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Golf's Mental Game Aspect

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In the other topic (now locked), the question was posed: is golf more mental or more physical.

I think it's safe to say that if you throw away the "well, the brain controls everything you do, so it's 100% mental" side of the argument, it's pretty clear that your physical skills affect your score the most: Dustin Johnson on his worst mental day will basically always beat a 20-handicapper having the worst mental game day of his life. Golf, like every other sport, is ultimately a measurement of how well you perform, and the bulk of that performance is physical.

Things got contested when we branched out from that original question to begin to discuss how much the mental game plays a role. I'm on record as saying it's pretty small: Dustin Johnson is going to shoot a pretty narrow range of scores if you normalize his physical performance somewhat, and a bogey golfer isn't going to break par on a PGA Tour course any time soon… his scores are also typically 85-100 owing, mostly, to variations in physical performance that day (as well as the mental game and, well, a little bit of luck good or bad).


So, the purpose of this topic is two-fold:

  • To discuss just how much the mental game affects golfers generally, as well as individually (please be clear about this distinction when you're posting).
  • To discuss methods and means of improving your mental game.

I'm not a psychologist. I have also always had a pretty good mental game - I enjoy pressure, feel I perform well under it, and have the ability to put golf in its place - it's just a game, and doesn't change at all how much my family loves me, how beautiful a sunset is, or even really how I view myself. I also disagree with Bob Rotella: I can think "don't go in the water to the right" and then not hit it there. I feel he's wrong about your brain not being able to process "do" and "don't" as different (though it may be a matter of semantics: I think "okay, the water right is bad, so miss it left if anything.") So I can't help much with the second part.

And I'm on record as saying it's pretty minimal on the first part, as I noted above. If I had to put a number on it, generally speaking, 5% of your performance that day is mental. (And I don't mean as a percentage of strokes, because you can't shoot "0," and the math just doesn't work: a shot you hit slightly fat because you were nervous about the hole location might hit a firm spot in the fairway and bounce up to four feet, while the shot you flush catches a gust of wind you couldn't feel and buries in a bunker.). Individually, of course there are going to be outliers.

And, because it's going to be necessary, I'm going to define the mental game as such:

  • Shot selection, game planning, strategy (though this is pretty simple, and even non-golfers can make these decisions), and you can be taught this in 45 minutes and do it almost perfectly for the rest of your life.
  • Ability to focus or "get out of your way." (i.e. some people perform best when they aren't hyper-focused, some do). This can also include visualizing shots, not having too many swing thoughts, etc.
  • Nerves, even though they may manifest as shaking hands, sweaty hands, accelerated heart rates, etc.

Things that aren't included:

  • Green reading, feeling the wind, how you're feeling that day, or any of the inputs needed to make a decision.
  • "Desire" to practice or improve the physical components, or anything of this ilk.
  • "The brain controls everything, so it's all mental."
  • The effect swing thoughts have on your swing. I play with one swing thought almost every time I play (at most, two, but never on the same swing) because they lead to a change my physical swing. It's a fine line to draw, but let's try to draw it.
  • Knowledge of the rules of golf or any other tangential, fringe-related things.

I reserve the right to add to these lists if someone comes up with something that's pretty clearly not in the mold of what I'm striving to get after here… And yeah, I think that's completely fair.

I expect most of the "individual" comments to be about yourself, since none of us can really possibly know what someone else is thinking. Anecdotal, personal evidence is just that, though: a sample size of one, and with a very biased reporter. (This includes me, and maybe I downplay the mental aspect because I have never struggled with it…?)

I'm also likely, speaking for my side of things, to hold onto the idea that a lot of the root cause of some mental issues is physical. If you regularly top or thin your 3W, and you face a 218-yard carry over a pond with a quartering wind into you and out of the right, and you proceed to mis-hit your 3W… then the root cause I'd suggest is physical: you don't have the skills to pull that shot off, and so of course you're nervous, anxious, etc. Yes, there's a small component to tricking yourself into being confident, and that can likely slightly improve performance… but you're still gonna hit the ball poorly overall compared to someone who is much better physically.

I said in the other topic that people will often lie to themselves, too. I think that quite often, people can have a poor mental game on a shot, but if the shot turns out well, they discard that shot. Only the "bad" ones stick out, and even then, they sometimes place more blame than is actually due on the mental game. Maybe they had the same mental "state" as a previous good shot, but made a slightly different swing and so they blame their mental state in retrospect as a means of protecting their ego (which IMO, for sports, is largely based on the physical).


