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Opinion & Analysis

Bradley and Poulter: Do my eyes deceive me?

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By Brian Chipper

GolfWRX Contributor

Two of the breakout stars of this year’s Ryder Cup turned out to be Keegan Bradley for the Americans and Ian Poulter for the Europeans. While not being under the radar by any means, their stars certainly shined bright, and they did so by making an astounding amount of putts on some very slick Medinah greens.

Most would believe it to be the near perfect stroke of Ian Poulter compounded by the years of practice he has put into his game. The talking heads of the PGA Tour would lead you to believe that Keegan has the belly putter perfected.

However, after some further investigation I have found that it has more to do with their pre-shot routine and their eyes.

As a budding search engine amateur ophthalmologist, I became mesmerized by the concentration the two showed through their eyes.

As Keegan Bradley squats down two paces behind the ball you can visually see the man enter what has to be the Matrix. As he starts to tilt his head his eyes become a vacuum of information as they grow wide open.

He nods a little, but this is only his brain reminding him that he is currently in the real world and needs to translate the grid of green and black lines back to the putting green. If he is able to keep this concentration up, his confidence soars and the putts start dropping.

Seeing grids like this is uncommon, but not unheard of. This may be a similar condition of Central Serous Retinopathy, where damage to the retina can cause grids to appear in one’s sight (I wouldn’t doubt that he just is living in two different dimensions and has the ability to combine the two to improve his golf game).

Ian Poulter, after sinking his last putt on No. 18 to beat Webb Simpson, was caught staring into the camera with such intensity that his children were sure they were on their way to a grounding. Mr. Poulter has a more normal routine. Walk around the green, find a path that will give him the best opportunity to sink the putt, and then select a spot on the line to aim for.

After addressing the ball, his eyes physically bulge out of his head, a term known as exophthalmia. By doing this, his peripheral vision increases by over 40 percent, giving him nearly 180 degrees of vision. Through years of training, he has become so good at judging distances and motion in his peripheral vision that his children have quit trying to do things behind his back.

His exophthalmia and concentration were so intense that after he made that last putt, his eyes almost became stuck. Luckily for his health, by the time he was interviewed a few minutes later, his eyes had retreated back into their sockets.

These players’ abilities bring me to a few questions. I wonder what kind of gizmos and gadgets will be sold in the near future? In the mid 2000s, red tinted contacts were all the rage in Major League Baseball to help highlight the seams of the baseball when pitched.

Will we see Bushnell release a fluid grid producing sight finder for the greens? Will Oakley be able to make customized full optic sunglasses that open up one’s degree of vision without giving you vertigo?

Or maybe, just maybe, it is what those eyes are connected to with years of built up muscle memory that are producing these awesome results for Keegan Bradley and Ian Poulter.

Writer’s note – If your eyes hurt from reading this article, or have convinced yourself you have these abilities, please go see a Doctor or Therapist.

Click here for more discussion in the “Tour Talk” forum. 

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Topical writer for GolfWRX. Minnesotan. Father. Golfer. Has convinced himself that if he played on nicer courses he could truly be a scratch golfer.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Rick Ross

    Feb 27, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    I would say lighten up to the people saying lighten up. Glad I don’t know any of you.

  2. cavemeister

    Oct 4, 2012 at 2:14 am

    Dude relax, its called having fun with words and ideas.
    Funny, you may be an Ophthalmologist, but you don’t know how to see what you’re looking at.

  3. toothdoc84

    Oct 4, 2012 at 12:20 am

    Lighten up there, SSafran. I believe the whole thing was written tongue in cheek. Nice use of all those fancy med school terms in your post though.

    Nice article, I enjoyed it!

  4. SSafran

    Oct 3, 2012 at 8:15 pm

    As an actual Ophthalmologist I can tell you that you are quite creative but out of your freakin’ mind.

    What Bradley does has NOTHING to do with Central Serous Retinopathy. That condition is a focal detachment of the retina caused by fluid accumulation between the retina pigment epithelium and the macula and it leads to distortion in vision (metamorphopsia). Useless in putting.

    Ian Poulter certainly does not have or induce Exophthalmos. One can’t voluntarily increase the volume of the orbit to make the eyes bulge out ore any more than one can make their nose grow.

    Nice try. Very creative. The stuff of urban legend.

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Opinion & Analysis

Is golf actually a team sport?

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Do a little research on the top PGA Tour players, and what you’ll see is that most (if not all of them) employ a team of diverse professionals that support their efforts to perform on the golf course. Take two-time major champion Zach Johnson; he has a team that includes a caddie, a swing instructor, a sports psychologist, a physiotherapist, an agent, a statistician, a spiritual mentor, a financial adviser… and of course his wife.

