As a golfer you spend time, energy and money trying to shave strokes off your game. But one of the best ways to improve is literally right in front of your face: better vision. Sports vision training can enhance skills such as alignment, green reading, concentration and focus.
“Sports vision training takes you to a higher level of performance,” says Boca Raton, Fla.-based sports vision optometrist Dr. Lawrence Lampert. “Most of the pros I work with tell me that vision training is more valuable than endless lessons in mechanics.”
Let’s look at some real-world examples.
Five-time major champion Phil Mickelson had problems seeing his drives and iron shots during his college career at Arizona State. Five weeks after correcting his vision with custom-fitted contact lenses, Mickelson won the 1991 Nortel Tucson Open as an amateur.
In 1996 Nick Faldo visited a sports vision optometrist who prescribed a series of visual exercises that helped him improve his putting alignment and distance control. Later that year, he won his third Masters championship.
Golf doesn’t require a lot of quick reactions, but it’s still a very visual sport.
“You have to make accurate judgments with your eyes, without fatigue,” Lampert says. “Reading the green relies almost entirely on visual judgments—determining how hard and in what direction to hit your putts.”
Lampert literally wrote the book on optimizing vision for golf in The Pro’s Edge: Vision Training for Golf. Here are the top 10 visual skills he recommends for golfers to elevate their game:
- Peripheral vision
“This skill helps you read the greens and judge the overall contours of each hole, as well as aid with alignment for your full swing,” says Lampert. “Training peripheral vision also helps with relaxation and concentration during the game.”
- Eye focusing
Golfers continually shift their focus from the ball to the target and back. “The ability to shift your focus clearly from near to far and far to near is important in golf, especially for putting,” says Lampert.
- Static visual acuity
Visual acuity refers to the clarity of your vision. For golf you need clarity on objects that aren’t moving. This ability is essential in identifying a target, lining up your shot and hitting the ball. It’s needed for every kind of shot from tee to fairway to the putting green. Poor visual acuity can be greatly improved with corrective contact lenses, eyewear or laser surgery.
- Eye alignment
This may sound simple, but one of the most common causes for misjudgments is bad aim. “If this skill [eye alignment] isn’t accurate,” says Lampert, “you’ll misjudge short or long or to the right or left of the target.”
- Eye movement
Eye movement skills are needed to read the green accurately and efficiently. Most players don’t move their eyes smoothly to visualize their putt. Instead, their eyes take quick snapshots and send this information to the brain. Vision training can help athletes judge distance, speed, ground contours and the putting line.
- Eye teaming
Eye teaming is the ability of the eyes to work together as a team. “An important reason to train eye teaming is that this skill fatigues easily, causing judgments to become inconsistent,” Lampert says.
- Contrast sensitivity
This skill enables you to pick up subtleties that might not be visible to average golfers. “It’s particularly important in reading greens, as it’ll help you see the rolls and direction of the grain, whether the green is slow or fast, wet or dry,” explains Lampert.
- Depth perception
Depth perception is essential in being able to correctly judge the distance to the hole and the speed with which you must hit the ball. Depth judgments can also change if you are looking up or down a hill.
- Eye-hand coordination
“The eyes tell the brain where the ball is, and the arms and hands swing the club,” says Lampert. “Any miscommunication between the two will adversely affect your game.”
All golfers can benefit from being able to visualize their shots. Strong visualization skills help you maintain your concentration and focus, and keep you in the zone.
To be a good golfer you’ll still need to work on your swing and mechanics, but visual training and the proper vision correction can give you an important edge.
Adapted from “Thinking Game” by Keith Henderson, Sports Vision, Vol. 1, No. 2, 2007
Article information courtesy of Johnson & Johnson Vision Care Inc., makers of ACUVUE® Brand Contact Lenses. Visit http://www.acuvue.com for more information.