Let’s be honest; we golfers don’t agree on much, but there is something that all golfers universally agree on, and that’s the fact golf is hard, really hard. Ask the best golfers on the PGA Tour, and even they’ll tell you golf is no picnic.
Now, if the best golfers on the planet think that golf is hard, can you imagine how a beginner to the game must feel? But why is golf so hard?
In short, golf is one of the most challenging sports to master because it demands so many different skillsets; it challenges you mentally and physically, and take it from me, golf is emotionally exhausting. All sports require a significant time commitment to show improvements in performance. Still, for some reason, no matter how much time you devote to golf, you can never seem to master it, but that’s the beauty of the game; it’s endearing yet incredibly hard and frustrating.
Golf is also tough because it requires you to master more than one club; fourteen to be exact, not to mention you need to learn several different types of golf shots like draws, fades, knock-downs, flops, pitches, chip-n-runs, bunkers shots, and of course, putting.
What about golf courses? Considering that every golf course is entirely different from the other, it’s impossible to turn up and play the way you did on the last course. Couple that with ever-changing weather conditions, varying terrain, different cuts of rough, and the inevitable hazards, its easy to see why golf is considered the most challenging sport to play.
Do you have what it takes mentally?
As a former professional athlete and coach, I can tell you that one of the most demanding aspects of any sport is the constant grind of practice; day in day out, and it never seems to stop. But when it comes to golf, it challenges you in several different ways that are entirely unique and rarely found in other sports.
5 Reasons Golf challenges you mentally
A regular round of golf takes between 3 to 5 hours to complete, making golf one of the longest sports in terms of time duration; the other sport would be cycling, where riders can spend anywhere from 3 to 6 hours a day in the saddle. Either way, maintaining focus over 5 hours is no easy task.
The average time a pro golfer spends setting up and playing a shot is roughly 30 seconds; this means that throughout a round the time actually spent playing golf is about 50 minutes. Now considering a round of golf can take up to five hours, a golfer is left with four hours to negate factors like negative thoughts, frustrating playing partners, bad weather, and external motivations and forces such as thinking about prize money or holding the trophy aloft.
As mentioned earlier, golf courses are like fingerprints; every one of them is unique, so with that in mind, preparing a solid game plan is no easy feat. Even the best players in the world struggle on new courses, and they have the added advantage of having caddies who can walk the course and take detailed notes on everything from pin placements to water hazards and birdie chances.
There’s not one pro golfer who doesn’t honestly believe that their ball isn’t going in the direction they aim, so when it doesn’t happen, and their ball ends up in a water hazard, it can shock the system. Even though your swing might be feeling good, one bad swing can change everything; you can go from a golfer full of confidence to a nervous wreck in the blink of an eye.
Can you remember how you felt after a long study night or an important exam at university? Well, golf has the same tiring effects as that irritating mathematics exam did. Golf requires an extraordinary amount of decision-making throughout the course of a round; deciding what club to hit and controlling your emotions over the course of five hours is no easy task.
Playing golf, you’ll find yourself in many different situations, some good, some bad; either way, every situation demands your full attention. Deciding when to attack certain pins and when to play conservatively are integral to a golfer’s success. When you factor in varying weather conditions and bad lies, it’s easier said than done.
Do you have what it takes physically?
Whether you’re a pro golfer on the PGA Tour or an amateur club golfer, your body will be placed under massive amounts of physical stress and exertion during a round of golf. Despite what many people think, golf takes it out of you physically; you only need to look at how much time the best golfers in the world spend in the gym getting themselves in peak physical condition.
So let’s have a look at the four primary reasons the game of golf is so physically demanding and what you can do to make the game a tad easier.
4 Reasons golf challenges you physically
Playing a round of golf can take anywhere between 3-5 hours which makes it one of the longest games in terms of time. Golf is not a 100-meter sprint, but it is a half marathon. Golf requires a high level of aerobic fitness, and modern-day golfers now spend hours on end targeting their cardio system with low-impact exercises like cycling and the versa-climber.