“I know this seems like a lot, and maybe even too much,” Johnson readily admitted. “But each individual has their place. Each place is different in its role and capacity. In order for me to practice, work out and just play golf, I need these individuals along the way. There is a freedom that comes with having such a great group that allows me to just play.”

My best guess is that Zach Johnson commits hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to this team, and I assume most players on the leading professional tours are making significant investments in their “teams.” There are three questions that jump out at this point. First, is a team necessary? Second, how can anyone compete without one? And third, how to pay for it?

From the club player to the collegiate player to the aspiring/touring professional, everyone can benefit from a team that offers individual instruction, support, guidance, and encouragement. Such a team, however, needs to be credible, timely, beneficial and affordable.

To be affordable, serious golfers should build their team one piece at a time. The obvious first choice is a swing coach. Golf swing coaches charge from $100-$1,500 per hour. The cost explains why players have historically been responsible for their own practice. The next piece, which is a newly developing trend, should be a performance coach who specializes in the supervision of practice, training and tournament preparation. Performance coaching on-site fees range from $200 to $3,000 per day.

So is team support essential for a player to be as good as he/she can be? My research says it is. When a player schedules a practice session, that session is usually based on what the player likes to do or wants to do. “Best Practices” utilized by world-class athletes suggest strongly that great progress in training always occurs when someone other than the player writes, administers and supervises the programs and sessions. The team approach says the player should focus on what needs to be done. Sometimes what the player wants to do and the things needed to be done are the same thing; sometimes they aren’t.

Now for the question of how to pay for it all. Wealthy players, or those with substantial or institutional support, have access to what they need or want… whatever the cost. If you use an on-site coach, teacher or other professional you will be paying for blocks of time. Fees can be hourly, weekly, monthly, yearly or lifetime arrangements based upon several factors. If your coach of choice is not local, you can also incur travel and per diem expenses. The process of paying for someone’s time can really add up. You can review what I charge for various services that require my attendance at edmyersgolf.com.

For those of you who don’t have easy access to on-site expertise or don’t want to incur the expense, I want to offer an approach that business, industry, colleges/universities and entrepreneurs are turning to: “Distance Coaching.” Distance learning is made possible through modern technology. In today’s world, expertise can be delivered using FaceTime, Skype, texting, email and (old fashion) phone calls. Textbooks, videos, specific programs and workbooks can be accessed from anywhere at any time by anyone with a desire to do so… and who knows what’s coming in the future. Through Distance Coaching, individuals can employ professional expertise on an as-needed basis without incurring huge costs or expenses.

The primary team expenses that can be avoided are those associated with face-to-face, on-site visits or experiences. Distance Coaching brings whatever any player needs, wants or desires within financial reach. For example, a player in Australia can walk onto the practice ground and have that day’s practice schedule delivered to a personal device by his/her performance coach. The player then forwards the results of that session back to the coach — let’s say in Memphis, Tennessee. The player is then free to move onto other activities knowing that the performance, training and preparation process is engaged and functioning. In the same vein, that same player in Australia may have moved into learning mode and he/she is now recording the golf swing and is sending it to the swing teacher of choice for analysis and comment.

So what is the cost of Distance Coaching? Teachers, trainers and coaches set their own fees based upon their business plan. Some require membership, partnership or some other form of commitment. For example, I offer free performance coaching with the purchase of one of my books or programs, as do others. Where face-to-face, on-site fees for performance coaching is available for $200 a day, the same expertise from the same coach can cost as little as $50 a month using the distance format, tools and technology. I highly recommend that players responsibly research the options available to them and then build the best team that fits their games, desires and goals. I’m happy to forward a guide of what to look for in a performance coach; just ask for it at edmyersgolf@gmail.com.

Back to Zach Johnson; he recently admitted that his lack of recent success could be traced to his lack of focus and practice discipline. Additional, he concedes that he has been practicing the wrong things. “It goes back to the basics,” he said. “I have to do what I do well. Truth be told, what I’m practicing now is more on my strengths than my weaknesses.”

Zach Johnson has a great team, but as he concedes, he still needs to put in the work.

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Opinion & Analysis

What is “feel” in putting… and how do you get it?

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You’re playing a course for the first time, so you arrive an hour early to warm-up. You make your way toward the practice green and you see a sign at the first tee that reads, “GREEN SPEED TODAY 11.”  That brings up two issues:

  1. How did they arrive at that number?
  2. How is that information valuable to me?

How did they arrive at that number?

They used what’s known as a stimpmeter — a device that’s used to measure the speed of a green. With a stimpmeter, the green’s surface is tested by rolling a ball down the 30-inch ramp that is tilted downward at a 20-degree angle. The number of feet the ball rolls after leaving the ramp is an indication of the green’s speed. The green-speed test is conducted on a flat surface. A total of three balls are rolled in three different directions. The three balls must then finish within eight inches of each other for the test to be valid.