Please:

  • Remember to be clear about whether you're speaking generally or individually.
  • Be civil. This is still just a discussion about a silly sport we all enjoy playing (usually).
  • Attack ideas or opinions all you want. Not people. So long as bullet #2 is still obeyed.
  • Have fun. :-)

Update (2018-12-07) - Further updated thoughts here:

Edited by iacas
Added Update at the end

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For me, it used to be more mental, but now that I have a swing of sorts, it's over well 90% physical and maybe even 99%?

So, my game now consists of: Driving much farther than before; hitting my irons far enough that I rarely need long irons (unless I'm having a bad 'tree' day); 40 putts is not unusual while readily breaking 90. My bad shots account for every bad hole, and I just don't see how I could have hit those bad shots any better without physically practicing for them more?

For the 3W 218 carry example, I'd have a decent chance of making it, but I never expect to. Just make the shot as best as I can and hope for the best. I can easily explain why I'd miss a carry like that, because it's a really tough shot. :-D

Edited by Lihu

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Golf could be 80:20 physical mental for me and Dustin Johnson. The fact that DJ is better than I am doesn't prove golf is only 5% mental for everyone, though it may be for pros and some others. While DJ is one of the most powerful players, there are other tour pros and long drive folks who are more physically capable than he is. And if physical ability was 95% of it, wouldn't the tour rankings and wins correlate almost exactly?

At least "we've" now acknowledged that game planning is mental, where it wasn't in the earlier thread. Mental was arbitrarily confined to nerves by some of the almost entirely physical supporters early in the past thread.

I can't see how green reading isn't largely a mental exercise. Just as "well, the brain controls everything you do, so it's 100% mental" isn't instructive, neither is "well, you don't swing a club with your brain, so it's 100% physical." By the latter, also biased POV, writing a book or playing chess would be almost entirely physical too?

I agree it's more physical than mental, but the mental isn't trivial for many/most IMHO, I'd consider 5% trivial.

 

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1 hour ago, iacas said:

And, because it's going to be necessary, I'm going to define the mental game as such:

  • Shot selection, game planning, strategy (though this is pretty simple, and even non-golfers can make these decisions).
  • Ability to focus or "get out of your way." (i.e. some people perform best when they aren't hyper-focused, some do). This can also include visualizing shots, not having too many swing thoughts, etc.
  • Nerves, even though they may manifest as shaking hands, sweaty hands, accelerated heart rates, etc.

Things that aren't included:

  • Green reading, feeling the wind, how you're feeling that day, or any of the inputs needed to make a decision.

Aren't these (the ones I bolded) similar or overlapping?  Or by "feeling that day" are you intending things like having a cold or headache--more somatic than emotional?

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22 minutes ago, Midpack said:

At least "we've" now acknowledged

I agree it's more physical than mental, but the mental isn't trivial for many/most IMHO, I'd consider 5% trivial.

Let's avoid the pitfall of the other thread and stick to the topic as posted specifically:

Quote

 

So, the purpose of this topic is two-fold:

  • To discuss just how much the mental game affects golfers generally, as well as individually (please be clear about this distinction when you're posting).
  • To discuss methods and means of improving your mental game.

 

This is the key part I took from the OP's proposal

Maybe a good discussion then?

 

For me, the mental part of the list is the 2nd bullet - the ability to 'get out of my own way', visualize shots, ets (though I'd say it is very the same thing as 'swing thoughts' which is excluded - but at least someone tried to defined the groups).  My main goal is to reduce my swing thoughts to maybe 1 or 2 things, no more.  The other is to take my misses and remember what is the 'typical' reason why and apply the fix immediately.  So I've tried to SIMPLIFY it as much as possible so my thoughts are very defined and linear and pithy.

It's consistent, and hopefully lets me progress to taking as much mind out of my swing and let my body take over with just a simple visual of the intended ball flight followed by lining up-stance-pull the trigger.

The neat thing about this aspect is that the more I practice this unconscious awareness, the less often I need to do it consciously.

No....I won't apply a percentage contribution to my situation either before or after I work through the issues.  wrong thread.

