K. I. S. S. (Keep It Simple St***d)
The co-ordination and timing required to hit a driver far and accurately requires more than a little coordination, athleticism and physical strength. Which may be why so many of us struggle off the tee. But compared to the full swing, putting is child’s play. There is really no good reason why anyone who plays golf relatively frequently shouldn’t be a pretty good putter (‘Good‘ being someone who regularly takes 36 putts or less per round). If you’re not, then you’re doing something seriously wrong. You don’t need any special talent. You don’t need strength. Age isn’t an issue and there’s not a great deal of co-ordination required. The secret to putting well is to keep it as simple and uncomplicated as possible. Think K.I.S.S. on every putt, which is precisely what The Gimmee will teach you.
THE QUIET EYE
by Dr. Joan Vickers, University of Calgary
By recording under laboratory conditions precisely what golfers see while they putt, a team of researchers in the Neuro-Motor Psychology Laboratory at the University of Calgary are beginning to figure out the mystery — what separates really good putters from the rest. We call it The Quiet Eye. Here’s what it is, and how you can develop it.
The Quiet Eye occurs when your gaze remains absolutely still on the ball just before and as the stroke is performed. There are two important aspects to this basic yet essential skill: location and duration. Our research has shown that golfers who putt well focus their gaze on either the back of the ball or the top of the ball. Which is better?
Both locations are effective in improving accuracy, but a weight of evidence is beginning to favour the back of the ball. We’ve also studied Quiet Eye duration. The expert putters had a Quiet Eye duration of two to three seconds on average, while the less-skilled players held their gaze steady for one to two seconds. In putting as well as in other hand-eye-target skills, The Quiet Eye is emerging as an indicator of optimal focus and concentration. Why is it essential that you develop a Quiet Eye when you putt? It’s simple. Your hands are controlled by your brain, which gets valuable information about what to do from your eyes. As you putt, your brain needs to organize more than 100 billion neurons. These neural networks are informed by your gaze, and control your hands, arms and body as the stroke is performed. These networks will stay organized for only a short period of time; a window of opportunity opens that must be used when it is at its most optimal. This is the Quiet Eye period. Take two skilled golfers (see below), one being a poor putter and the other a good putter. In the illustrations, both are faced with a short putt on a flat surface.
Using the sophisticated eye-movement tracker technology detailed below, we’re able to monitor precisely what the eyes focus on, and for how long. Take two skilled golfers (see below), one being a poor putter and the other a good putter. In the illustrations, both are faced with a short putt on a flat surface. Using the sophisticated eye-movement tracker technology detailed below, we’re able to monitor precisely what the eyes focus on, and for how long. This good putter fixates on the back of the ball where the putterhead will contact it. There is little uncertainty in the mind of this golfer about where the target is. A good putter picks out a specific location on the hole, such as a blade of grass on the lip. The target is not the hole itself, and certainly not around it. Instead, the gaze focuses on a target only a few millimetres wide. Good putters use rapid shifts of gaze (head and eye movements combined) in which no conscious information is processed to link the specific spot on the hole with the specific location on the back of the ball. They fixate on the spot on the hole for one to two seconds and then use rapid shifts of the gaze between the spot and the back of the ball for 300 to 500 milliseconds. (You become aware of something when your gaze is stable on one location for at least 100ms. It takes about 180 ms to see something and make or correct a movement.)
Our research has shown that The Quiet Eye is equally important on breaking putts. On a breaking putt, a good putter determines the break point and transposes the target from the hole to that location. A poor putter is much more indiscriminate with targeting and scan path, often relying on an inaccurate form of triangulation to locate a vague break point. By recording movements of the centre of the pupil and corneal reflex, we can also record the gaze throughout the putting stroke. The good putter maintains fixation on the same location at the back of the ball through the backswing, forward swing, contact and for almost half a second after the ball is struck. The gaze stays in exactly the same location relative to the position of the feet, indicating the gaze does not move. This is very difficult for most of us to achieve: Most often, the gaze moves when the club contacts the ball. When golfers stabilize this part of their routine they are more accurate. Golfers who have trouble putting do not select a single spot on the target but let their gaze roam all over the hole and surrounding green. They have a shorter duration of fixation on the hole, and they use rapid shifts of the gaze that are either too fast or too slow between the hole and the ball. The poor putter’s gaze is unstable at impact — in our testing we often see that the poor putter’s gaze moves toward the front foot at impact. This erratic scan path and fixation clouds his focus and concentration. It’s evident that his brain is getting a jumble of signals about where the hole is and what he wants the ball to do. (As the article below shows (” What Your Brain is Doing When You Putt “) researcher Dr. Debbie Crews of Arizona State University is also able to determine the brain-activation patterns among golfers during The Quiet Eye; the good putter achieves a “harmonic” state in the brain whereas the poor putter shows chaotic activity, particularly in the area of the brain that controls vision.)
