Golf is known as one of the hardest sports in the world and it is. When you compare it to other sports like baseball or basketball, it takes far longer to learn how to play golf than to shoot a basket or to hit a fastball, but why?
Golf Is Unique
When you first start playing golf, it’s a completely foreign sport. The closest sport relative to golf I can think of is field hockey, and how many of us have ever played field hockey? Not many.
The clubs, the idea of the game, and the techniques are all things you will never have done before you learn to play golf. In other sports, there are common denominators like throwing a ball, catching a ball, aiming your throws, using a racquet etc.
So why is golf so hard? When you first start playing golf you have never done anything like before and have nothing to base it on.
Golf Swings Go Against Your Natural Instincts
US pro golfer, Ben Hogan once said “Reverse every natural instinct and do the opposite of what you are inclined to do
If a pro says something like this, how the hell are we meant to learn to swing a golf club properly? And then do it on every shot?
When driving a golf ball as far as you can, it would make sense to lead with the head of the club, wouldn’t it? Well, you need to do the opposite. A good drive leads with your head, then your arms, and then your driver’s head which goes completely against our natural instincts.
Now, to hit a golf ball as far as possible, you need to hit it as hard as possible yes? No! My golf teacher showed me this when I was young and he’d always point out guys at the driving range trying to hit the cover off a ball and still only making 200 yards or so, while I was making the same with an effortless swing.
Finally, when using irons you have to hit down on the ball to get it to lift up on your shots, can it get more confusing?
There are three types of clubs to learn how to swing
If you play football or basketball, there is just one object to get your head around, the ball and how to throw, catch, and shoot it. In golf, you have three types of golf clubs that require different swings and one of those is 7 or so different irons and wedges, each with their own little tweaks.
Not only are there three different clubs to swing, but you have to switch between each of them on almost every stroke when on the golf course, so how are you meant to find a good rhythm with that kind of switching?
Golf is physically demanding
Golf might create an image of larger men wandering around a course but the fact is, golf is tiring. You are walking a minimum of around 4 miles per 18 holes, depending on where your ball goes, which is quite tiring in itself.
Also, if you want to be good at golf, then being in better physical shape will help. When tiger woods started spending as much time in the gym as on the golf course, he started beating everybody. Suddenly he was stronger than ever and thus could drive further. And, he was fitter than ever so he didn’t get tired on the back 9 and could keep consistency in his game.
Golf Is A Serious Mental Challenge
I grew up playing team sports like rugby, hockey, and cricket. I never lost my cool as it was a team game full of joint responsibility. But, when I play tennis or golf, my mental game goes to pot if I screw up because I’m only playing against myself and it infuriates me.
50% of golf is in your head. If you think negatively like ‘don’t slice this again’ you are probably going to slice the hell out of your ball. Whereas, if you visualize the ball landing on the green, then that is probably where it’s going to go.
The fact that your mental state can have such a big effect is one thing, the other side of it is that the mental side of things doesn’t stop from when you tee off on the 1st hole to putting on the 18th hole. It’s relentless and keeping your head up, smiling, and thinking positive for the 4 plus hours it takes to finish a round is not easy.
Golf Courses Are Not Made To Be Easy
Golf Courses are made to be challenging otherwise what’s the point? Well it’s already challenging enough, did they really have to make it harder?! Yes, they did.
Golf courses are full of hazards to catch you out when you make a mistake. There are bunkers, lakes, rough, forests, and more hazards that your ball can disappear into and cost you a shot or make it very hard to make your next one.
On top of this, every hole is different and the courses change all day long. If you play in the morning, the due-covered fairways and greens slow your ball down. By lunchtime, when you’re one the last few holes, they are dry and fast, and your ball might run an extra 5-10 yards on the fairway and suddenly your putts are overshooting but a foot or two.
Then the course changes based on the weather. Wind and rain affect the flight of the ball and your mental game, so do humid and cold conditions.
If you can understand how the courses change based on the conditions, then you can tailor your game a lot more easily to match.
Playing A Golf Course Isn’t Easy
When you play football or basketball, you can see the arena your playing in and how to navigate your way around it. When playing a hole of golf, sometimes you can’t even see the flag from the tee and there is even a picture by it so you can vaguely choose where your shot should go.
Also, you could tee off with any club you like. Are you meant to use a sand wedge? 4 iron? 3 wood? 5 wood? driver? Matching your club selection to every shot you play is key to success, but you also have to play it as you see it, and make it up as you go along, there is no set way to approach each hole.
Golf Comes With A Bunch Of Pressure
When you play golf, you are not alone and there is often a bunch of spectators, especially at the first tee. They might even be queueing behind you, making you feel like you have to hurry while you’re worried about your drive, and how embarrassing is it when you top the ball and it goes 12 yards instead of 200?
It sucks, and at times like this, a lot of people don’t recover and continue to play badly for their whole round.
One thing no one can teach you is how to keep your mind straight. You can spend all the money in the world on clubs, golf pros, practicing all0day every day at the driving range, and walk up to the first tee and choke.
This pressure isn’t just on the first tee, it’s there in every shot you make but it’s only coming from you. Do you really think your golf buddies care if you hit a bogie or three? No. It’s all in your head so try to block it out – I play like I don’t care and it seems to help.
It’s all about consistency and you’re the only player
When you play a round of golf on say a par 72 golf course, you’re going to have to make at least 72 plus maybe about 15-20 shots to finish your round. What sport does this to a person?
In most sports, you can pass the ball and dodge the responsibility at times. A round of golf is like you taking 90 free throws in basketball and each one counts to win the game. Everything rides on you and you don’t get a break, every shot needs as much attention as the one before, and without being consistent across all your strokes, your chances of getting close to par on a hole is minimal.
There is so much going on in Golf
The final reason golf is so hard is that it requires you to do all of the things I have just described all at the same time. The game is constant and all parts of it are in motion all the time. It can be as stressful as it is relaxing, and you have to play it on so many different layers that it’s easy to drop a shot every hole and be 18 over par, or two and hit 36 over par, the latter of which is considered a bad score.
Is golf the hardest sport?
It’s certainly up there and if you talk to anyone, even a pro, they would say the same. It’s a long-distance marathon of techniques, mental positivity, and thousands of hours of practice so it takes a while to be good at, and it’s not cheap to learn either…