7 minutes ago, Missouri Swede said:

Aren't these (the ones I bolded) similar or overlapping?  Or by "feeling that day" are you intending things like having a cold or headache--more somatic than emotional?

I suspect he's attempting to differentiate between:  "mental" game vs the "thinking" aspect

it's a pretty good attempt for the first try.  I don't see anyone else doing it.  We should try to work around the overlap and discuss as best we can anyway.

Edited by rehmwa

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Here's my list of things involving the mental aspect when playing a round of golf: 

1) Ability to consistently recall the two same swing thoughts every single shot. Simply put I strike the ball best whenever I have stayed focused on my two swing thoughts throughout the round. Failure mode: Over the round the mind forgets to recall them or slightly newer feeling starts to enter my mind leading to change in swing.

2) Adjust to expectations (ball flight curve, distance..) based on how body is feeling physically - which varies depending on my body rested Sunday afternoon round or a quick nine after a long day at work.  

Pressure is not much of an issue that has always helped me stay focused. I think I have more of an issue losing focus (See point 1 above) when playing non-serious rounds and drifting into other 'realms'.

 

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20 minutes ago, Midpack said:

Golf could be 80:20 physical mental for me and Dustin Johnson. The fact that DJ is better than I am doesn't prove golf is only 5% mental for everyone, though it may be for pros and some others. While DJ is one of the most powerful players, there are other tour pros and long drive folks who are more physically capable than he is. And if physical ability was 95% of it, wouldn't the tour rankings and wins correlate almost exactly?

Physical ability varies week to week even for the top professionals. As Erik said,

1 hour ago, iacas said:

Things got contested when we branched out from that original question to begin to discuss how much the mental game plays a role. I'm on record as saying it's pretty small: Dustin Johnson is going to shoot a pretty narrow range of scores if you normalize his physical performance somewhat, and a bogey golfer isn't going to break par on a PGA Tour course any time soon… his scores are also typically 85-100 owing, mostly, to variations in physical performance that day (as well as the mental game and, well, a little bit of luck good or bad).

To answer your question, the tour rankings and wins over the course of a season or multiple seasons correlate very closely to the players that have a combination of the best physical game, and the most consistent physical game. People have mentioned it before, the guys that win each week on tour are the best ball strikers and the best putters that particular week. Over the course of time, the best and most consistent physical players will rise to the top and win more.

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I'll start by saying that I believe golf to be primarily physical (by a pretty big margin). I think common sense points to that golf is a game that requires a certain level physical ability to play at a certain level of golf.

1 hour ago, iacas said:

Shot selection, game planning, strategy (though this is pretty simple, and even non-golfers can make these decisions

Generally, a lot of people are ignorant on this type of stuff. Gaining this knowledge is not that difficult, and can have immediate impact on a golfer's scoring.

Personally, this wasn't something I struggled in accepting, thanks to this forum. How I improved this? Being open to knew ideas. Seeking out knowledge. Acquiring Lowest Score Wins. :-D Actually implementing this knowledge. I do need to reread the book again.

1 hour ago, iacas said:

Ability to focus or "get out of your way." (i.e. some people perform best when they aren't hyper-focused, some do). This can also include visualizing shots, not having too many swing thoughts, etc

Generally, I do think simple is better. Whatever lets the golfer play at their peak physical playing ability is the key. Also, this doesn't seem like something that is easy to figure out. That could be my own experience on this.

Personally, this one hits home for me. I have a really bad habit of getting in my own way. It's something I am trying to figure the balance on and what actually works best for me on the course. I might have a swing though that works for a few rounds or a few holes, then things go down hill. I am not good at fixing it on the course, and it becomes a grind.

Maybe I should use more visual thoughts, like thinking about what I want the ball to do. I've had a lot of instances were I get into a tough lie or a more difficult shot, and I hit a very solid shot. Example, this past weekend I had to hit a 9 iron with a push fade to get it to pass through this gap formed by these two trees. It was one of the best struck shots all day. I wasn't thinking about swing mechanics. It's something I need to figure out and test on the course. I could visualize the shot better and have that mental image of what the ball needs to do right before I swing the club. This is something I will have to play test.

1 hour ago, iacas said:

Nerves, even though they may manifest as shaking hands, sweaty hands, accelerated heart rates, etc

Generally, This is something some people may never get over. Nervousness or anxiety might be more physical than mental. A golfer walks up to the first tee, their heart rate starts to rise, the adrenaline starts to kick in, their hands get sweaty. A golfer has no influence over this physical reaction. The mind has perceived something and is causing the body to react in this prescribed way. How people deal with this is mental.