Good putters have developed efficiency in their gaze control that differs greatly from poor putters. When good putters make putts, they take about eight seconds per putt and use an average of 10 gazes (fixations, rapid eye movements and blinks combined). When they miss, they take longer — about 10 seconds — and use more gazes. The poor putters have a completely different gaze-control strategy. They are more accurate when they take more time, and use more gazes per putt.
These results reveal an important point: With golf skill, there is a quality in the information absorbed that translates to better performance. Beginners, who are just developing their putting skills, do not have the same ability to extract meaning from each gaze or to help the brain solve the location, slope, curvature and distance problems. It’s better to take more time and use more gazes to build up the putt over time, until you begin to develop understanding of what you are seeing. However, the key is to get out of the novice gaze routine and develop the shorter, more focused routine used by good putters. Under stress, The Quiet Eye is often the first thing to go. It moves with the stroke, and golfers lose their ability to stabilize their gaze as they putt. When you choke, the billion cells in your brain lose their effective complexity in solving the slope, curvature, distance and location problems. When good putters make putts, they take about eight seconds per putt and use an average of 10 gazes (fixations, rapid eye movements and blinks combined). When they miss, they take longer — about 10 seconds — and use more gazes. The poor putters have a completely different gaze-control strategy. They are more accurate when they take more time, and use more gazes per putt.
Analysis of The Quiet Eye Technique
by The University of Exeter’s (UK) School of Sport and Health Sciences
Science Daily (July 26, 2010) — As the Open is about to get under way at St Andrews, researchers at the University of Exeter have one bit of advice for pros taking that crucial putt — keep your eye on the ball. Studies by staff from the University’s School of Sport and Health Sciences have shown that focusing your eye on exactly the right spot at the right time can be vital to success in sinking the ball. Their research has shown how using a technique known as the ‘Quiet Eye‘ can help golfers of all abilities to improve their putting accuracy, stay cool under pressure and hole more crucial putts. Samuel Vine, who led the research, said: “Putting is a hugely important part of golf — accounting for around 45% of the shots taken in an average round. It’s vital to success and requires high levels of precision and accuracy, making it susceptible to breakdown under high levels of pressure and nerves. Our research shows that assessing visual control, using state of the art eye trackers, and coaching golfers to use the Quiet Eye technique can lead to dramatic improvements in putting performance.” Previous research has shown the best putters all follow a similar pattern of visual control, before and during a shot. When lining up a putt, experts alternate quick fixations between the ball and the hole. Then before and during the stroke they hold a steady fixation on the back of the ball, for around 2-3 seconds. After contact with the ball the eyes remain steady for a further half a second. This technique was named the Quiet Eye.
It is effective because it allows the golfer to take in only the necessary visual information required to make the shot. Focusing anywhere else can interrupt the organisation of millions of neurons in the brain that convert the visual information into movements of the putter. To assess the benefits of the Quiet Eye technique Mr Vine and his colleagues measured the putting performance of a group of golfers (with an average handicap of 2.5) before and after they’d been taught the Quiet Eye technique. After the training, they sunk 6% more of their putts and reduced their average number of putts by 2 per round. The same group of golfers were then put in a high pressure environment, competing for a £100 prize in a putting competition against a second group of golfers who had not been taught the Quiet Eye technique. Again, those using the Quiet Eye came out on top, sinking 17% more putts than their competitors. Findings from a study to be published in the Journal of Applied Sports Psychology show that Quiet Eye training can also aid the performance of novice golfers, improving the speed at which they learn to putt and helping them maintain performance under pressure. Mr Vine added: “Obviously just keeping your eye on the ball won’t make you Tiger Woods overnight, but our research shows that changing small but important elements of your pre-shot routine and learning to control your vision can improve your accuracy, allow you to maintain focus under pressure and ultimately make more putts.”
All of this might seem obvious—after all, ‘keep your eye on the ball’ isn’t exactly a new idea. But it’s only recently that scientists have had the technology to fully grasp the value of intense visual focus. And it turns out that locking on to the right visual variables is not so simple. “People often think they’re looking somewhere, and they’re wrong,” says the University of Exeter psychologist Sam Vine, who collaborates with Wilson. “Doing this right is not as easy as it may seem.” Often, he says, the difference in focus time between a beginner and an expert is as small as a fifth of a second. While it may be difficult, quiet eye is a teachable skill. Vine and Wilson say that so far, their research has shown that quiet-eye exercises may improve performance in basketball shooting, golf, marksmanship, and surgery. Vine has trained professional golfers, Olympic athletes, and soldiers in the technique.
The Quiet Eye could also help with another common motor-skill issue, the decline in performance as the stakes increase. (Crawford excels here too—he has a knack for making shots in crucial moments.) Quiet-Eye scientists say choking occurs because pressure triggers anxiety, which degrades attention. The result: You don’t look in the right place at the right time. The Quiet Eye can help counter this tendency, Vine says. “We can definitely train people to get better at this,” he says. “It makes a real difference in how they perform.”