News From Terre Haute, Indiana

August 28, 2011

RUB OF THE GREEN: It's all in your head

Bob Arnett
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — A pair of divot diggers had been discussing their favorite sport when one could be heard saying, “You know, I think this game is 90 percent mental.” After a short pause his friend replied, “Well, I think you’re about 10 percent short in your estimation.”

Dozens of books have been written concerning the mental aspects of golf, usually to no avail since most players are definitely adept at repeating past mistakes.

We thought it would be interesting to poll some local players to get their opinions as to what percentage of the game is mental as opposed to physical.

Of course a fundamental precept of physical education is that the body and the mind cannot be separated, however what we wanted to sample was to determine what was taking the lead as a player worked his or her way around the course. Is it the mind or the body “calling the shots?”

At the outset, let me confess that this writer is not an expert when it comes to the mental side of golf. In our playing days, our misadventures on fairways and greens have been many and varied, but it has always been interesting to try to fathom what is going on between a golfer’s ears where the cow pasture pool player’s brain is allegedly housed.

Let’s look at what some local players feel as to how the mental aspects of golf compare to the physical characteristics.

Don Albert sees it at 60 percent to 70 percent mental with 30 to 40 percent attributed to the physical side, whereas, Joe Bukovac has it at 50-50. Steve Nicoson figures 80 percent mental and 20 percent physical. Billy Alumbaugh III has it at 40 percent on the mental side and 60 percent on physical. Chris Snedeker figures it 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical.

Darrell Davis felt that Yogi Berra said it all when he indicated that 99 percent of golf is 50 percent mental. For Davis’ part, he chose 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical. Jack Myers opted for a 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical ratio, adding that Ben Hogan always came up with those figures and if these numbers were good enough for Hogan, they were good enough for him. Mike Gugliami and Brian Kaufman also went for 90-10 percentages whereas Turk Roman figured 60 to 40 was right.

It should be noted that Ken Bosc did not take part in this survey stating that he refused on the grounds that he might “incriminate” himself.

Joe Goda had it at 70 percent mental and 30 percent physical. Herb McConnell made an interesting point. He felt that the game was primarily a physical exercise but as the golfer was learning and then, after he or she become more proficient, golf became more a “mind game” at 70 percent. Danny Williams figured 75 to 25 percent. Jim Smith had it at 50-50, whereas Joe Bridwell figured it as 70-30 and Chuck Buckalew was at 60-40 after the golfer has matured. Lowell Smith figures were 80 percent mental and 20 percent physical. Chuck Brandon had the mental side at 95 percent and Mike Arnett figured the mental at 75 percent and the physical at 25 percent. Claude “Mac” McCalister, who was busy shooting his age at the time, had it at 60 percent mental and 40 percent physical.

When watching the best golfers in the world, it’s difficult to note any huge differences in the manner in which they swing their clubs at the ball. Jim Furyk has a wild backswing and Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey has a weird grip, but by and large most have solid fundamentals. At the end of the tournament, it is the player who has managed the mental side of the game who usually steps forward to take the check and the trophy.

For further information regarding mental vs. physical aspects of golf you might read “The Inner Game of Golf” by Timothy Galloway or “Yoga for Golfers” by Katherine Roberts.

One thing is certain, golf isn’t easy. It never has been but it’s still the greatest game of them all.

n Congrats to Chris Keen on winning the Rea Park Club Championship in a photo finish with Travis Turpen. Also, a tip of the hat to Russ Campbell for his senior title at Rea. We can add Eddie Kanizer to the list of winners since he captured the Geneva Hills Club Championship with a two-stroke win over Larry Griffin.

n Bruce Adelman reports that his friend, Boo Weekly, simply cannot get the ball into the cup. Bruce says that although Boo rates among the leaders in driving distance and accuracy as well as hitting greens in regulation, it’s the putter that is playing havoc with Boo’s game.

It would be great to see Weekly get back to the point where he can start holing putts and challenging for some tournament titles. He certainly adds color to the PGA Tour.


Tip of the week — When should you introduce the youngsters to golf? I would put it at the third-grade level. Small muscle development by that time would make the game easier and more enjoyable for most young golfers.

Keep your head down and your shoestrings tied. We’ll be back.