Developing hand-eye coordination is one of the most critical skills required to play golf, not just at the pro level but at any level. Some of the lucky ones are born with a gift, but hitting that little white ball for the vast majority of golfers is not as easy as it looks; in fact, it’s downright frustrating.
Taxing on the body
Did you know that playing 18-holes of golf can burn close to 1500-2000 calories? Even if you’re not walking the course, which I highly suggest, and you ride in a cart, you can still burn close to 1000 calories. Ensure that you’re well-hydrated and are continually taking on proper fuel throughout the round; this way, you can keep your energy and concentration levels at their peak.
Swinging the club is physically demanding
The golf swing requires power, explosiveness, rhythm, and timing; it demands twisting, torque, and balance. The kinetic chain of the golf swing places an enormous amount of stress on various parts of the body from the ground up. Your ankles, knees, hips, lower back, and shoulders all take a fair amount of punishment swinging the club. However, the hardest part of the golf swing is making sure all parts are moving and firing in the correct order and learning how to repeat it.
Do you have what it takes emotionally?
Ask any golfer, and they’ll tell you that riding a rollercoaster and playing golf are one and the same; both have your heart pumping and hands shaking, you’re like a nervous wreck. Have you ever stood over a three-footer for par or had a chance to make a eagle? Golf will take you on an emotional rollercoaster, so you better be prepared.
3 Reasons golf challenges you emotionally
Cool, calm and collected
Golf can be; no hang on, check that; Golf IS the most frustrating sport on the planet. Whether you’re a pro golfer, an amateur, or a beginner to the game, you can’t get around it; golf will frustrate you, so accept it and embrace it. Remember when you get angry or over-emotional, your muscles tense up, and you rarely think clearly; so next time you get frustrated, take a step back and enjoy the beauty of the surrounding nature.
Stay focused on the task at hand
There’s nothing better than stepping up to the tee and bombing a 300-yard drive off the tee or hitting a 220 yard 3-iron that looks like a frozen rope, but the one mistake many golfers make is they relish their shot for too long. We’ve all been guilty of this, and by the time you get to your next shot, you’ve completely forgotten about your pre-shot routine or taking a few practice swings, which inevitably leads to a “duffed” shot or an easy missed putt.
The inner voice
Golf can be brutal on you emotionally; standing on the first tee and your inner voice starts talking to you: don’t hit it out of bounds; watch out for the water hazard on the left; I can’t hit a draw; all of these things plus an endless amount more start running through our minds. Learning to overcome your inner demons is not only something you need to learn its something you need to master. Learning to trust yourself and setting realistic expectations goes a long way to helping you quiet your inner voice and playing your best golf.
The dynamics and characteristics of the golf swing
The golf swing is one of the most complex technical movements of any sport; it requires physical, mental, and emotional prowess, immutable confidence, and the willingness to make mistakes. Let’s take a look at six fundamental components and why each of them demands years of practice to master.
6 Fundamental aspects of the golf swing
Have you ever watched golf on TV and seen the professional golfers go through their pre-shot routines? There are several very good reasons why pro golfers have solid pre-shot routines. They provide consistency and something familiar, which is particularly important when playing at new courses and in unfamiliar surroundings.
A good pre-shot routine should consist of
- Picking out a target
- Envisioning the shot you want to play
- Choosing the flight path or line on the green
- Taking a few practices swings or putts and
- Some keywords to help you stay positive and focused
The best thing about your pre-shot routine is that it’s yours; there’s no right or wrong routine; as long as it’s repeatable and works for you, then you’ve got a winner; just make sure to keep your pre-shot routine relatively short; the last thing you want is to keep your playing partners waiting.
Taking address to the ball
Addressing the ball is the most critical aspect of getting the swing right; get your address wrong, and no matter how good your swing is, your ball is destined to sail out of bounds. The address is challenging because each club and each shot requires a different address position. For example, if you’re playing a low chip & run, then your feet are much closer together with the ball back in your stance. Alternatively, a bunker shot requires your feet to be more than shoulder-width apart and the ball forward in your stance.
