Is golf physical or mental?

With Tiger shooting 82 yesterday at WMPhoenix Open, the discussions that follow are fascinating and perplexing for us! We think the discussions and commentary need to be lifted to a higher level. Coaching that will be effective for the future will go beyond asking the archaic question “Is golf physical or mental?” Of course it’s both (and a whole lot more). Physical is mental, mental is physical, the body-mind connection is scientifically validated. It’s 2015, golf instruction and commentary needs to get with it.

To make it more golf explicit we see it simply stated this way:

Golf skills + Performance state = How well you play

For the future of ALL golfers, elite and recreational, lets start having conversations that are valuable, practical and leading the game in a better direction for the future. This requires us to operate from a higher level of coaching. The dualistic debate that flourishes on TV and in social media only leads to conflict and more confusion.

#1 The “nuts and bolts” of golf instruction should be that golfers PLAY the GAME BETTER…ON THE GOLF COURSE.

As opposed to only swinging better, shouldn’t the goal be to play the game better. At VISION54 we look at performance like this…we call it the reality of golf:  Physical + Technical + Mental + Emotional + Social + Spirit of the Game = 54

Some might be inclined to call this a holistic approach…well…because it is. Holistic is the reality of what happens to human beings playing the game on the golf course. Holistic is related to the word holon. A holon is a process which is both a whole and a part. A molecule can’t exist without it’s atoms. Your game can’t exist without the technique + the physical, mental and emotional state that you experience as a human being. If you work on your technique and ignore your state you will underperform. If you work on your state and ignore your technique you will underperform. Adding body awareness, mental strategies and emotional skills should not be seen as an intervention after a lopsided one dimensional approach breaks down crashes and burns.

All of the skills of playing the game belongs to the fundamentals of golf. Golf skills + Human skills = Better play for any golfer

In our opinion Tiger’s challenge could come from these two aspects:

1) The “new” technique move is not habituated/myelinated enough. He is caught physically, mentally and emotionally between two different patterns. More variable reps in the context of play is needed. The research on this couldn’t be more clear.

2) His state is not optimal for great performance. Three possible areas: His Play Box is not in an athletic sensory mode. He’s possibly trying to access his feel but can’t fully when his brain is in the “wrong” brain wave state for performance. The commitment to the feeling of his swing or stroke is not congruent until the end of the swing or stroke. The amygdala has stored negative memories and is firing hot (the fight or flight response or neurology of the yips) causing doubt, fear, tension during the swing and stroke.



How we learn

Check out this article on All You Need to Know About the ‘Learning Styles’ Myth, in Two Minutes 

We are intrigued reading many articles lately about learning styles and how they are not scientifically validated. This article does a good job explaining it.

We have always believed that everyone is unique and therefore you must learn as a coach or parent or spouse or teacher to listen and observe and get to know how another person is different than you. It’s only from this empathetic position that you can truly establish rapport and communicate effectively.

When it comes to our own golf coaching we’ve always tried to look through the players world and map of reality to honor their uniqueness in learning and playing golf.  We’ve used assessment tools to help guide the players discovery and self awareness. But remember the map is not the territory and the map can always change! So the importance of honoring uniqueness and being curious how each player learns and performs best is as valid as ever.

The danger in using learning styles to do the work is:

-Labeling students- not realizing each one of us is growing and learning all the time.

-Limiting the many ways the player can learn a skill – its best to hit all senses and all styles. Most importantly be aware of when its “working” and when its not! If you stay present you will know if it makes sense or non-sense.

-Not looking at at the weak links  (what we call NOT54). We’ve found that more golfers need to know what they actually do when they play GREAT (what we call MY54). At the same time everyone has their “shadow”.  Being honest and clear how one “gets in their own way” is extremely valuable. Remember what you resist…will persist.

Keep paying attention to how you learn. Stay curious and be mindful of how others learn 🙂

our education system


Yes, this is the first blog  post from VISION54. Lynn or Pia or both of us will blog about the game, coaching, our insights, discoveries and learnings.

54 is about believing in possibilities and holding a growth mindset around those possibilities. We DO believe a golfer will shoot 54 someday. And perhaps even lower. It makes perfect sense for us to believe in possibilities. Unfortunately so much of the golf instruction world is fixated on faults and errors and fixes  We believe it makes life and golf more pleasant to believe in possibilities. Your game, your life, your body and your brain are all dynamic.  The latest neuroscience says your brain has changed since you started reading this blog….just a few seconds ago. The possibility of growth is always there. All of us have latent capacities that just haven’t been awakened.  The question this first day of 2015  is which possibilities do you want to grow and express.

The definition of possibilities are:
  • a thing that may happen or be the case
  • the state or fact of being likely or possible; likelihood.
  • a thing that may be chosen or done out of several possible alternatives

We’ve made up the word “possibiliting” For us it represents possibilities as a verb. It asks what are you going to take ACTION on and BE and DO to make the possibilities you desire come alive.

Two questions  for New Years Day 2015:

What would you do if you could? What could you do if you would?

Possibiliting wishes 🙂

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