I saw a tweet today that caught my eye and provoked a lot of thought about the mental and physical aspects of golf.
If golf is 100% mental, I could play it without arms or legs and be a badass.
— Ryan Chaney (@Oracle_RC) November 18, 2014
Obviously it’s intended to be humorous and possibly poke fun at the frenzy of mental game preachers out there who claim the only thing holding you back is your mental game.
A reply to this tweet caught my attention more than the tweet itself.
@OracleRio diff between me and a tour player is 100% physical. I can hope and grind all I want but he just plays better more often than me
— Jesse Cavanaugh (@jchogan1953) November 18, 2014
An argument that golf is 100% “anything” couldn’t possibly hold up to much debate. There are so many factors that go into golf that it’s impossible to pinpoint success on only one. However there’s no doubt that if your mental game involves a lot of “hoping”, that it’s unlikely to contribute to any sort of success.
Of course, golf is a mixture of physical and mental challenges, mixed in with many factors beyond our control such as weather, course conditions, bounces, and the list goes on. It is impossible to quantify all of these factors precisely.
An argument could be made that everything we do is mental. Every physical movement we make requires cognitive function. With practice, we can groove physical movements. The movement is physical, but the groove still stems from the mind to produce the physical result. So where does “mental” end and “physical” begin?
The way I look at it in golf is that the mental game is a mechanism for fulfilling physical potential. Physical potential being a function of natural ability and effort put in through practice, instruction, conditioning, etc. Physical potential won’t automatically be transferred to the golf course in the form of performance. That is where a strong mental game steps in and allows the body to perform the tasks it has already been trained to do.
In other words, the mental game bridges physical potential and physical performance. When faced with consequence on the golf course, the physical motion the body already knows how to perform can be hindered by doubt, fear, and anxiety. Our mind and body know how to physically execute the shot, and the mental game is required to protect that ability by warding off the potential doubt, fear or anxiety.
Is golf 100% mental? You could make an argument for it since every physical movement stems from our minds. Is golf 100% physical? You could also make an argument for that since nothing would ever happen if we didn’t physically hit the ball. We can’t move it with our minds alone.
The reality is that the two are infinitely intertwined and there is no reasonable way to quantify them.
The only thing I can say for sure is that golf is 100% awesome.
What are your thoughts on the mental and physical aspects of golf?