Golf science unlocks the secret of the successful swing

Okay, I’m smitten. I admit it. The object of my affections is right in front of me. And what do you know, it’s a newsletter. It’s called GSI, for Golf Science International.

Great, you’re saying, but why am I drawing your attention to it? Well, my guess is that you like golf, and that the sport even fascinates you. If it does, well, check into this publication. The World Scientific Congress of Golf, based in St. Andrews, Scotland–the home of golf, publishes it.

Now, I’ve been intrigued by all things golf for some 35 years, and every so often I figure there’s nothing new under the sun. But that’s not the case, and golf science is showing that every day, it seems. Have you ever heard of the term “kinetic linking,” for instance? It could be the future of golf, at least of improving in golf.

Kinetic linking is simply the manner in which energy is transferred from the body into the clubhead at the moment of impact during the swing. David Leadbetter, who works with top players such as Nick Price, Greg Norman and Lee Westwood, all of whom are competing in this week’s United States Open, first made me aware of the term. Golfers who employ efficient kinetilinking systems are usually very consistent.

Ernie Els is The Big Easy

So who do you think has the numero uno kinetic linkage in his swing? Or her swing? Well, I don’t know about Tiger Woods because I haven’t found data on him. But Leadbetter told me that Ernie Els, a two-time U.S. Open champion, and one sweet swinger–he’s called The Big Easy–is the most efficient of golfers he’s tested. No wonder the guy looks so smooth when he swings, and no wonder he hits the ball so far with what appears to be a lazy swing.

Kinetic linking is surely a subject for the fourth World Scientific Congress of Golf. That will take place in July 2002 at the University of St. Andrews. A first announcement of the event just came through my mail slot the other day. The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, the United States Golf Association and the University of St. Andrews jointly support these congresses. I’d love to attend the next one.

To whet your appetite, and to further demonstrate that there are always new fields to chart even in an old and ancient game, here are some of the themes proposed for the next Congress. There’s the biomechanics of the golfer and the golf swing; golf injuries and physical fitness; psychology and performance; coaching and training. And this is just the start.

No end for golf studies

There’s also the theme of the social and economic impact of golf, with subjects included under the headings of markets and planning; economic effects; gender, ethnicity and accessibility; culture and geography. You see? There’s no end to the possibilities for study, research and analysis.

That’s why I enjoy examining the newsletters. In the June issue I learned about dunes preservation, restoration and general environmental importance on seaside courses.

There was a fascinating exploration of putting, by Dr. Daniel Kirschenbaum of the Center for Behavioral Medicine and Sport Psychology in Chicago. He discussed the 4-F technique for better putting:

  1. Fudge
  2. or express negative feelings about a shot quickly;
  3. Fix
  4. or take a practice stroke from where you just missed a putt (best done when not slowing up play);
  5. Forget
  6. or remind yourself nobody is perfect;
  7. Focus
  8. or get involved in the next shot.

Setting tournament pins

The June 2000 issue of the newsletter includes an informative interview with Tim Moraghan, who is intimately involved with the U.S. Open through his work with the United States Golf Association. It’s timely to examine what he says about the U.S. Open. Many people have asked me how officials set the pins for tournaments.

Here’s Moraghan’s view on the subtle art and science of doing so: “We generally seek to find a balance with regards to the demands placed on players to hit certain shots over the 72 holes,” Moraghan explains.

“Obviously certain course conditions favour specific shots off the tee or approach shots to the green, but as far as possible we try and balance the demands and shape of shots that the course requires players to hit.”

“Also there are issues of green speed,” Moraghan continues, “slopes and the firmness of the greens and all of these are considered when deciding on hole locations. Generally these are worked out roughly three months before the tournament.”

Three months! As I said, this is all about science. And a good place to start learning about the science of golf is via the good work suggested by the World Scientific Congress of. It’s a vast and wondrous subject. And that’s a fact. A scientific fact.