Vision and your golf swing - week one

By Katherine RobertsMay 20, 2010, 12:20 am

Welcome to week one of “Vision and your golf swing”. This information is an excerpt from my new book Swing Flaws and Fitness Fixes.

The following information is provided by Dr. Alan Reichow, Nike’s Global Research Director for Vision Science, and Director of Research and Development for Nike SST  Dr. Reichow has researched the role of vision in sport, and provided comprehensive diagnostic, remedial and enhancement vision care services to thousands of professional and amateur athletes, including elite golfers, for the past 32 years.

Katherine identified earlier in this chapter that “There are three components that effect balance – the eyes, the inner ear, and something called proprioception.”  You will note the order she listed these skills.  “The Eyes”, or a broader and more encompassing term, “Vision”, is the dominant human sense.

The phrase, “The Eyes Lead the Body” was coined by the late American Football’s Cleveland Browns Coach Blanton Collier in the 1950’s.  He observed that the best players in certain positions were the ones that popped their head and eyes towards their final goal.  These 5 simple words have served as the basis for the vision performance research and clinical care of athletes I have been involved with over the past 32 years. For most, the “Eyes” simply are related to how clearly one sees.  Certainly, this is an important component, but the “Eyes” are merely the gateway to a complex visual system we rely on for interpreting the world around us and making appropriate and timely responses.  Balance is a common denominator across all of these visually-driven responses.

In the world of sport we all have those moments of greatness.  It just so happens that the best of the best display those moments of greatness routinely.  They are consistently at a high level.  Specific to golf, we all recall those occasions of reading a challenging thirty foot breaking putt and dropping it.  Or the approach shot with hazards seemingly everywhere, where we leave ourselves with a short birdie.  What’s the magic to putting these performances together more often?  A critical, but often neglected aspect of elite human performance, is Vision.

Tiger Woods stares down puttWhether it’s the baseball player who is in a hot batting streak or the golfer who is seemingly dropping every putt, most athletes experiencing such a consistent high level of performance make such reference as I’m “Seeing” the ball or line well.

There are three basic questions that we look at relative to “Seeing It Well”.

  1. What does “Seeing It Well” mean?
  2. How can we test for “Seeing It Well”?
  3. How can we provide the tools or training so that an athlete can turn the “Seeing It Well” switch on whenever she/he wants?

This section of the chapter will take an introductory look at these questions and will provide some guidance to the golfer in how to begin influencing “Seeing It Well”, with particular emphasis on balance.

Vision involves collection of the light information of the world around us through our eyes, the most sophisticated cameras ever created. That information is then transmitted primarily to the visual cortex, and to a lesser extent, other areas of our brain, where it is processed, resulting in a motor response(s).  Humans possess 2 eyes for a purpose.  These two eyes operate on a summation premise in that the Power (or Quality) of the visual signal we utilize is stronger and more accurate with the combination of the two eyes together.  Relative to skills such as depth perception, spatial awareness, and balance, two-eyed use is definitely more powerful than one-eyed use. Given normal 2-eye use, it is critical to keep the 2 eyes on the object of regard as much as possible. 

Vision / balance relationship exercise #1:

This drill will demonstrate the importance of 2-eyed use on depth perception and balance.

While standing on 1 foot with 1 eye closed, toss a coin high into the air, with your dominant hand out in front of your body.  While it is in flight, pat your stomach with your dominant hand and then reach out for the catch.  Next, repeat the process with both eyes open.  Most individuals, unless you have a significant 2-eyed use limitation, will experience much greater accuracy of catching and stability with 2-eyed use.

Each of your eyes transmits approximately 1.1 million nerve fibers to the central nervous system, with nearly ten percent to balance control.  How powerful is vision as compared to the inner year you might ask.  In most healthy individuals vision will override the vestibular & proprioceptive systems in balance and stability if there is disagreement.  As example, you may have been to an amusement park fun house with a room painted to simulate a dramatic tilt to the right or left.  Virtually all who experience this will feel the strong pull towards the lower corner of the simulated room.  In this case, the vestibular and proprioceptive syetems are saying that everything is “Cool”, but the visual system is screaming that all is not well and you’ll feel the drift to the side.  Similarly, you may have been sitting in an “Omni” type theater watching simulated high speed action as in a jet or high performance car traveling thru a maze of sharp turns.  Once again, although the vestibular and proprioceptive information is stable, the visual system is communicating a wild ride, that is “Felt” by most people.  For some individuals, the power of the signal is so strong, that they may experience slight discomfort or even nausea.  In most real world situations though, the visual, vestibular and proprioceptive systems are designed to support one another in maintaining balance and stability.

Relative to vision, what can you, as a golfer, do to improve your core balance and stability during golf? There are two general areas I consider for a golfer, or any athlete, for that matter.  There is the “Hardware” side, which simplistically is the eyes on out, and the “Software” side, or what’s behind the eyes.  Relative to the “Hardware”, the stronger and more accurate the visual signal sent by our two cameras (eyes), the better the “Software” side will be able to function, resulting in more timely and accurate response, including balance.

Our research on thousands of athletes from virtually every sport and level of play indicates that athletes generally see differently than non-athletes, that higher level athletes see differently than lesser level athletes, and that it can even vary by position.  We know that golfers are among the most visually sensitive athletes.  The best LPGA and PGA golfers we’ve evaluated tend to “See” things that most other athletes don’t.  Over the years I’ve evaluated professional golfers that see detail far beyond the best of the best in other sports.  Those golfers frequently state that one of their greatest assets is that they “see” details on the green that their peers don’t.  Our research also shows that virtually all visuals skills, including visually-guided balance, peak in the teenage years, and begin a gradual descent in the twenties and early thirties, with a rapid drop-off in the late thirties and forties.  For those gofers who are older than forty-five, you know that feeling when your arms are no longer long enough to read the scorecard at the 19th hole!!  These age-related visual changes can be influenced by intervention on the “Hardware” and/or “Software” side.

Fitness tip:  For more exercises on balance check out my archived video tips and articles on this site as well as my site www.KRFlexFit.com



Editor's Note: Katherine Roberts, founder of www.KRFlexFit.com and www.YogaForGolfers.com has over 20 years of experience in golf specific fitness training, yoga studies, professional coaching and motivation. Katherine welcomes your email questions and comments, contact her at Katherine@KRFlexFit.com

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Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.

“I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

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Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.


Made Cut

Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

September can’t get here quick enough.

Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.


Missed Cut

Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

Tweet of the week:

It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.”