Golf is both a physical and a mental game.
Jack Nicklaus once said “Golf is 80 pct mental, 10 pct physical and 10 pct luck!”
Other have said it’s as much as 90 or even 95 pct mental. I’m not sure if anyone has ever done or will do the studies on it to find out and don’t see the real need.
What I do understand is that it’s an area few golfers spend any time focusing or working on.
Looking at Jack Nicklaus’ statement about the luck part. If we think about it, golf is a game of skill no doubt, incredible skill. It’s also a difficult game, and the idea is to control the ball around the course in as few shots as possible.
Put another way, to be able to hit a small ball of approx. 1.7 inches (42 mm) with a metal rod and club head 36-42 inches long (91-105cm) over several hundred yards into a hole that is just over 4 inches (10cm) wide is quite a feat.
To do it in 4 or even 3 strokes is quite remarkable, given some of the conditions the game is played in.
The word is ‘control’ but in reality, the golfer is only controlling the ball for a fraction of a second when swinging the club and the club head makes contact with the ball. Here’s the kicker…. once it has left the club face it is in the lap of the Gods what happens to the ball. Luck as Jack referred to.
I agree, we all take into account the wind, terrain, weather, damp, ball etc., but think of a time when you’ve hit what you feel is the ‘perfect’ shot. It felt incredible as it left the club exactly as you had imagined. You couldn’t have hit it any better.
Walking towards your ball you believe to be smack in the middle of the fairway, you discover it’s not there.
A couple of minutes go by and you start to wonder “what is this game all about?... I hit a great shot and now the darn ball’s nowhere to be found”.
As the five-minute looking time is nearing, you start to worry that you’ll have to go back and play another ball. Your emotions go from being chuffed at such a great tee shot to frustration in a very short time.
The feeling of relief when you discover your ball on the edge of the first cut of grass, nestling against an autumn leaf and then mixed emotions come at you all at once it seems, when your mind is racing and demanding to know “How the heck can my ball end up there and I’ve now got no shot! This game just isn’t fair”.
Golf isn’t about being fair, it is a true test of character and mental strength and one of the great mental challenges a golfer faces is in addition to the situation I just described, is the amount of time a golfer spends not actually playing golf; between holes, waiting to play, walking to/from the tees.
When you break it down the actual time spent hitting the golf ball is for the average golfer is around two minutes. A mere two minutes out of a four-hour round.
Hence, it is such a mentally challenging game. Even the most physically fit and athletic of golfers can come unstuck when faced with that amount of non-playing time to reflect and tussle with self-analysis, self-judgement about their performance and the missed putt or the next hole.
It can also be a lonesome sport. You don’t have a group of team mates or pit-crew to help guide you through the problems, with the exception of touring pro’s who have the luxury of a caddie to assist them, or facing a potential meltdown when things go wrong.
There is no hiding place and the scorecard tells all, even if it doesn’t have pictures. A 7 or an 8 still paints a grim picture by itself.
The very nature of the game induces perfection tendencies, which aren’t achievable.
Which is why I feel it’s so important to get an understanding and better feel for the mental side of the game as early as possible, if you are to at least achieve your potential in this perfectly imperfect game.
If you'd like to know more about how to improve the mental side of your game, click here to get your copy of my 7 keys to Improve Your Mental Golf Game.
To Your Success.
Performance Coach & Trainer at Golfing minds