Vision and your golf swing - week two

By Katherine RobertsMay 20, 2010, 12:50 am

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

If you missed week one go to my archived articles.

Here we go!

Receiving the appropriate vision evaluation

For visually-guided balance to be most stable the total visual system must be operating at peak efficiency. First and foremost the “Hardware” must be evaluated and any limitations corrected.  Without such intervention the “Software” skills, including balance, can never be fully operational.  

Relative to the vision “Hardware” I first recommend that the golfer receives a comprehensive VISION exam, not EYE exam, by a knowledgeable vision care practitioner (VCP) who “Sets the Vision Performance Bar” higher, and evaluates far more than just acuity (clarity of sight; 20/20 or 6/6, etc), presence of nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism, and eye health. The VCP should also evaluate, at minimum, such skills as two-eyed use, depth perception at distance, and eye-movement and fixation skills. Visual acuity should be maximized and balanced between the two eyes for maximal depth perception, spatial awareness and balance.  Most eyecare practitioners do not apply a different standard to golfers or other athletes versus the average patient.   But, the visual and environmental demands are far greater and unique for athletes than non-athletes. 

There is a solution

If a vision correction is deemed appropriate I attempt to place every golfer, no matter what age, into single vision soft contact lenses, preferably a daily disposable option. Daily disposable contact lenses provide maximal comfort and clarity for every round. Contact lenses are superior to traditional spectacle corrections from both an environmental and optical standpoints.  There are no problems with lens reflections, fogging, sweat, foreign debris, surface scratches, frame/lens weight, frame interference, pressure points or optical distortions with contact lenses. Blurry vision, optical distortions inherent with prescription lenses, and frame interference can have detrimental effects on golf performance, including stability and balance. 

Vision / balance relationship exercise #2:

Kenny Perry glassesPeripheral vision is critical to balance/stability.  With your hands in the form of fists, create small tunnels to view thru. While standing on 1 foot fixate on a distant target straight ahead at eye level. While maintaining fixation on the distant target and continuing to stand on one foot, slowly bring both fists up directly in front of your eyes blocking all peripheral vision, similar to a pair of binoculars.  You will note that balance/stability becomes stressed.

The impact of bifocals on golf performance

For those about 50 years old and now wearing some form of eyewear with a “Bifocal” (or “No Line”) prescription for daily use, such a near vision correction is unnecessary, and possibly performance limiting, in golf.  The bifocal generally blurs sight beyond the reading distance, therefore blurring the ball and clubhead.  To avoid the blur, the golfer then makes a compensatory change in head orientation to see clearly around the blur zone, resulting in a changed posture, balance and swing mechanics.  Such a prescription distorts the periphery resulting in false spatial information, which can lead to instability and balance issues.  Our research has shown that the visual demands of golf do NOT require a near prescription during play to see clearly.  Normally, the only near demand during a round of golf is the scorecard.  In the bright outdoors our pupils are smaller than indoors resulting in greater depth of focus (or field) resulting in the ability to see clearer much closer to oneself, including the scorecard.

Golf, reliant upon visual precision in many angles of gaze, is an endurance sport in that it is played for hours under extremes in environmental conditions, including glare and shadow. Many golfers who wear sunglasses, park their eyewear on the top of their caps, particularly on the green, because the optics, tint, or frame interferes or distorts their vision.  A golf-specific pair of sun eyewear is recommended to filter out potentially harmful radiation from the sun, such as UV and blue light, to allow the golfer to be more comfortable, and to provide better clarity of the golfing environment. As discussed previously, prescription eyewear has inherent optical distortions which can effect judgment of critical visual information on the course. But, even non-prescription eyewear includes varying levels of distortion, which can result in inaccurate reads of the green.  Nike’s golf specific eyewear incorporates technologies to address the limitations of optics, tint, and frame interference and comfort. (go to www.NikeVision.com for specific product solutions) 

Types of lenses

The lens tint must allow one to see safely, comfortably, and accurately. For those of you who currently wear or have considered wearing polarized sun eyewear, this technology can limit golf performance.  First, it slightly reduces visual clarity due to its composition.  Secondly, it reduces the amount of critical visual information coming off of each blade of grass, which varies with angle of gaze, head orientation, angle relative to the changing angles/directions of the sun, and contour of the green.  Polarized lenses were developed for the fishing industry. They reduce the harsh glare off of the water, but unfortunately, when on land, they induce variability, an enemy of the golfer.

What about the darkness or lightness of the tint? While snow reflects ~85% of light, and cement ~45, grass reflects only 3-7%. Therefore, to best capture the critical information reflecting off of each blade of grass for contour recognition, a golf-specific lens tint should be much lighter in shade that a general use sunglass. General use lens tints, which are fairly dark in appearance, transmit only ~13-15% of the light reaching the eyewear. A golf specific tint should reflect more than 20%, in the range of 23-25%.  In summary, a golf specific non-polarized tint which transmits only the critical colors of the blades of grass, ball and other surrounds, and is lighter in density than traditional tints, is recommended.

Vision / balance relationship exercise #3:

Think of Polarized lenses as a type of Venetian Blind to filter out reflected glare. While wearing polarized sunglasses, standing near water facing the sun with bright glare reflected, tilt your head back and forth towards each shoulder as if to pour water out of your ear. You will notice the harsh glare alternating between an uncomfortable bright and a more comfortable dim reflection. Next, repeat the demo while standing near the edge of a green with varying contours, and facing towards the sun at a relative low angle,. You will notice variability of the appearance of the grass and perceived topography. 

Lastly, head position and angle of gaze can influence depth perception and balance.  Looking straight ahead is dramatically different than looking to the right or left while holding the head in a downward direction and lateral position while putting.  Exercising these various physical and ocular postures for improved efficiency is recommended.

Vision / balance relationship exercise #4:

While standing on one foot (alternating right or left) tilt head from straight ahead gaze to the putting posture and feel the pulling sensation and decreased stability.  Gradually exaggerate the angles of head torsion and angles of visual gaze.  Hold such gaze.  You will feel even greater pulling sensation and instability.   



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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Watch: Daly makes birdie from 18-foot-deep bunker

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 11:14 pm

John Daly on Friday somehow got up and down for birdie from the deepest bunker on the PGA Tour.

The sand to the left of the green on the 16th hole at the Stadium Course at PGA West sits 18 feet below the surface of the green.

That proved no problem for Daly, who cleared the lip three times taller than he is and then rolled in a 26-footer.

He fared just slightly better than former Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill.

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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.