Maybe it doesn’t require the same physicality as football or hockey, or the cardiovascular endurance as soccer or basketball, but anyone who has tried playing golf can agree that it is really freaking hard.
So what makes a sport hard or soft? Toughness in sports can be broken down into 2 categories; Physical and mental. Physical toughness is the strength and physical endurance required to perform the movements of the game. Mental toughness is the ability to keep the emotions in check and withhold focus. Obviously, when you think about high contact sports like football and hockey, they seem pretty hardcore. You have to be able to withstand the force of monster athletes colliding into you with the intent to cause physical harm. There’s no argument that these sports aren’t soft.
While football and hockey are largely physically demanding games, golf is probably the most mentally demanding sport out of them all. With any sport that requires lightning fast reactions and quick thinking, muscle memory and regimented training allow for subconscious reaction without much conscious intervention. In comparison to the psychological challenge presented by golf, these sports seem easy in the mental arena.
Sure, there is a physical aspect to golf. When considering the physical demands of professional tour golfers, you have to think about the fact that they walk on average about 4.5 miles per round. A golf tournament is made up of 4 rounds of golf, so on average, they walk about 18 miles in four days. Golfers also need to have strength in their core and lower body to allow for the approximately 36 full, powerful swings they take per round. They also need the control and finesse to make 36 chips or putts that get them to shoot par.
That being said, in a 4 hour round, the physical act of setting up and hitting a ball accounts for only a third of the time spend. This leaves golfers with 3 hours to think and plan while the game is going on. Three hours to consider all the bad things that can happen, and the dumb moves that can be made.
If you think mental toughness is soft, here’s an analogy for you. Don’t think about a pink elephant…What does that automatically make you do? Think about a pink elephant. This psychological exercise provides proof that suppressing your thoughts actually achieves the opposite effect. Now try not to think about a pink elephant while trying to powerfully connect a tiny club face to a smaller ball. There’s nothing soft about that.
This is the battle that golfers are constantly facing during a round of golf. If there is water between you and the green, you have to step up and hit your shot without considering the fact that your ball could end up in the water. You have to keep your emotions in check, while focusing on your target, while staring intently at the ball. There’s nothing soft about that.
In other, quick reacting sports, you don’t have time to consider consequences. You practice in order to be able to react intelligently when the situation arises. Mental preparation happens solely before the game. During game situations, the intense training allows you to react without much conscious thought. During a round of golf, the hours of training will only help if you’re able to completely shut the negative emotions and thoughts out. You basically have to not think, which as illustrated by the pink elephant, is extremely difficult.
The toughness in golf may not be physical, but it still requires toughness nonetheless. The next time someone tries to tell you that golf is soft, hand them your driver and get them to hit a straight ball. Over water. Past the bunker on the left, and avoiding the forest on the right. Would they still tell you golf is soft?