Personally, I tend to feel stress on the first shot if playing in a tournament. After that first shot, then I easily fall into just playing golf. It's like hitting that first shot is a trigger for me to switch to something I've done hundreds of times. This isn't something I think I need to improve at.

48 minutes ago, iacas said:

"Desire" to practice or improve the physical components, or anything of this ilk.

Generally, this might not be considered mental. I could say the willingness to practice even if you do not feel like it is a mental decision. This might be geared towards a small segment of golfers. I might define determination as mental quality.  

42 minutes ago, GolfLug said:

2) Adjust to expectations (ball flight curve, distance..) based on how body is feeling physically - which varies depending on my body rested Sunday afternoon round or a quick nine after a long day at work. 

I like this one. I think this maybe should be added to #1. Sometimes it might just be a bad day and the strategy needs to be adjusted.

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42 minutes ago, GolfLug said:

Here's my list of things involving the mental aspect when playing a round of golf: 

1) Ability to consistently recall the two same swing thoughts every single shot. Simply put I strike the ball best whenever I have stayed focused on my two swing thoughts throughout the round. Failure mode: Over the round the mind forgets to recall them or slightly newer feeling starts to enter my mind leading to change in swing.

.....

Pressure is not much of an issue that has always helped me stay focused. I think I have more of an issue losing focus (See point 1 above) when playing non-serious rounds and drifting into other 'realms'.

 

I couldn't have said it better myself. 

Individually I also suffer from nerves on approach shots. Especially now I am driving the ball very well (had my best one ever at 266 yards yesterday) and I have what should be easy approach shots with short irons and wedges. I get nervous seeing the green so close and big, I start counting the "par" in my head before I actually make it, and I lose my posture, my sequence, everything turns to jelly. Or alternately I will hit the best 9-iron of my life and fly the green. I'm flying the green a lot lately. At the range I can put those short clubs on the green almost every time, but during a round the nerves/pressure very often get the best of me. It's something I plan to work on during the rainy season.

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1 hour ago, Midpack said:

Golf could be 80:20 physical mental for me and Dustin Johnson. The fact that DJ is better than I am doesn't prove golf is only 5% mental for everyone, though it may be for pros and some others. While DJ is one of the most powerful players, there are other tour pros and long drive folks who are more physically capable than he is. And if physical ability was 95% of it, wouldn't the tour rankings and wins correlate almost exactly?

I can believe this.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareto_principle

It's totally possible that for you it is 80:20. It would be interesting to understand the "in between" feelings. For me, 99% is pretty clear and there isn't all that much to explain, but 20% is definitely not trivial.

 

Quote

At least "we've" now acknowledged that game planning is mental, where it wasn't in the earlier thread. Mental was arbitrarily confined to nerves by some of the almost entirely physical supporters early in the past thread.

Yes, I think this was even taken into consideration in the other thread by the OP, but some of us just took it as defined as nerves whereupon it's less than 1%.

For some of us, even with all this game planning. It's pretty much just looking at the course and knowing where your shots are going to go.

 

Quote

I can't see how green reading isn't largely a mental exercise. Just as "well, the brain controls everything you do, so it's 100% mental" isn't instructive, neither is "well, you don't swing a club with your brain, so it's 100% physical." By the latter, also biased POV, writing a book or playing chess would be almost entirely physical too?

Putting is not necessarily a mental thing.

On a side note, you could pick on my putting, since I never practice it and I'm terrible at it, and blame that on not putting enough mental effort into it. However, I never feel bad about my putting nor do I feel nervous. I use something called aimpoint and it's not really "mental". It's pretty physical once you've learned it. My bad putting issue is my angular feel is different each day. I'd need to calibrate it better to putt better.

 

Quote

I agree it's more physical than mental, but the mental isn't trivial for many/most IMHO, I'd consider 5% trivial.

Not for you, but for some people, it might be?

 

1 hour ago, Missouri Swede said:

Aren't these (the ones I bolded) similar or overlapping?  Or by "feeling that day" are you intending things like having a cold or headache--more somatic than emotional?

These could be different. You could have a headache for instance on one day, then on another you are playing with a lot of pressure to perform.

