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J.R. Smith's Golf Journey: From NBA Star to College Golfer

Explore J.R. Smith's golf journey, skill level, and achievements as he transitions from NBA star to college golfer with a 4-handicap at North Carolina A&T.

by Jake Tingey & Judd Lyon · Updated: 4/14/23

J.R. Smith, a two-time NBA champion, spent 16 seasons in the league with various teams, including the Denver Nuggets, New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Los Angeles Lakers. At the age of 36, after retiring from professional basketball, Smith made a surprising transition to college golf by joining the North Carolina A&T golf team. This article will explore how good J.R. Smith is at golf, assessing his performance and growth.

Key Takeaways

J.R. Smith's Golf Skills and Handicap

J.R. Smith boasts an impressive 4-handicap, which demonstrates his advanced golf skills. A golfer's handicap index measures their potential ability based on their best scores, and a lower handicap signifies a stronger player. With a 4-handicap, Smith is considered a skilled golfer who can compete at a high level.

Smith's background in basketball has undoubtedly contributed to his success in golf. In a interview, he explained the similarities between the two sports, stating that his shooting touch and ability to recreate shots consistently translate well to golf. Additionally, his experience with off-balance shots in basketball has helped him adapt to the conditions found on a golf course.

In the same interview, Smith elaborated on the parallels between basketball and golf, drawing attention to the diverse range of shots both sports require. He also mentioned that many athletes are drawn to golf because it's a sport that can never truly be conquered, with the pursuit of perfection being a constant challenge.

Smith's golf achievements and highlights

Smith made his collegiate golf debut at the Phoenix Invitational, where he shot rounds of 83 and 78 (12 and 7 over par) during the event's first day. This performance showcased his potential as a competitive golfer, despite being relatively new to the sport at the collegiate level.

Smith's dedication to academics and athletics earned him the North Carolina A&T Academic Athlete of the Year award, with an impressive 4.0 GPA. This accomplishment speaks to his hard work and determination in pursuing excellence on and off the golf course.

While still early in his golf career, Smith has not achieved any other significant placements or notable tournament scores. However, his progress thus far suggests a promising future in the sport.

Support from peers, former teammates

Smith's achievements have not gone unnoticed by his peers and former teammates. NBA superstar LeBron James congratulated Smith on his Academic Athlete of the Year award, tweeting, "YESSIR @TheRealJRSmith!! Proud of you Kid!!! Love bro."

Smith also has received support from other sports figures and former teammates, who have admired his dedication to his education and golf career. This encouragement from his peers further highlights Smith's successful transition from the basketball court to the golf course.

Challenges faced and overcome

Transitioning from a professional NBA career to college golf has undoubtedly presented several challenges for Smith. Adapting to a new sport requires a high level of dedication, patience, and perseverance. Smith has shown exceptional commitment to improving his golf game and acclimating to the demands of collegiate sports.

In addition to navigating the world of golf, Smith has had to balance his academic pursuits with his athletic endeavors. He has documented his time in college, discussing the stresses and difficulties of managing schoolwork, especially for someone not accustomed to the demands of higher education. Despite these challenges, Smith's hard work and dedication have paid off, resulting in a 4.0 GPA and the North Carolina A&T Academic Athlete of the Year award.

Impact on other athletes

Smith's journey from the NBA to college golf can inspire other athletes to consider a transition to a different sport or a return to education. His determination to excel academically and athletically demonstrates that it is possible to succeed in multiple areas of life, even after a successful career in professional sports.

Other notable athletes have followed a similar path, such as former NFL player Tony Romo, who has competed in several professional golf events after retiring from football. As more athletes like Smith and Romo make successful transitions to new sports or educational pursuits, they may serve as role models and pave the way for others to explore opportunities outside of their initial professional careers.


J.R. Smith's journey from a successful NBA career to college golf has been remarkable. With a 4-handicap and a growing list of achievements on the golf course, Smith has proven that his skills extend beyond the basketball court. His dedication to the sport and his ability to balance academics and athletics have earned him accolades and inspired others.

As Smith continues to excel in his golf career, he demonstrates that with hard work, passion, and determination, it's possible to pursue new challenges and significantly impact one's own life and the lives of others. His story inspires athletes and non-athletes alike, proving that it's never too late to explore new opportunities and reach for success in all aspects of life.