Ball Bound Project

Ball Bound Project

If there is one thing that all golfers are taught, it is to 'KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE BALL'.
However, this level of ball focus certainly does not match my experience and I would imagine, that of most professionals. Furthermore, through coaching and working with the YIPS I regularly witness the negative effects of being overly attentive to the ball.
As far as I am aware, science does not yet have the answer on this and the majority of golfers are taught to focus fully on the ball.
My aim with the project is simply to collect enough diverse experience from golfers of all levels, in order that we might be able to unpack some of the nuances of being BALL BOUND!

Using the forum below, please show your hcp/average score (this is a useful correlation for our study) and share your experience in this area using the following research questions.

*If you are an expert in a related field then do please get in touch.

Research Questions
During shot execution….


1. To what level to you look at the ball?

2. To what degree do you focus your attention on the ball?

3. What is your hcp/stage of learning?

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Comments

By noel on

A number of years back, during a sports psychology training, I distnctly remember a multi sport study on vision being discussed. The results of the study suggested that in snooker and golf experienced players use peripheral vision. That made perfect sense to me because I know that I don't look at the ball with any really intent and in a focused concentrated manner (foveal vision) but then I don't look anywhere else either. I have recently tried to contact the cited author of the study but sadly, she declined to comment.

In the coming weeks I will be posting here and in more depth on the blog, the qualities and affects of peripheral and foveal vision. Upcoming posts relating to ball focus also include recent research linking gaze patterns with movement planning.

 

I would love to hear of your own experience and attention/visual strategy so do please leave a comment below.

Be sure to leave your handicap/expereince level so we can collate this with other findings. To leave a post you just need tosubscribe on the homepage and you'll also receive all other blog posts.

 

By PRG1968 on

Hi Noel,

              Having received your email on the hole-focused putting method I was keen to try it. I practiced the "Jordan technique" a few evenings' ago on the putting green. If I'm honest I t felt very strange and I struggled to concentrate on the hole and to trust my putting stroke. However, as an experiment I tried the same method with some chips which produced some crisps shots with good distance control.

Food for thought!

Regards

Paul Griffin

By noel on

Thanks Paul

I wouldn't have thought to look at the hole while chipping but having given it a go it is strangely achivable. I won't be advocating this strategy anytime soon (except in extreme cases, yips etc) but it does indicate how little we need to focus on the ball when we are aware of the motion of the club and scuff in the grass.I personally think that in chipping a lot of errors ome from an over focus on the ball leading to an interuption of the movement flow.

By Cookstuff on

Hi Noel

Great article.  I recently had the honour of meeting and playing a few holes with the great Gary Player so I took the opportunity to ask him this question. He paused for thought and said that over all shots, except putts and bunker shots, he did not look at the ball as he swung but just had a general awareness of the area around the ball.  On bunker shots he kept his focus on the grains of sand he wanted his club to hit as it entered the sand. Finally, for putting he preached putting a black circle on the back of the ball where the putter was going to strike.  He kept is eyes on this spot until the ball left the putter face and never moved his head to see the ball go into the hole on any putts shorter than 6ft. 

I would welcome your thoughts on this answer from a nine time major champion.  

By noel on

Hi Christian, thank you so much for asking the question. That is some amazing insight from Gary Player. Certainly the loose fucus around the ball for all full shots and chipping fits in the the peripheral vision concenpt; not looking at the ball or a dimple, or the back of the ball, in font of the ball etc. The spot for putting ties in with quiet eye theories of quietening the mind before shot execution while also being a focul point to prevent peeking at the hole. I wonder what Jordan Spieth would make of that though.

By James C on

It certainly is possible to stifle any athletic ability you have by concentrating on the ball. Had issues myself with this. No question looking at the ball is clearly fine but your attention must be elsewhere. Either located in sensations within the body, a sought after sensation with regards club/ground contact or just a target image. Your awareness should feel like a floodlight rather than a spotlight. I think people can get confused by the word focus and consciously over manage their movements in an attempt to ensure precision. Focussing on the ball is a part of this over management. They think they're being extra awake but they're actually asleep. Think of a time someone really boring is talking to you and you know your attention is completely elsewhere while you politely nod and smile (hope that's not too callous!). I think that's the exact relationship you want to the ball. It's nothing of particular interest.

By noel on

 


Attentional Focus: Gabriele Wulf

Gabriele Wulf is the recognized researcher behind the attentional focus theory that suggests that an external focus (club head, ball, target, clothing markers) is better for learning and performance than internal foci (body parts). The theory has had much attention and applaud (and further study) in the academic literature and she sticks by its universal application for all athletes in all situations. Whenever a coach, researcher/practitioner talks in absolutes I get a little concerned so I was delighted to have the chance to question Gabriele at a conference in 2015.