Edited by Lihu

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11 minutes ago, Kalnoky said:

during a round the nerves/pressure very often get the best of me. It's something I plan to work on during the rainy season.

and that's the question of the day.... HOW does one work on that other than just getting in the situation regularly and aclimate?  or is there some kind of inferential training you could leverage?

(Certainly confidence in your swing and improved abilities could play a big part, but what about directly addressing the nerves so they are less present even on a bad day?)

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22 minutes ago, Kalnoky said:

Individually I also suffer from nerves on approach shots. Especially now I am driving the ball very well (had my best one ever at 266 yards yesterday) and I have what should be easy approach shots with short irons and wedges. I get nervous seeing the green so close and big, I start counting the "par" in my head before I actually make it, and I lose my posture, my sequence, everything turns to jelly. Or alternately I will hit the best 9-iron of my life and fly the green. I'm flying the green a lot lately. At the range I can put those short clubs on the green almost every time, but during a round the nerves/pressure very often get the best of me. It's something I plan to work on during the rainy season.

LOL, I had the same situation where I was really close to the green on a long hole and I hit the hosel on my 56 degree wedge trying to pitch it in. It wasn't nerves for me, it was just overconfidence. Not setting up my shot carefully well was basically, stupid. So, in this sense, I should work on my "stupid" game. :-D

Edited by Lihu

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1 minute ago, rehmwa said:

and that's the question of the day.... HOW does one work on that other than just getting in the situation regularly and aclimate?  or is there some kind of inferential training you could leverage?

(Certainly confidence in your swing and improved abilities could play a big part, but what about directly addressing the nerves so they are less present even on a bad day?)

Personally, I found that playing another sport at a pretty high level (collegiate baseball) has helped me not feel the nerves or pressure. I have pitched in front of a couple hundred to a thousand people before, and have pitched really well, and really poor in front of large crowds. If I pitched bad, gave up a home run or something, that let my entire team down. If I hit my tee shot in the water and get a double bogey, the only person I am letting down is myself. (I've never golfed in a competitive team tournament where I would be letting my team down)

I think having a dedicated preshot routine can help someone stay focused on what they need to do in order to execute a specific golf shot when they are nervous. It is just one less thing you have to worry about. If you know your setup, practice swings, etc will all be the same on every shot, then once you enter that routine it should be on autopilot until after you hit the ball. 

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16 minutes ago, rehmwa said:

and that's the question of the day.... HOW does one work on that other than just getting in the situation regularly and aclimate?  or is there some kind of inferential training you could leverage?

(Certainly confidence in your swing and improved abilities could play a big part, but what about directly addressing the nerves so they are less present even on a bad day?)

I challenged someone to think of a purely mental exercise to help my physical game, and no one came up with one. So far, no takers. They offer only physical exercises to help the mental game.

Edited by Lihu

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26 minutes ago, Lihu said:

I challenged someone to think of a purely mental exercise to help my physical game, and no one came up with one. So far, no takers. They offer only physical exercises to help the mental game.

I don't see a disconnect with physical and mental exercises being cross productive.  (unless I was trying to still 'win' the other thread - which is locked because of that very thing).

But visualizing yourself again and again being composed in a stressful situation has been shown to actually stimulate the muscle and nerves in a similar fashion as practice (in a reduced fashion).  It's effective.  We use that a lot in skydiving competition training, since the actual effort is over a 35 second window, but you have minutes or hours on the ground between actual competition jumps.  It works.  And in a significant way.  (the comparison is loose at best since a competition jump is a repetition of a series of very specific and athletic moves, and the goal is to maximize reps in a very quick window of opportunity.   Golf you have all the time in the world (it seems from watching the pros) to execute a single shot.  But the extension of concept is still valid.)

My other comment on visualization is that this is majority a part of preparation, not execution which is a fleeting opportunity.  At execution, you should be cashing in on the benefit, not executing on the spot.

But I believe that the end goal is to identify where the mental glitches are and do whatever it takes to remove them.  Maximize the physical and eliminate the mental.  Make yourself a machine as far as executing the shot is concerned

Edited by rehmwa

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14 minutes ago, Lihu said:

I challenged someone to think of a purely mental exercise to help my physical game, and no one came up with one. So far, no takers. They offer only physical exercises to help the mental game.

