Golf is quite possibly the most difficult sport in the world to master. Let me explain.
While it’s incredibly easy for anyone to get out on the fairways and be involved, to truly feel like you are a high-quality golfer is something most of us can only dream of.
What defines a good golfer is obviously up for debate, but even getting to single figures is something the majority of golfers will never achieve.
So then, is golf hard to play?
Yes, golf is hard to play well, although it does have a low entry point and is easy to participate in if you aren’t fussed about your score. However, due to the intricate mechanics of the golf swing, many people find that being a good all-round sportsperson with great hand eye coordination doesn’t necessarily transfer to being good at golf.
I had an interesting conversation once with a really solid golfer (a 3 handicapper, from memory) who mentioned the difficulty of golf was one of the reasons he got hooked.
While he excelled at pretty much every other sport he tried, he wasn’t any good at golf when he started, and the challenge of mastering it kept him coming back for more.
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Why is the golf swing so difficult?
The golf swing is difficult because it requires two things to be perfectly in sync: the way you execute the golf swing and the mental decisions you make. You may have a solid swing, but if you are mentally fragile and easily frustrated, you may find golf challenging.
While there are many ways to swing a golf club, there are a few fundamentals that do make a good swing and for many, these can be incredibly hard to replicate.
Add to this the constant battle of the mind and the difficulty in trying to determine whether you actually are implementing the moves you think you are, and this combined presents a huge challenge.
The concept of ‘feel vs real‘ is often used in golf and is one of the key reasons why people find the golf swing challenging.
How to swing a club well is no mystery: there are endless tutorials on YouTube from the best in the world, however actually putting these into practice is so hard for so many.
Overcoming this problem is probably the biggest mechanical issue golfers face.
Even if you do have a nice swing, mental demons and poor decision making can still ruin your round and lead to poor shots.
Let’s say you have a bunker shot and need to get up and down to halve a match play hole.
Under pressure, you tighten up and decelerate through the shot, duffing it back into the bunker.
Even though you knew how to play the shot and can do it with consistency, your mental shortcomings still led to a bad result.
Is golf the hardest game in the world?
Golf is one of the hardest games in the world to master, but it is incredibly easy for anyone to begin playing and enjoy the sport. While the mechanics of the swing and mental game make it very hard to play at a high level, technological advancements in club manufacturing has made it easier for players to improve.
If you compare golf to something like water polo, the latter requires good hand-eye, technique, strength, aerobic capacity and the ability to swim, throw and tussle with opponents.
I look at a sport like this and feel like the skills needed even just at an entry point are much greater than those in golf.
Even if you are unfit you can still hire a golf cart and drive around, or if you are weak and swing slowly, clubs exist to help you get the ball up in the air with minimal force.
While playing golf to a high standard is incredibly difficult, the entry level for the sport is low.
Do you need to be strong to play golf?
No, you don’t need to be strong to play golf, at least not at a social or casual level. While the professional tours have seen greater focus on strength and driving distance in recent years, the technology nowadays from manufacturers helps weaker, slower-swinging golfers get good results out on course.
Golf clubs exist exclusively targeted at senior golfers who, in their old age, may not have the strength and muscle mass they once had.
Why is golf so hard mentally?
Golf is incredibly difficult mentally as you have long amounts of time to think about shots and can’t rely on reactions and instinct like in other sports. As the ball is stationary, there’s extended time to stand over it and allow negative thoughts to enter your mind.
If you aren’t a positive person and allow self-doubt to creep into your head, this is often translated into the golf swing.
Golf is also a game that requires constant focus, and given slight errors such as a clubface being a few degrees too open can cause a bad shot, succumbing to even the mildest of distractions can be a recipe for disaster.
The issue many amateurs golfers face is that maintaining this level of focus throughout a round could see others render you as grumpy or antisocial, so striking the right balance between being friendly with playing partners and honing in on the job at hand can be tough.
While golf is undoubtedly a difficult game to master, it is super easy for people of all ages, abilities and fitness levels to pick up.
As the mental and technical side of golf work in tandem and are incredibly challenging to grasp at a high level, it is important to have a good understanding of what it is you actually want from the game so that you find enjoyment at the standard that is right for you.