In her presentation Gabriele described her efforts to learn golf and was convinced that a large factor in her poor shots was due to taking her absolute attentoin OFF the ball. I presented my opinion on the matter but she wasn't having any of it. The ball is external foci therefore it will be preferable to any internal focus. 

So there you go. That is one highly qualified opinion. 

I wish Gabriele every success in her golf endevaurs.

By noel on

This is Stephen who was showboating during last year's junior summer camp. He was looking at directly at his opposing team while hitting the winning shot. 

Of course, this proves nothing but it is a useful insight into the visual and cognitive mechanisms in play while hitting a full shot.

By chestp99 on

Noel
I am interested in your study. I personally took an MSc in Sports Psychology a few years ago, and wanted to do my dissertation on the efficiency of golfers looking at a spot ahead of the ball where the low spot of the swing would be. There is anecdotal evidence that this is successful, particularly on the Wisdom in Golf forum.  However, I quickly realized that this ran into the Quiet Eye mafia, who did not want to look into anything that may be more effective than fixating on a spot behind the ball.  In the end I decided it was better to look for a completely different study rather than risk my MSc.
So there are at least three areas of potential interest.
Focusing in front of the ball, at the low spot of the swing. The eyes would set up a target for the swing.
The other is completely the opposite - using peripheral vision, or "soft eyes" as the martial artists say.
Looking at the target - as in putting
US PGA Coach Jim Waldron of Balancepointgolf in a Golfwrx.com forum post wrote:

 

US PGA Coach Jim Waldron of Balancepointgolf in a Golfwrx.com forum post wrote:

We teach several Visual Perception Strategies, none of which involve looking directly with focal point vision at the golf ball. And there are different strategies for Long Game, Short Game and Putting Game applications.

Our most popular method works best for those higher handicappers who struggle with an OTT move and outside to in clubhead path. It involves focusing on a spot - a blade of grass when playing and a tee when training - that is an inch or more in front of the ball (toward the target is "in front of" to be more precise, never "behind" as one poster above stated) and one-half inch or more outside the target line.  The longer the club, the more in front of the ball the spot is and the more outside the target line, which helps with swinging those longer clubs on the proper flatter plane they demand, and it also tends to make the golfer release the wrist angles later. 

Looking at a spot in front of the ball is a neat trick that has the effect of "extending time and space" and thus creates a later release automatically. 

Another method is the Bobby Jones "Fuzzy Ball" way, which involves looking at "circle" around the golf ball about 18 inches in diameter with the golf ball in the center of the circle, but switching off the focal point vision so that only the peripheral vision is activated. You de-focus or blur your vision on purpose which makes you less ball bound.  Jones used this method and taught it as well. Works really well for many high handicap golfers in greenside bunkers especially. 

For putting, we have found in our Putting Schools that most of our students do best with either looking at the hole and especially focusing at their Target B line or aim/start line in reference to the left or right edge of the cup for most putts (since most putts have at least some break) or looking at a spot directly in front of the ball and on the target line, about two to three inches in front. Dave Stockton also recommends this method. 

Your eyes can either be your best friend or your worst enemy in golf, depending on how you use them. 

It's certainly an important area for golf, but one where IMHO no useful research is being done at the moment, as there is a fixation on quiet eye -- pun intended

Regards

ps I am just reading your PhD dissertation. Very intersting.

 

By noel on

Chestp

Thank you so much for your insights. I think all options are valid but I suspect that nearly all club golfers are led to believe that they SHOULD be looking at the ball, a dimple, the logo etc. The truth is; we don't really know the best practice. 

My experience and that of many expert golfers that I speak to is close to the 'fuzzy ball' scenario that you present above. Of course, good players adopt this strategy unwittingly because the ball is less important to them than a high hcp golfer. I am not convinced trying to de-focus vision will give the same result. 

That said, I have often coached golfers who I suspect to be ball bound (normally evident by more fat shots than their swing pattern and skill level would otherwise predict) to focus on markers to the edge of my range mat and the ball at the same time. It has had some good results but I wouldn't say this IS THE WAY necessarily. 

As you say, there isn't any evidence based work in this fairly fundamental area so it looks like I will be taking this up as my next research project.

Thank you for your input.

By Samlittle on

I never watch the ball. Through playing golf for many years I would say I have an awareness of where the ball is at all times but I don't focus on the ball. If the ball changed colour to green halfway through my swing it would make no difference as my subconscious knows where the ball is.

Sam - Professional, European Tour

By noel on

Jim Furyk's has just shot an historic round of 58 which seems like a good time to highlight his movement through the ball. You will probably agree that he is not lookig at the ball at the moment of impact. Furthermore, to move through impact in such a dynamic manner would suggest that the ball is not high in his concentration either.

 

   

 

This is of course, proof of nothing but does back up what the other experts we have asks have reported about their ball focus strategies.