his swing but rather his size. 

"On the basketball court, he looks small," Shipnuck says. "But he's actually 6'3" and has the build of the old Tiger Woods. He hit some beautiful long irons. He can hit it 220 yards and still land it softly on a green. That's pretty high-level golf."

Eric Risberg/Associated Press

Curry's connection back to basketball might be his short game, but there are parallels to be found in the way he swings a club and the way he shoots a basketball. 

Both have almost no wasted movement. Both are accomplished with the perfect rhythm. And both have a certain level of effortlessness about them.

"I think smooth is the word," says swing instructor Travis Fulton, who helped start the PGA Tour Golf Academy and worked at the Golf Channel. "It's not explosive. He's not trying to see how far he can hit it. It looks like he's trying to hit the fairway in the greens. It's a very good swing."

Curry's swing and game at the moment are particularly sharp. Perhaps the only positive to emerge from the Warriors' disappointing season and prolonged break away from the court is his extended time on the course. 

At the moment, Curry says his handicap is a plus-1.5—meaning better than scratch. He doesn't play as much as one would think, with family, training and other obligations taking precedence. Still, the time off has given him an opportunity to refine his swing leading into Friday. 

"The game is tight," he says with a smile.

Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

While Curry isn't sure how seriously he'll take golf once he's done playing basketball, there is a possibility he could compete professionally. At the moment, with many successful years on the hardwood ahead, he's unsure of what will come next.

"The amount of time you've got to put into being a professional golfer, I don't know if I would ever want to go down that path after my basketball career," he says. "But you can never say never."

What he is certain of, however, is that golf will always be a significant part of his present and future. And not just his future, but the way he can connect with and benefit others.

Last year, Curry helped resurrect men's and women's golf programs at Howard University, which hasn't had either since the 1970s. "I'm honored to support the Howard Bison," he says. His six-year, seven-figure commitment allowed the school to bring back both. 

"I want to be a part of growing the game," Curry says. "Hopefully we'll be able to create more opportunities in the game across the board for younger people, whether it's underserved communities or people who don't have any awareness about how fun the game of golf is. I want to find out ways to be involved there."

Capital One's "The Match" will help carry this movement forward. Proceeds for this event will benefit historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), a cause that is deeply personal to Curry.

For now, Curry's wealth of physical gifts will be on display come Friday. There will be no jump shots. No three-pointers. It'll look different than it normally does—the setting, the attire and the stakes. 

Despite the obvious differences, it'll be familiar. Smooth. Graceful. Effortless. And Curry will look and feel right at home.