Science and Golf II: Proceedings of the 1994 World Scientific Congress of Golf

By A. J. Cochran; M. R. Farrally | Go to book overview

After differences in shot-making skills were taken into account, the skills measured by the Golf Performance Survey made significant contributions to the prediction of prowess in amateur golfers. Automaticity, the act of swinging the club consistently with little conscious effort to guide movement, is clearly an important component in the execution of psychomotor skill accounting for substantial variation in golf performance. The club golfer's level of commitment had little additional impact on performance once differences in shot-making skills and psychomotor automaticity were considered. But the remaining psychological skills significantly improved the prediction of prowess, although their contributions were often complex. Striving for maximum distance is a tactic associated with high handicap golfers and young players (Thomas & Over, 1994). On the other hand, mental preparation is characteristic of more skilled performers. The complex relationships revealed in this study between automaticity, mental preparation, and performance level offer some empirical support for the notion of “paralysis by analysis”.

It is often claimed that up to 90% of success in sports is due to mental factors, particularly at the higher levels of competition (Williams & Krane, 1993). Some elite golfers publicly endorse such a view. Jack Nicklaus (1976) wrote, 'I feel that hitting specific shots-playing the ball to a certain place in a certain way-is 50 percent mental picture, 40 percent setup, and 10 percent swing' (p. 77). The full extent of the contribution made by mental factors is revealed in Nicklaus' elaboration of the importance of setup, 'This includes picturing the shot, aiming and aligning the clubface and your body relative to your target, placing the ball relative to your intended swing arc, assuming your over-all address posture, and mentally and physically conditioning yourself just before pulling the trigger' (p. 79). Although the results of the present study do not support the view that mental factors account for such a high percentage of variance in golf performance, they clearly do make a significant contribution in their own right. Those players able to effect improvement in their psychological skills can justifiably look forward to better performance and a reduction in their golf handicap.


5 References
Broer, M.R., & Zernicke, R.F. (1979) Efficiency of Human Movement. Saunders, Philadelphia.
Cohn, P.J. (1991) An exploratory study on peak performance in golf. The Sport Psychologist, 5, 1-14.
Davidson, J.D., & Templin, T.J. (1986) Determinants of success among professional golfers. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 57, 60-67.
McCaffrey, N., & Orlick, T. (1989) Mental factors related to excellence among top professional golfers. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 20, 256-278.
Nicklaus, J. (1976) Golf My Way. Pan Books, London.
Nix, C.L., & Koslow, R. (1991) Physical skill factors contributing to success on the professional golf tour. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 72, 1272-1274.
Schulz, R., & Curnow, C. (1988) Peak performance and age among superathletes: Track and field, swimming, baseball, tennis, and golf. Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, 43, 113-120.
Thomas, P.R., & Over, R. (1994) Psychological and psychomotor skills associated with performance in golf. The Sport Psychologist, 8 (1).
Williams, J.M., & Krane, V. (1993) Psychological characteristics of peak performance, in Applied Sport Psychology (2nd ed) (ed J.M. Williams), Mayfield, Palo Alto CA, pp. 137-147.

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