Judge distances more accurately

Published 27/08/2012 07:00:00

Do your approach shots constantly land short of the green or sail past they flag? Are you frustrated by putts that regularly stop beneath the cup or slide by several feet? The problem may not be poor club selection or mechanics, but rather perception.

Misjudging distances is a common problem for golfers. More often than not, it's due to a breakdown in either depth perception or target localization. Depth perception is the eyes' ability to judge distances in relation to other distances. That is being able to tell the difference between being 40 yards away from the green and 55 yards. Target localization is accurately perceiving the distance from one location to an object. For example, even though you are focused on the cup while putting, your eyes may be pointed at a spot in front of it, which your brain recognizes as the actual target.

What causes these problems? Often your eyes drift from a target because of esophoria or exophoria, a mild to moderate condition that makes everything either look closer or further way than it actually is. (You should consult an eye doctor to determine whether you suffer from this and its level of severity.) Fatigue, stress and weak eye control can also contribute to eye drifts. Other times you may rely too much on "eyeballing" distances even though your eyes are not properly conditioned.

Visual TestingBut odds are your eyes just need some specialized training. Here are two exercises that can enhance both depth perception and target localization. Practice them several times a week and soon you'll see what your game has been missing.

Exercise No. 1 (Depth Perception)
This is designed to improve your ability to estimate distance more accurately, and can be performed on or off the course, or better yet, on the driving range.

First, choose a point several yards away. Guesstimate the distance by "walking" your eyes at a constant pace over the distance. Then physically walk the distance to determine the accuracy of your estimate.

If you were off, re-examine the distance to better appreciate the actual distance. To help store the information, run your eyes back and forth over the distance several times. Try this with various lengths and shots -- from putts to approach shots. As you improve, try to determine halfway marks, too.

Over time you'll be able to accurately judge10 feet or 10 yards. Then it's just a matter of counting how many times it overlays to a longer target. This is important when determining distances that are too long to walk off, such as 75 yards or more.

photoExercise No. 2 (Target Localization)
This exercise focuses on eye control and aiming. Take a string 10 to 15 feet long and secure one end to a doorknob or tack it to a wall. Hold the other end to the tip of your nose so the string is tight. You should see two strings. Each string represents the visual aim of the eyes. If you do not see two strings, blink rapidly or snap the string several times. Note where the strings come together to form a "V" or "Y."

Now, with both eyes open walk your eyes down the string. The strings should always come together where you are pointing your eyes. The strings should initially form a "V," but as you move your eyes farther away from your nose, the strings will form a "X" then a "V" again. The farther away you go from your nose, the eyes may find it tricky to do this smoothly and may jump from one area to another. But this can be eliminated with practice.

Initially, your eyes may find it difficult for the strings to cross at the end. This is because your eyes are pointing at a different area than where you are looking. You may believe your eyes are aimed at the end of the string, but where the strings come together is where the eyes and the brain perceive the end to be. If you do not see the strings cross near the doorknob or tack, attempt to relax your focus by opening your peripheral vision. Without moving your eyes, try to see as much to the side as possible.

You can also improve your localization skill by looking beyond the string, such as past the door or wall, or gaze as if you're looking at something miles away. Eventually, your eyes will learn to accurately point to the object.



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