If you have just started playing golf and you are frustrated by the slow progress you are making, then do not be discouraged. Golf is known by many to be one of the most difficult sports to play and master, although the dedication and practice required are well worth it! But what makes golf so difficult?
- Golf requires many different skills
- Many underestimate the physical requirements
- All the golf clubs are different
- Each shot is different
- Different rules apply to players of differing abilities
- Many underestimate the practice hours required
- Golf has a strong psychological element
There are seven primary reasons why golf is the hardest sport to play.
1. Playing Golf Requires a Variety of Skills
You would be pressed to find another sport that requires the same variety of skills as golf does. We’re not saying that other sports don’t need as much skill as golf; it is more a case that they don’t require as many skills.
Not only that, but golf also requires you to find a balance between the different skills in order to excel at all aspects of the game.
Golfers Have to Be Flexible
To play golf, you need to be flexible. Getting that perfect swing requires a good amount of twisting and extending of different parts of your body.
Golfers Have to Be Powerful
A level of power is also necessary for golf. When you are driving the ball, you want it to go as far as possible. To achieve this, you need to have well-developed muscles, especially in your upper body and arms.
But don’t skip your legs! They have to support and stabilize you throughout an approximately four-hour game, so they also need to be strong.
Golfers Have to Be Controlled
When playing golf, you also need to have an incredible level of muscle control to concentrate each movement along the narrow golf club and to the small golf ball.
Then to achieve the small movements required by putting, you have to be able to hold back the power that you used in your driving swing and hit the ball with gentleness and precision.
Furthermore, if you think about the angles of a golfer’s body throughout the game, you can see how having a really strong core is important to prevent injury.
2. It Is Easy to Underestimate the Physical Requirements of Golf
From an outsider’s perspective, golf may look like a tame sport compared to something like football or ice hockey, but do not let the no-contact nature of golf fool you. Golf actually requires a high level of fitness.
As we discussed in the last section, you have to be flexible, stable, powerful, and controlled. To achieve each of these physical attributes, you have to engage in an all-inclusive exercise regimen.
Strengthening your muscles is also not just about improving your game. Strong muscles are required for standing on the course while your golfing partners are taking their shots. This may strike you as being an odd statement or even a joke.
However, static positions are just as taxing on the muscles as dynamic movements. Without a strong core, you can develop severe backache from simply standing for an hour or two.
Considering the average golf game lasts for four hours, you need to make sure you are physically strong.
Moreover, to play golf, you need to have a certain level of cardiovascular fitness that requires intentional training. Yes, you can ride the golf cart between holes. But the designated pathways for golf carts cannot always drop you off right by the hole, so golf is not quite the leisurely game the uninitiated may suppose it to be.
3. The Golf Clubs Are All Different Lengths and Shapes
If you are looking for a reason why golf is such a difficult sport, just glance towards your golf bag and take a look at the clubs. On average, a golf set consists of twelve to fourteen clubs, and each one is different.
They are of varying lengths, have a diversity of club head shapes, and need to be used differently.
The longer clubs allow you to generate much more power in your swing, so they are used for long shots.
The irons with increasing loft (the angle between the clubface and the ground) give lift to the ball. However, the angle also creates backspin, so you need more control. To increase control, the irons have increasingly shorter club shafts. As you can guess, this sacrifices some of the power, so these can only be used for shorter shots.
Then you have the putter, which actually comes in a variety of lengths depending on preference.
Differences in Club Length Influences Swing Stance
As all the clubs are different lengths, a golfer needs to adjust his or her swing for each club. For sports like baseball and cricket, there are good stances for batting. For golf, there are twelve to fourteen good stances for swinging.
Furthermore, the correct stance is dependent on each person based on their height, their wrist-to-ground distance, and, to a certain extent, personal preference. This means that you can be taught the basics of a good swing stance, but you will also have to figure out what works for you as an individual.
Same-Length Irons Introduce Different Problems
Why not just make the clubs all the same length if the difference makes golf so difficult?
Well, there is actually a rising popularity in the trend of using golf clubs with same-length irons.
While these are getting more attention, they are still far from the preferred design. This is because they come with their own drawbacks, such as loss of power or control, which just makes the game more challenging in a different way.
