Mind over mat­ter

The Signal - - GOLF - By Hans Ker­st­ing Pro­fes­sional Golfer

I get asked quite of­ten if golf is more men­tal, or phys­i­cal? It’s a dif­fi­cult ques­tion to an­swer, be­cause to be a good golfer you need to be quite adept at both.

I’ve seen play­ers with in­cred­i­ble phys­i­cal skills un­able to han­dle the men­tal an­guish that this game so of­ten cre­ates. On the out­side, they ap­pear to have ev­ery nec­es­sary tool to be a great golfer, yet on the in­side they are col­laps­ing from fear and anx­i­ety.

On the other hand, I’ve en­coun­tered play­ers who have ex­ude the most pos­i­tive en­ergy imag­in­able, yet they strug­gle to make con­tact with the golf ball. Time after time, they con­tinue to strug­gle while keep­ing a smile on their face and an up­beat at­ti­tude.

The great­est ath­letes in any sport are those that pos­sess both the men­tal and phys­i­cal com­po­nents to ex­cel in their sport. Golf is per­haps the best ex­am­ple of this for­mula. Very few golfers have come along in my life­time that seemed to have both skill sets di­aled in al­ways. Those play­ers are Tiger Woods and Jordan Spi­eth.

In the early 2000s, Woods dom­i­nated the game of golf in a way that we are likely to never see again. His abil­ity to strike the golf ball with the pre­ci­sion that no­body else could, was over­shad­owed by his abil­ity to be un­af­fected by any­thing that was go­ing on around him while he was com­pet­ing.

When he needed to pull off a great shot, there was never a doubt that he would. When he needed to sink a clutch putt, it was al­most as though the hole grew three times its size.

Spi­eth is cut from the same cloth. He has a keen abil­ity of hit­ting the right shot, and sink­ing the nec­es­sary putt at the most pres­sure packed mo­ments of a tour­na­ment. Un­like other play­ers, I ex­pect to see Spi­eth suc­ceed dur­ing mo­ments of stress.

I can’t say the same thing about other no­table play­ers of our time. As much as I re­spect the bril­liance of Phil Mick­el­son and the Hall of Fame ca­reer he has had, I still watch him and an­tic­i­pate that some­thing wrong is go­ing to hap­pen.

Whether it’s miss­ing a fair­way wide left on the fi­nal hole to lose a ma­jor cham­pi­onship, or nar­rowly miss­ing a short putt com­ing down the stretch, he has a his­tory of near misses that have stymied what is oth­er­wise an all-time il­lus­tri­ous ca­reer.

These ex­am­ples of ex­tra­or­di­nary golfers are yet an­other rea­son why the game of golf is so amaz­ing. The dif­fer­ences be­tween good and great are so in­cred­i­bly sub­tle.

It is easy for us to witness play­ers work­ing on their phys­i­cal skills on the golf course. With proper drills, you can de­velop strong fun­da­men­tals, and even­tu­ally be­gin strik­ing the golf ball with more con­sis­tency.

It is not as easy to spot play­ers work­ing on their men­tal skills. These skills are of­ten learned through lis­ten­ing, vi­su­al­iz­ing and breath­ing.

So is golf more men­tal, or phys­i­cal? guess the best an­swer is “yes.”

Metro Cre­ative

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