Just like the address position, the takeback looks easy, and it is, but it’s also an area of the swing amateur golfers get very wrong. Most beginners and club golfers take the club back quickly and in a jerky action. This leads to a swing with no rhythm and one that’s out of sync. Once the club is taken back too quickly, it’s tough for other elements in the swing to catch up, meaning golfers overcompensate, resulting in a poor shot. Your takeback should be rhythmical and controlled, allowing your swing to stay in sync.
The downswing comes immediately after the takeback and can be an area of the swing that exacerbates problems stemming from a poor or jerky takeback. A good downswing is only possible if you’ve got the club into the correct position after your takeback. So you can see just how vital practicing your takeback is. The downswing is critical because the next step in the process is “impact,” and if you get this one wrong, you’ll be fishing your ball out of the water hazard more often than you’d like.
Making correct impact with the golf ball is basically where the rubber hits the road; missing by a millimeter or two in golf equates into a drive that is suddenly fading out-of-bounds instead of heading down the middle of the fairway. Most amateurs don’t understand that it’s not “impact” that’s important; its the steps leading up to impact. If you’ve got your swing off to a bad start with a poor takeback and even worse downswing, it’s near impossible to “square” the club and make solid contact. Get the first few steps in the swing right, and the impact part will take care of itself.
If the takeback and pre-shot routine are the two most overlooked aspects of the swing, then the follow-through is the most underrated. Like your address position, your follow-through will change with each shot and situation you find yourself in. For example, if you’re trying to hit a low punch shot under the trees, your follow-through will be abbreviated; on the other hand, if you need to hit over some trees, your follow-through should be full and have you finishing right up over your shoulders.
14 different clubs to master
The rules of golf allow golfers to carry a maximum of 14 clubs in their bag, and unlike riding a bike when some gears are never used, the same cannot be said for golf; when it comes to golf, you need to learn how to hit each and every one of the 14 clubs.
As you know, each club in your bag plays a different role, and learning how to shape the ball with everything from your driver to your 7-iron is essential. If you’re just starting out, I suggest hitting a set amount of shots with every club in your bag, particularly clubs or shots you have trouble with; if you neglect clubs that you have trouble with, you’re bound to run into Murphy’s Law out on the course.
Golf is hard, but it’s also fun, and learning to shape different shots with each club is a lot of fun, and it will ultimately lead to improving your game and lowering your handicap.
The more you practice and the more you understand your playing limitations, the better you can utilize each of the 14 clubs in your bag. Knowing when and where to use each club comes with experience, so get out there and embrace the challenge of hitting clubs you usually wouldn’t.
Golf courses are no walk in the park
Golf courses have beautifully landscaped gardens and magnificently manicured fairways and greens; they’re majestic, but they’re also inherently challenging. Golf courses have been explicitly designed to challenge the very best golfers in the world.
Let’s look at four reasons why golf courses are challenging and why they help make golf the most demanding game on the planet.
4 Reasons golf courses are so hard
Each course is different
Every golf course you play will be unique; yes, some may look familiar but are vastly different from one another at a closer look. Everything from various grasses and widths of fairways to the number of bunkers and length of each hole. Playing on different courses each week makes professional golf tricky; unlike other sports such as tennis, basketball, soccer, and football that play using pre-determined surfaces, golf varies from week to week.
Continually changing conditions
Changing weather conditions can wreak havoc on a golf round and course. A hole that might have been playing a certain way in the morning can play completely differently in the afternoon. With different tee box positions and varying pin placements, golf courses offer various playing conditions, some easy, some incredibly demanding.
A “dogleg” simply refers to a hole that bends sharply to the left or right. Doglegs cause trouble because they can go against your natural ball flight. For example, a right-handed golfer who fades the ball will struggle on a hole that doglegs left; alternatively, right-handed players who hit a draw will struggle on holes that dogleg right.
Bunkers, hazards and out-of-bounds
Hazards are there for a reason. Yes, lakes dotted around the fairways look superb, but they cause havoc for every level of golfer. Bunkers are also strategically placed to cause chaos. Doing some basic research before teeing off will help reduce your chance of having to fish your ball out of the water hazard.