Why do Scientists Like to Research Golf
All the things I had learned from the World Scientific Congress of Golf held in Phoenix last week is those: only remember the essential of hitting, swing will be free; the Official World Golf Rankings has held serious bias against members of the PGA Tour; what’s more, researchers are divided on the relative contribution to club-head speed of wrist flexion/extension and radial deviation.
The WSCG is something like the Olympics of golf research. Starting out in the St. Andrews, Scotland, it is the same with the Olympic Games to Athens. Starting from 1990, every four –year will be held (only once has been put off). It is the second time to hold in Phoenix. Roughly two-thirds of the presenters were full-time academics (the rest were golf professionals). This might cause someone to question that how faculty members study golf, however, there are several reasons that proves golf is really a good subject to research.
One reason is that golf players are always standing in a fixed position, and initiate the action on cue rather than react to an object or person coming at them. So they can be fixed firmly, every little motion and brain wave can be wired to the hilt.
One of the most interesting researches in Phoenix, by a Canadian professor of kinesiology named Joan Vickers. She had explained why the “quiet eye” technique, which she first reported 15 years ago, is so effective. Using a helmet fitted out with an external camera and other peripherals, she was able to precisely track the eye movements of golfers as they putted. In the seconds before the stroke, mediocre golfers are always looking around; however, the excellent golf players will try their best to pay attention. Vickers’s research revealed how the neural processes associated with the quiet eye help the brain organize itself to make a good stroke while simultaneously overriding competing neural processes responsible for distractions and anxiety.
Not all of the studies at the conference point to immediately practical benefits, but this one did. Vickers’s advice is that when you’ve adopted your stance and are ready to putt, gaze calmly and steadily at the hole (or target spot) for about three counts, bring your eyes back to the ball in one count and fix your eyes on the back (or top) of the ball for two counts. Then make the stroke and continue to gaze at the ground, where the ball was, for at least one more count.
If there’s a frontier in golf research, it’s neuroscience. With the increasing availability of machines that can peer into brains as they function, there has been rapid progress in understanding the biological mechanisms by which people transform information, such as from a golf lesson, first into actions and ultimately into automatic motor skills that don’t require conscious thought to enact.
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