Golf: Mental or Physical?
I recently asked you guys if you have any questions for me to answer and what you wanted to know about me or professional golf. I got asked two questions that really got me thinking... 1. What do you do to train mentally? and 2. Lady golfers do a lot of strength training. How does that benefit their swing (other than added distance)? So these questions got me thinking about golf in 2018. Is the sport more mental or physical and how do those play a role in my preparation? Lets get into it!
I can only answer these questions based on my experiences and obviously other golfers might have different answers. Growing up, I never thought much about the mental aspect of golf. I didn't have to do much training or mental exercise because I was so dedicated and focused. My dad always told me that if I wanted to be the best I had to work way harder than everyone else. I really took that to heart and made a lot of sacrifices to succeed at golf. As the years go on, many factors including injury, can begin to get in your head and make you lose the fearlessness that you have as a kid. To me, I play my best when I am not worrying or doubting myself. I have read a few books to get back into this confident mindset including The Mind Gym by Gary Mack and David Castevens and With Winning in Mind by Lanny Basham. There are different ways that each player choses to get into a winning mindset but for me, I try to work on it in practice so that in competition it will be natural. In my experience, if you aren't confident, you won't get your best results. The mental aspect of golf is something that needs to constantly be addressed and really varies between each individual. I refer back to the books I mentioned above when I am struggling and need a reminder. This keeps it simple and allows me not to feel overwhelmed with tons of information. Some days are harder than others to feel confident and be in that "winning mindset" but that is what is required to be mentally tough and to compete at a top level.
Golf has really evolved into an athlete's game now more than ever. It is so important to be strong for many reasons. Most people associate strength training with gaining distance. Gaining distance is definitely helpful in some ways but in my opinion, can end up hurting your game as well. The first reason I incorporate strength training is to prevent injury. Unfortunately, I have learned that my body requires a ton of stretching & strengthening. Throughout my career I have worked my muscles into a posture in which they were susceptible to injury. I am now working to undo all of that which is why strength is so important! It allows us to maintain alignment and good posture while putting our body through a lot of stress on the golf course. In my experience strength training is very beneficial if you are using it to enhance your body's current strength capabilities while constantly improving weaker areas. This will help your body endure the long days on the course and repetitive motion of the golf swing. It plays such a huge part in allowing us women (who tend to be naturally weaker than men) to have a long career as an athlete. We have to take care of ourselves and give our body all that it needs in order to be able to perform at a high level.
The second reason to improve your strength is to be able to make swing changes and have them hold up under pressure. Through my career I have learned that you cannot make swing changes without having the strength to do so. If your muscles are not willing to move in the direction you want them to, you may end up causing injury by making these changes. Also, when the body gets tired it will naturally revert back to what feels comfortable. This means as you get farther into your round, the body will fatigue and it will be harder to continue making the "corrected swing" and you will revert to more of your "natural swing". This is why it is so important to be strong and allow your body to hold up under pressure.
Core strength is so important to support the lower back as well as maintain good posture.
One of the forms of physical therapy I am doing to continue the healing of my neck is Myofascial Release work. This is helping me gain mobility and relieve pressure in my neck/shoulder area as well as help my body function unrestricted.
There are many different aspects to being an athlete and many approaches on how to be successful. These are just some of my thoughts and the approach I have chosen throughout my career. I am constantly trying to improve and learn from each experience. Golf is both physical and mental and it requires a ton of discipline in each area!