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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Hammer in position (again) to co-medal at U.S. Am

By Ryan LavnerAugust 14, 2018, 10:37 pm

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Cole Hammer is in position to go for a rare sweep in this summer’s biggest events.

Two weeks ago, Hammer, an incoming freshman at Texas, was the co-medalist at the Western Amateur and went on to take the match-play portion, as well.

Here at the U.S. Amateur, Hammer shot rounds of 69-68 and was once again in position to earn co-medalist honors. At 6-under 137, he was tied with 19-year-old Daniel Hillier of New Zealand.

“It would mean a lot, especially after being medalist at the Western Am,” Hammer said afterward. “It’s pretty special.”

No stroke-play medalist has prevailed in the 64-man match-play bracket since Ryan Moore in 2004. Before that, Tiger Woods (1996) was the most recent medalist champion.  


Match scoring from U.S. Amateur

U.S. Amateur: Articles, photos and videos


On the strength of his Western Am title, Hammer, 18, has soared to No. 18 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. He credited his work with swing coach Cameron McCormick and mental coach Bob Rotella.

“Just really started controlling my iron shots really well,” said Hammer, who has worked with McCormick since 2015, when he qualified for the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay as a 15-year-old.

“Distance control with my wedges and all my iron shots, playing different shots, has become really a strength in my game. I’ve really turned the putter on this year, and I’m seeing the lines and matching the line with the speed really well. I think that’s been the key to my summer.”

A two-time New Zealand Amateur champion, Hillier is ranked 27th in the world. He said that, entering the tournament, he would have been pleased just to make it to match play.

“But to come out on top, it’s amazing,” Hillier said. “Cole is a really good golfer and has been playing well lately. So, yeah, I’m in good company.”

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Tee times, TV schedule, stats for Wyndham Championship

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 14, 2018, 9:55 pm

It's the last tournament of the PGA Tour's regular season as the top 125 in the FedExCup points list advance to next week's playoff event. Here's the key info for the Wyndham Championship. (Click here for tee times)

How to watch:

Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 3-6PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: https://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6 p.m.


Purse: $6 million

Course: Sedgefield Country Club (par 70, 7,127 yards)

Defending champion: Henrik Stenson. Last year he defeated Ollie Schniederjans by one stroke to earn his sixth career PGA Tour win.


Notables in the field

Henrik Stenson at the 2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Henrik Stenson

• Missed the cut last week at the PGA Championship

• Six top-10 finishes this year, including T-5 at the Masters and T-6 at the U.S. Open


Sergio Garcia

• Eight missed cuts in last 10 PGA Tour starts

• Currently 131 in FedExCup standings (33 points back of 125th)


Webb Simpson

• Five top-10 finishes in this event since 2010 (won in 2011)

• 56 under par in last five years in this event (best of any player in that span)

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Faldo: Woods told fellow Masters champ 'I'm done' in '17

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 7:42 pm

Fresh off his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship, it's easy to get caught up in the recent success and ebullient optimism surrounding Tiger Woods. But it was not that long ago that Woods even hitting another competitive shot was very much in doubt.

Six-time major champ Sir Nick Faldo shed light on those darker times during a recent appearance on the Dan Patrick Show when he relayed a story from the 2017 Masters champions' dinner. The annual meal is one of golf's most exclusive fraternities, as only the chairman of Augusta National Golf Club is allowed to dine with the men who have each donned a green jacket.

Last spring Woods had not yet undergone spinal fusion surgery, and Faldo explained that Woods at one point turned to an unnamed Masters champ and grimly assessed his future playing chances.


Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos


"I know he whispered to another Masters champion, two Masters dinners ago, 'I'm done. I won't play golf again,'" Faldo said. "He said, 'I'm done. I'm done, my back is done.' He was in agony. He was in pain. His leg, the pain down his legs, there was nothing enjoyable. He couldn't move. If you watched footage of him, he couldn't even get in and out of the golf cart at the (2016) Ryder Cup when he was a vice captain."

But Woods opted for fusion surgery a few weeks later, and after a lengthy rehab process he returned to competition in December. His 2018 campaign has been nothing short of remarkable, with a pair of runner-up finishes to go along with a T-6 result at The Open when he held the outright lead on the back nine on Sunday.

After apparently even counting himself out, Woods is back up to 26th in the latest world rankings and appears in line to be added as a captain's pick for the Ryder Cup next month.

"What he's been able to do is unbelievable," Faldo said. "To turn this aruond, to get this spine fusion, it's completely taken away the pain. To have this mobility is absolutely amazing. Great on him, and great for golf."

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McDowell needs Wyndham result to maintain status

By Will GrayAugust 14, 2018, 5:56 pm

For the first time in nearly three years, Graeme McDowell heads into an event with his PGA Tour status hanging in the balance.

The Ulsterman joined the Tour in 2006, and he has had nearly uninterrupted status since winning the 2010 U.S. Open. But McDowell's two-season exemption for winning the 2015 OHL Classic at Mayakoba only extends through this week, where he will start the Wyndham Championship at No. 143 in the season-long points race.

McDowell tied for fifth at Sedgefield Country Club in 2016, and he will likely need a similar result to crack the top 125 in the standings and retain his fully exempt status for the 2019 season. While he finished T-10 in Las Vegas in November, that remains his lone top-10 finish of the Tour season. The veteran's best results this year have come in Europe, where he tied for fifth at the Italian Open and finished T-12 at the BMW PGA Championship.


Wyndham Championship: Articles, photos and videos


"I'm trying not to put too much pressure on myself. I feel like it's not a do-or-die scenario for me," McDowell told reporters earlier this month at the Barracuda Championship. "I feel if I was 25 years old without a European Tour card to fall back on, it would be a do-or-die scenario. Certainly trying to put the pressure off, if I don't get myself into the top 125 it's not the end of the world for me. I still feel like I can play a great schedule next season."

By finishing Nos. 126-150 in points after this week, McDowell would retain conditional status that would likely ensure him at least 12-15 starts next season. He would also still have privileges as a past tournament champion.

But he's not the only winner from the 2015-16 season whose two-year exemption is on the verge of running out. Fabian Gomez (160th), Peter Malnati (164th) and Billy Hurley III (202nd) all need big results in Greensboro to keep their cards, while Shane Lowry, David Lingmerth and Matt Every all earned three-year exemptions for victories in 2015 but currently sit Nos. 139, 140 and 184 in points, respectively.

Last year four players moved into the top 125 thanks to strong play at Wyndham, with the biggest jump coming from Rory Sabbatini, who went from No. 148 to No. 122 after tying for fourth place.