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Top 3 Lessons From Martial Arts That Apply To Golf

From martial arts to golf

As I continue my coaching transition from combat sports to golf, I’ve been having many conversations about my journey and some of the lessons I’ve picked up along the way. To most people, this is a surprising move, but the deeper I get into the world of golf, the more parallels I’m able to draw between the boxing ring and the golf course. 

Here are my TOP 3 LESSONS that I learned from martial arts that apply to golf.

Lesson 1: Strong technique and repetition are the secrets to success

Something I figured out pretty early on in my fight training journey is that it wasn’t enough to learn the techniques, I also had to put in the reps so I could eventually master those techniques. So if I learned something new during class, I would either stay after class to work on the punching bag, show up the next day to work with a training partner or find time for a shadowboxing session. 

When I started teaching, I tried to instill the same mentality in my students. I would remind them that if you learn something in class, and don’t practice what you learned, don’t expect to get the results you’re hoping for. If you don’t have a training partner you can use the punching bag. If you don’t have a punching bag, you can shadowbox in the mirror. Martial arts legend Bruce Lee probably has the best quote when it comes to the importance of repetition, “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”

Bruce Lee quote
Source: Pinterest

The same applies to golf. Of course, the first step is making sure you have the right technique figured out. Repeating a bad swing will only make things worst. Whether you use videos or hire a golf coach, get your technique locked in first. Then, head to the driving range and put in the work. Having that discipline is definitely something I learned from fight training. I think of the driving range as my punching bag, the putting green is kind of the same intensity as light shadowboxing, and I can head for a pratice round which is like a light sparring session with a partner. Either way, the combination of good technique and repetition will help you get to the next level. 

Lesson 2: Potential is a combination of skill, work, and confidence

I’ve seen ultra-talented fighters fail to perform due to a lack of willingness to put in the work. Sometimes when the game feels too easy, athletes get lazy and assume they don’t have to work as hard. Tim Notke, a high school basketball coach, said” Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” I couldn’t agree more. A lazy fighter, or golfer, no matter how skilled they are, will rarely make it to the top. 

But I’ve also seen skilled fighters, who put in the work, also fail to perform due to a lack of confidence and ability to manage fear and stress. That was my story for my first few years of fight training. I knew I had the skill, but fighting is as stressful as it gets when it comes to performing, and so I had to find a way to take control of that stress and manage the fear. I was able to do that through breath training and meditation. A daily meditation practice helped me “rewire” my nervous system over time to be less affected by stress, and learning how to breathe gave me the tools I needed to manage fear in the moment. 

I like to think of potential as something that exists behind a big heavy door. Confidence opens the door and fear closes the door. When you’re on the golf course and struggling with fear and stress, the door stays closed and you can’t play your best golf. When you play with confidence, the door opens up, and out comes your potential. And when everything lines up and you get in the zone, the door flies wide open and that’s when the magic happens. So how do you keep that door open? By putting in the work, learning how to breathe, and taking control of fear and stress. 

Lesson 3: Knowing how to fight when things get tough

It goes without saying that if you’re not ready to fight in the ring, you probably don’t belong there. But I’m not only referring to physical fighting, I’m mostly referring to the mental game. As Mike Tyson once said “Everyone has a plan until you get punched in the mouth”. No matter how great of a technical fighter you may be, what makes a great fighter is how they deal with adversity. The same goes for golf. 

Mike Tyson quote
Souce: LinkedIn

If you watch as much golf as I do, you’ll often see professional players who are off to a great round fall apart when the pressure’s on, especially on a Sunday afternoon. But the same applies to players of all levels. I remember a round last year where I started with two double bogeys in a row. A terrible start! But I remember walking from the green to the third tee and thinking that I had two options at this point: I could stay frustrated and probably set myself up for a terrible round or, I could fight back the negative thoughts, lock into a positive mindset and turn this thing around. I got to the third tee, took a few deep breaths, smashed my drive down the middle, and went on to have my best round of the season! 

There are different ways to tap into that fighter’s energy. If you’re the angry type, you can turn that anger into focus with a few calming breaths or positive affirmations. If you’re more of the “get down on yourself” type, you can throw your shoulders back, take a few shorter breaths to pump yourself up and refocus. No matter what you do, just don’t give up! 

These are just a few of the lessons I gained from martial arts that apply to golf. If you want to learn more as I build my coaching practice for golf, come back to the blog for more lessons and articles.


Patrick Sebastien

Performance Coach


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