Is golf a complex game to play… no. It’s only as complex as you want to make it. The “tl;dr” version:
The objective is to get the ball in the hole in as few shots as you can.
There are situations, like what to do when the ball’s above your feet, or what to do when there’s a 10mph headwind, that add a little complexity, but they’re not really headache-inducing issues. Not if you practice them.
In my opinion, the real complexities exist because of the need to sell the sport.
How Club Manufacturers Make Golf Complex
Golf club manufacturers get sciency, as a means to awe us into spending $400 on their new driver or $1300 irons.
How many ads do you see for some new baseball mitt that’ll allow you to catch some arbitrary new amount of catches? What about a basketball that makes, say, 17% more free throws? Or shoes that allow you to run 10% faster?
You don’t. Running faster is up to you. Catching more baseballs is up to you. Making free throws is up to you. Golf isn’t any different, at its base level- hitting the ball straight, getting it in the hole in the fewest strokes possible- it’s still up to you.
You can say “well, this OEM says you’ll hit the ball straighter with their new driver”. That can be true in a robot test… but regardless, if you hit the ball with an open face or come over-the-top and cut across the ball, you’re still going to slice the ball with that driver. It’s simple physics.
Using the running idea: if you want to shave a minute off your 2K marathon time, you train. It’s hard work, but that’s what you need to do to lower your time. If we want to talk about equipment being involved, we can. Trying to run a 2K in heavy hiking boots isn’t a good idea. Running the 2K in running shoes two sizes too big isn’t a good idea. Running a 2K in properly-fit running shoes is a good idea.
Same goes for golf clubs. A driver that’s too long isn’t conducive to hitting the ball better, because it’ll be harder to control. Hitting a 9 iron with a lie angle too upright isn’t good for hitting straight shots. A properly-fit club isn’t a magic wand, but much like the shoe, it helps.
To use another analogy: try swinging a baseball bat that’s too long and too heavy, then try again with one that better suits your swing and strength. You may not automatically turn into Mike Trout, but you’ll be giving yourself a better chance at hitting the ball more often and efficiently.
That’s what a properly fit golf club does; it won’t turn you into Jordan Spieth, but it’ll give you a better chance at lowering your scores. It’s still up to you.
How Golf Teachers Make Golf Complex
Some golf coaches will develop new “theories” as a way to sell themselves, to set themselves apart from the rest.
But the same thinking applies with the swing. If you’ve played baseball, softball, hockey, or some other form of “stick-and-ball” sport, you’ve got a pretty good idea on how to hit a golf ball.
Hell, I could develop some swing theory, get a few people to lower their scores, maybe find a Tour pro to tout my “program” and tell everyone I know that I’m some swing guru. Of course, I’d just ignore the people I didn’t help with the new swing or (cringe) made them worse.
Could your swing be “optimized”? Sure… if we hook you up to a monitor, we could say “well, your hip turn’s only 50*, and your shoulder turn’s only 85*… it should be that ‘ideal’ (however they came to that) 45* and 90*… if you want to be optimized“. But what is that?
We’re humans, not robots. We’re never truly “optimized”; our signature’s not exactly the same every time, we don’t hit the nail with a hammer exactly the same every time, blah, blah. We can still do what we need to do.
Again, golf is no different. Look at someone like Jim Furyk: his loopy swing is far from “optimized”, yet he’s a major winner on the PGA Tour. What he does do, and what we can do, is take what we have and get the most out of it. That comes with practice, just like it does with learning how to run faster or how to make more free throws.
There’s a saying in golf: “the most important tool is the 6″ between your ears”. You don’t need to be bogged down with multiple swing theories, or worry about not having some “ideal” shoulder turn, or if your driver is on some “hot” list. Practice when you can and play within yourself- that’ll take a lot of the complexity out of the game.