Burnout in Golf & How we fuel it without Knowing

Iain Highfield
  • Author: Iain Highfield
  • GLT Director
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Pile of Golf Balls

We love to read about golf and human performance. We also love to listen to other coach’s views, beliefs and opinions. We often find ourselves engaged in healthy discussions on Twitter or Facebook forums about golf and human performance, too.

Recently, there was a post from Alex Norn that showed his hands all battered and bruised from a vast amount of ball beating. A number of coaches shared this image, and attached messages like ‘this is what success and dedication looks like’.

We can’t disagree that this is what success might look like for Alex Noren, a man who has had a stellar season on the European Tour and currently lies 5th in the order of merit. However, we believe that coaches should be very careful when sharing messages like this. Everyone is different, and one person’s optimal level of practice far exceeds another’s burnout threshold.

Burnout can be defined as ‘physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress.

It is possible that Alex Noren has a very high burnout threshold; therefore, engagement in this amount of practice can help him perform better. However, there is no doubt that this amount of practice will not be optimal for everyone. Over practicing is as likely to produce a decline in performance as under practicing, yet excessive practice and burnout are rarely or ever discussed, especially in junior sports. The message of ‘the more you practice the better you get’ seems to be the accepted societal norm that we are all supposed to believe, even though research says otherwise. 

Ladies US 70th Open

I have also seen comments about the lack of U.S nationals present on the leader board at the Ladies U.S Open. The reason presented for this is that they don’t work as hard as the Korean based players. Again, this is as one dimensional as the battered and bruised hands view of what contributes to elite performance.

As coaches, we are blessed to have the opportunity to help human beings, we are not in the business of programming robots. When a player stands in front of us, we have a duty to see that player as an individual and help them engage in an optimal training environment, not just portray a message that if you work harder you will get better.

Training harder might have helped Rocky Balboa beat Ivan Drago, but that was a movie; it is less likely to be the solution for every child that has goals to become the best golfer they can possibly be. 

Professional Golfers Hands