For example, if the ball is rolled down the ramp and were to stop at 8 feet, the green would be running at an “8.” Were the ball to roll down the ramp and stop at 12 feet, the green would be running at a “12.”

Stimpmeter history

The stimpmeter was invented by Edward S. Stimpson, Sr., a Massachusetts State Amateur Champion and former Harvard Golf Team Captain. After attending the 1935 U.S. Open at Oakmont, he saw the need for a universal testing device after watching Gene Sarazen, who was at the top of his game, putt a ball off the green. He was of the opinion that the greens were unreasonably fast, but he had no way to prove it — thus the motivation for creating the invention.

The device is now used by superintendents to make sure all of their greens are rolling close to the same speed. This ensures that golfers are not guessing from one putt to another if a green is fast or slow based on the way it is maintained. The device is also used by tournament officials who want to make sure that green speed is not too severe.

Do Stimp readings matter for my game?

Not very much. That piece of abstract knowledge is of little value until you can translate it into your own personal feel for the speed of the putt. There is a method that will allow you to turn green speed into a legitimate feel, however, and you don’t even need a stimpmeter or a stimp reading to do it. I call it “Setting Your Own Stimpmeter.”

Before we get to how to do it, the first step is to determine if the putting green is the same speed as the greens on the course. The best source of information in this regard are the professionals working in the golf shop. They will be happy to share this information with you. You only need to ask. Assuming that the speed of the putting green is close to the speed of the greens on the course, you are ready to begin setting your own stimpmeter. This is done by inputting data into your neuromuscular system by rolling putts and visually observing the outcome.

Contrary to what most golfers believe, a golfer’s feel for distance is based in the eyes — not in the hands, which only records tactile information. It’s just like basketball. On the court, you look at the distance to the hoop and respond accordingly. While you would feel the ball in your hands, it doesn’t play a role in determining the proper distance to the hoop. Based on what you saw with your eyes, you would access the data that had been previously inputted through shooting practice.

Setting your own Stimpmeter

  1. Start by finding a location on the putting green that is flat and roughly 15 feet away from the fringe.
  2. Using five balls, start rolling putts one at a time toward the fringe. The objective is to roll them just hard enough for them to finish against the edge.
  3. You may be short of the fringe or long, but it is important that you do not judge the outcome— just observe, because the feel for distance is visually based.
  4. You should not try and judge the feel of the putt with your hands or any other part of your body. You can only process information in one sensory system at a time — that should be the eyes.
  5. You should continue to roll balls until you’ve reach the point that most of them are consistently finishing against the fringe. Once you can do that, you have successfully set you stimpmeter.

The key to the entire process is allowing yourself to make a subconscious connection between what your eyes have observed and the associated outcome. You must then trust what you have learned at a sub-conscious level. A conscious attempt to produce a given outcome will short-circuit the system. When it comes to judging speed, you must be prepared to surrender your conscious mind to your sub-conscious mind, which is infinitely wiser and more capable of calculating speed. Want proof? Work through the steps I’ve outlined below. .

  1. After having loaded the data as described in the exercise above, pace off a 25-foot putt.
  2. Using the same five balls, putt to the hole as you would normally using your conscious mind to control the outcome.
  3. Mark the location of the five balls with a tee pushing them down until they are level with the surface of the green.
  4. Allow your eyes to work slowly from the ball to the hole while clearing your conscious mind of any thought.
  5. Using the same five balls, putt to the hole allowing your subconscious mind to control the outcome.
  6. Compare the proximity of the five putts that you just hit to those marked with a tee. What do you observe?

Did you have trouble clearing your mind of any conscious thought? Assuming that your conscious mind intruded at any point, the outcome would be negatively affected. You should then repeat the exercise but this time, emptying your mind of any thought. You will have mastered the technique when you are able to quiet your conscious mind and allow your subconscious to take over.

This technique will improve your proximity to the hole on longer putts. And you know what that means? Fewer three-putts!

Editor’s Note: Rod Lindenberg has authored a book entitled “The Three-Putt Solution”  that is now available through Amazon. 

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Podcasts

TG2: What is this new Callaway iron? A deep investigation…

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Photos of a new Callaway iron popped up in the GolfWRX Forums, and equipment expert Brian Knudson and Editor Andrew Tursky discuss what exactly the new iron could be; new Apex pros, new Legacy irons, or maybe even a new X Forged? Also, the guys discuss Phil’s U.S. Open antics and apology, DJ’s driver shaft change, new Srixon drivers and utility irons, and a new Raw iron offering from Wilson. Enjoy the golf equipment packed show!

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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