What would the benefit of this be? Why would you need a mental exercise to help your physical game when you can practice, drills, dry swings, etc "physical" things that will help your physical game? Is there a particular reason that you are trying to look for a mental exercise to help your physical game or are you trying to prove the point that there are few, if any, mental exercises that will help your physical game?

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1 hour ago, rehmwa said:

and that's the question of the day.... HOW does one work on that other than just getting in the situation regularly and aclimate?  or is there some kind of inferential training you could leverage?

(Certainly confidence in your swing and improved abilities could play a big part, but what about directly addressing the nerves so they are less present even on a bad day?)

I think the answer is exactly in what you said at the end of the question: Face your fears, face them often. Beat them to death. 

Most other techniques are distraction based to calm nerves (visualization or think of a happy place type) and in my very humble opinion, ineffective over a longer period.    

Edited by GolfLug

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25 minutes ago, rehmwa said:

I don't see a disconnect with physical and mental exercises being cross productive.  (unless I was trying to still 'win' the other thread - which is locked because of that very thing).

But visualizing yourself again and again being composed in a stressful situation has been shown to actually stimulate the muscle and nerves in a similar fashion as practice (in a reduced fashion).  It's effective.  We use that a lot in skydiving competition training, since the actual effort is over a 35 second window, but you have minutes or hours on the ground between actual competition jumps.  It works.  And in a significant way.  (the comparison is loose at best since a competition jump is a repetition of a series of very specific and athletic moves, and the goal is to maximize reps in a very quick window of opportunity.   Golf you have all the time in the world (it seems from watching the pros) to execute a single shot.  But the extension of concept is still valid.)

My other comment on visualization is that this is majority a part of preparation, not execution which is a fleeting opportunity.  At execution, you should be cashing in on the benefit, not executing on the spot.

But I believe that the end goal is to identify where the mental glitches are and do whatever it takes to remove them.  Maximize the physical and eliminate the mental.  Make yourself a machine as far as executing the shot is concerned

I suppose you meant get yourself "psyched"? That's not necessarily going to help with a golf swing?

For very simple things, this type of visualization might work, but as the complexity of an action or situation increases visualization tends to break down.

So, in martial arts, I was able to visualize a simple single punch or kick movement, and it wasn't always exact. It did help speed up my punches and kicks to some extent, but with more complex movements, this mental process broke down. Even simple combinations were visualized incorrectly, and that's because my brain "forgets" body feel and starts to change stuff. This leads to incorrect motions and force emphasis. Forget about memorizing a Kata this way, it fails pretty miserably, much less visualizing a match with an opponent. Too many variables.

I also tried to visualize bouldering problems when I was really into rock climbing. No matter how hard I tried to visualize it, there was no substitute for doing the actual moves. The reason is my mind "forgets" the exact body feel of how I got to the "crux" and I invented moves that couldn't possibly work. For instance, in my prime, and my absolute peak physical condition, it took me over 3 months to figure out a climb in Yosemite called "Midnight Lightning" and I barely did it. My sequence going up to the crux became like second nature, and it was wrong. I finally decided to kick off my big toe for a dyno move to a grab on the finger hold, it worked. The move that got me up is not at all ingrained. It was a lucky move that I though of on the spurt of the moment, and I could have easily fallen off the hold but the conditions were such that I stuck it. This was after pondering it for 3 years or so, incorrectly, but it was the physical act of attempting repeatedly and a lot of luck that finally got me over it. That was the pinnacle of my free climbing, and I never even attempted it again because I knew I was lucky.

The golf swing is no different in regard to it being a very complex motion. The fact that it "looks" easy doesn't detract from it's difficulty. It's one of the hardest physical things I've ever done.

 

24 minutes ago, klineka said:

What would the benefit of this be? Why would you need a mental exercise to help your physical game when you can practice, drills, dry swings, etc "physical" things that will help your physical game? Is there a particular reason that you are trying to look for a mental exercise to help your physical game or are you trying to prove the point that there are few, if any, mental exercises that will help your physical game?

My hypothesis is if mental exercises can develop a physical skill, then it proves that the mental portion of golf is non-trivial.

3 minutes ago, GolfLug said:

I think the answer is exactly in what you said at the end of the question: Face your fears, face them often. Beat them to death. 

Most other techniques are distraction based to calm nerves (visualization or think of a happy place type) and in my very humble opinion, ineffective over a longer period.    

Exactly.

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