Monday, 16 February 2015

Sports Vision Casebook - Putting Part 3

The other aspects of putting are reading the greens and visualisation. It’s much easier to judge the distance of a putt accurately from the side rather than from behind, but you can also get a good judgement by walking the distance.

Judging the slope of the greens is also aided by using proprioceptive information from your feet. If you stand with your feet pointing uphill, the further back towards your heels that you can feel the weight, the steeper the putt. If you are standing upright and you feel the weight on your heels, that means a slope of about 4%; if the weight is on your toes, it’s about a 1% slope.

To get the aiming point, I like the method shown here:
For the strength of the putt, you should aim for a point about 9 inches behind the hole on the path you’ve decided.

Some people use visualisation to judge the line of the putt. One technique is to imagine that the hole of full of water which starts to overflow. You just have to note the path of the water, and this will be the path for your ball in reverse.

When Tiger Woods was a toddler, his father Earl had him put a ball in his right hand and roll it to a hole. Then he had Tiger close his eyes and roll it into the hole again. He asked Tiger what he had “seen” after he had closed his eyes. Tiger replied that he had seen a “picture” of the hole. Earl told him to always “putt to that picture” before he struck the ball, creating a picture in his head of where he wanted the ball to go.  So Tiger’s focus wouldn’t be on the mechanics of the shot, but simply what needed to be done to the best he can visualise. Once he was comfortable with the instant pre-play in his mind’s eye, he’d play the shot.

Jack Nicklaus cited visualisation as the number one secret to his success, and even visualised every shot during practice: “First, I see the ball where I want it to finish, nice and white and sitting up high on the bright green grass. Then the scene quickly changes, and I see the ball going there: its path, trajectory and shape, even its behaviour on landing. Then there is a sort of fade-out, and the next scene shows me making the kind of swing that will turn the previous images into reality”.

Everyone will have their own type of imagery that works best for them, but it all comes down to creating some kind of pathway in your head, and then you just have to try and get the ball to follow that pathway.

Talking to the two pro golfers that I’ve seen recently, I got the impression that visualisation was an area they could improve. With practice, it’s possible to make it almost as realistic as the physical act of putting itself.

David Donner

Monday, 2 February 2015

Sports Vision Casebook - Putting Part 2

I’ve recently seen a couple of professional golfers in my practice. Interestingly, they were both right-handed and left eye dominant. They were consistent in their dominance, so this didn’t explain why one of them was tending to miss his putts to the left.

Ideally, when you are checking the line of the putt, you want your head right over the ball and parallel to the ground, so your eyes can look straight out of your head and onto the ball. If your head is tilted up, you will have to look down your nose a bit if you right over the ball. This is likely to result in you hitting the ball to the inside of the correct line (to the left if you are right-handed). You don’t notice this when you are aligning the putt, because when you look to the hole, your eyes will look up, imperceptibly to you, so you’ll think that you are in perfect alignment.

Conversely, if your head is tipped down, so your forehead is below your chin, your eyes will have to look up towards your eyebrows, and you will tend to hit the putt to the right.

You can have your head tilted up a bit and have your eyes looking straight out of your head, but you eyes would need to be a bit away from the ball: it’s not ideal, but you can still putt straight in that position.

But if your forehead is flat, with your dominant eye looking straight down at the target (usually a dimple on the back of the ball, where a line from the target through the ball would come out), when your head swivels towards the target, your eyes should move in line, as should your hands when you make the putt.

You can check this by creating a hole with your hands as if you were checking eye dominance. Start by looking through the hole to your target point on the ball, close your eyes and then move your head towards the hole (which obviously you can’t actually see)and swing your arms as if making the putt. Open your eyes when you think you’ve reached the point that you can look through the gap in your hands to see the hole. You may have under- or over-shot, but are you still aligned with your putt? It takes a lot of practice to achieve alignment, because it’s very easy for imperfections to occur, such as your chin coming towards your body as you turn. When I tried this on my professional golfer, we found that when he looked through the gap in his hands, he was to the left of the target.

The other aspect of putting is, of course, reading the putt in the first place. More of that in part 3.

David Donner

Geoff Mangum (The Putting Zone)