Vision and Its Impact on Your Game


     The development and use of your visual system has an impact on every aspect of your golf game.  How you read a putt, how you align your body, how you maintain your balance and how well you see the target and visualize your shot are all dependent on your vision or are influenced by vision.  What is this word vision?  What does it really mean?  Are vision and eyesight the same thing?  Let’s start with eyesight.  This is how small of a target you can see at a particular distance.  If you are 20/20 then you can identify a letter that is 8.87 mm high at 20 feet.  Can we predict performance from that measurement?  Yes, certain things like, reading a chalkboard, seeing a face and telling us information about the layout of a course or a green.  It is important, but not a requirement for human performance in the majority of our daily activities.  If one sees 20/40 instead of 20/20 in most cases it will not affect their productivity.  Vision is getting meaning from what we are seeing with a minimum of energy and a maximum of understanding.  I am going to break vision down into two general areas.  One is sensorimotor and the other is operational thinking   Sensorimotor is about how we move and control our bodies.  The movements that we see both with one’s eyes (visual system) and with general body movements are based not only on one’s structure but also on the knowledge that person has about movement.  Movement knowledge starts at birth and continues to develop and/or deteriorate throughout life.  Some of the SENSORIMOTOR aspects of vision:

1.  Ocular movements- The ability to track smoothly and accurately; the ability to make quick and accurate ocular movements; the ability to inhibit ocular movements.

2. Convergence/Divergence- The ability to align our eyes on a target as it moves towards and away from us.

3.  Focus- The ability to keep something clear when it is in movement or when stable.

4.  Peripheral vision- The ability to be aware of what is to our sides.  We need to be able to also inhibit it when necessary.

5.  Stereopsis- Depth perception that is dependent on two eyed vision.  Allows for a more detailed understanding of depth compared to one eyed vision

6. Binocular vision- The ability to use your two eyes together as a team.  Just because your two eyes look straight it doesn’t mean they are working together.

     One’s performance in all of the above is not dependent on one’s eyes or eye muscles, but is dependent on the knowledge that exists within a person regarding these areas.  This knowledge is in the brain and not in the eye or the eye muscles.  I don’t mean book knowledge, but rather movement knowledge.  Tracking, for example is dependent on one’s understanding of where something is in space.  Slow inaccurate tracking is an indication of what is going on inside the person.  It is an expression of one’s development.  I have treated many a person for tracking problems and they improve because their internal knowledge changes, not because they have developed stronger eye muscles or have changed the structure of their eye ball.  This is the case for all of the sensorimotor vision areas I mentioned above.  Sensorimotor abilities may not develop properly because of early interferences in life.   These same abilities can deteriorate later in life because of excess visual stress.  A simple example of excess visual stress is long extensive hours on a computer with poor lighting, reflections, improper chair design and minimal break time.

     The visual system has a unique position in relationship to how we posture and balance ourselves.  The retina can be broken down into a central (visual acuity) portion and a peripheral (movement and orientation) portion.  How the peripheral visual system interacts with the balance system of the ear and the positional sensations from the neck will affect the muscle tone of the neck and back.  If there are problems, the musculature of the neck and back will tighten and the alignment in our bodies will skew.  If one has a visual problem and we compound that with trouble aligning to the target you can imagine all the compensations that have to take place in order for our golf shots to go to the target.  One of the most important factors in our golf swing is to stay relaxed throughout the process.  How can this take place if there is an underlying tension before we get started?

    I mentioned balance, certainly an important factor in consistently hitting a golf ball.  Does vision impact on balance?  This is easiest shown when asked to keep your balance with first your eyes open and then with your eyes closed.  Eyes open, for most individuals is usually easiest.  If eyes closed is easier, this is a certain indication of a visual problem.  When your eyes are open and you are balancing on one leg, try moving your eyes in different directions.  This typically will create a feeling of imbalance when compared to fixating a point straight ahead.  Throughout the time I have worked with vision, balance has consistently improved.

     One of the most important functions within Vision is binocularity.  This is the ability of the two eyes to work together as a team.  Where does this take place?  Let’s take a quick look at the process that occurs.  Light from each eye goes to both sides of the brain.  This is different then any other sensory system.  As a result, fusion must occur in the brain in order for clear comfortable binocular vision.  If fusion does not occur or does not occur with ease, the following can result.

1.  Suppression of one eye and single vision results.  The individual is typically comfortable with long hours of close work, but they have reduced depth perception and typically have orientation (alignment) problems with their body.

2.  Double vision occurs either intermittently or constantly.  This creates major confusion, postural adaptations and headaches.  Depth perception is poor, balance is thrown off and emotional stability is affected.

3.  Fusion is maintained, but an enormous amount of energy is used up.  Again, headaches, intermittent blurred vision and increased muscle tension can result.  A number of maladaptations can result which can effect posture, speed of reaction, perception of where things are in space, energy levels and the ability to concentrate.  A conversation many years ago hit home when a professional hockey goalie told me that if he spent any sustained time reading, within 24 hours of a game, he noticed that his performance dropped off.  After examination, it was obvious that he was having trouble maintaining binocularity.  The additional stress of sustained reading would exacerbate his condition and reduce his performance.

    So whether you are a professional athlete or an amateur trying to maximize your potential it is essential to know if there are any vision problems.  Eyesight and eye health are vital, but without the total picture an area of significance is being left out.  Perhaps the change you want to make in your swing is limited by more then just your musculature, but also your vision.  Typically, the eye care professional that can give you this information call themselves either a development of behavioral Optometrist.  There are two different organizations that one can contact to find this type of practitioner:

1.  COVD
2.  OEP
A future article will discuss the Operational aspects of vision.  Your planning, how you see a shot and your preshot routine are all impacted by this.



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