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.



2 thoughts on “Is golf physical or mental?

  1. Thank you for this wonderful article & timely for me personally. A relative newcomer to the game , often I ‘blame’ my lack of experience on my bad scores and wonder , why do I bother – this is so hard . When the reality is that that I am going through stages of my Holostic golf journey – as I become more confident in one area of my game , trust it – I am then working on another . Hence my performance (holistic) can vary from game to game as I need both skills + performance state – to achieve my best .


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