4. Each Shot Is Different
So many factors influence a single shot in golf, making it a challenging sport to master. In fact, the number of details that have to line up for a shot to be successful has led to many players semi-jokingly attributing good shots to luck. The following quote has become very popular among golfers (although it is unclear who first said it):
“The more I practice, the luckier I get.”
You have the obvious player differences of height, wrist-to-ground length, skill level, fitness level, etc. This means that the very same shot will be completely different for two different players.
For a single player, you have to contend with different club lengths and the consequently variable swing stances, as discussed previously.
The clubs can also be made with a variety of materials. For example, the irons can be made from stainless steel or from graphite. The material will affect the way the club responds and even determines the standard length of that club.
You also have to adjust to the weather. The golf ball is small enough to be significantly affected by high wind speeds. And, while you are not likely to play golf in a torrential downpour, even a light drizzle will alter the way that the ball rolls on the grass, your grip on the club, etc.
The terrain of a golf course is also diverse. There are the putting greens, the fairway, the rough, and even the sand bunkers. Playing in each of these parts of the golf course will require a different approach. In addition, there are the variations in angle (uphill or downhill play).
Distance and Trajectory Requirements
Some shots need to travel long distances, and some only need to travel short distances. Some shots require an upward trajectory, while others are more effective if they fly low to the ground.
5. Different Rules Apply to Players of Differing Abilities
You will have heard of something called a handicap in golf. If you’re new to golf, you probably don’t quite know what that means. If you assume it relates to the level of experience of the player, then you would be correct, but what is the point of assigning a handicap number?
The handicap is an excellent way to level the playing field in golf. It allows two people with differing skill levels to play a relatively evenly-matched game together.
The handicap determines the number of shots a person has to get the ball into the hole. Someone with a higher handicap (lower skill level) will get more shots than someone with a lower handicap.
While this is very sportsmanlike, it does complicate the game because it essentially means that the rules of golf can vary according to the players’ abilities. What other sport operates in this way?
6. You Have to Invest Many Hours Into Playing Golf
While golf is definitely a very difficult sport to play, many people may perceive it to be even more difficult than it actually is because they underestimate the number of hours each week, and preferably each day, that are required to improve one’s golfing skills.
You cannot be an occasional golfer if you intend to rely on anything other than luck. You also have to understand that you cannot get frustrated at your lack of progress if you only commit to playing for a few hours each weekend.
If you consider all that we have already spoken about in this article, there are a dozen things that you have to think about for each swing. Thus, golf will only become easier for you when some of these things become unconscious.
What we mean is that you can concentrate more on the power of your swing when the correct stance for that club comes naturally to you.
Furthermore, you start to learn how your play alters with certain terrain and weather.
7. There Is a Significant Psychological Element to Golf
The difficulty of golfing as a sport is magnified by the psychological impact of how challenging the game is.
A complete rookie can hit the golf course and shoot a hole-in-one, something that a Pro can go their whole career without achieving. This kind of incongruity can mess with a player’s head.
Many golfers who play a good hole struggle to deal with it when the next one does not go so well. The mentality is that they are evidently capable of playing that well, so why does it not pan out in the same way each time they step onto the course?
Andrew Leci from Unreserved Sports suggests that so many business meetings are conducted on the golf course because you cannot hide what type of man or woman you are when playing the psychological golf game.
Then, of course, if you psych yourself out, you are less able to concentrate on all the aspects of your game, which makes you play worse, thus initiating a vicious cycle.
Ultimately, golf is such a difficult sport to play—arguably, the most difficult—because it is, in essence, multiple sports rolled into one.
You need power and gentleness, flexibility and control, and many people underestimate the physical requirements of the game of golf, so they struggle to make progress.
All the clubs in a golf club set are different. You need to know which to use when, but you also need to know the way in which the differences affect how you use each club. Furthermore, each shot is different depending on where you are in the course, which club you are using, the terrain, the wind speed, etc.
Learning how to adapt to such a variety of tools and shots requires hours and hours of practice, and many people are surprised at just how much practice is required to progress in skill level.
Then there is the fact that no matter what level you are at, the playing field is evened out through the implementation of handicaps. This can be very confusing.
As a result of all these factors, golf becomes as much a psychological game as it is a physical one.