Hans Kersting: Mind over matter


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? I guess the best answer is “yes.”

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