three things that determine the qualitative characteristics
of your stroke (consistentcy, smoothness, repeatability,
eveness of timing, presence or absence of jerkiness
or abruptness at transitions, and so on) are: 1) GRAVITY;
2) your putter; and 3) your body. Of these, the most
consistent and predictable is GRAVITY. The force of
gravity is exactly the same for all objects on earth
at the same location, regardless of size, shape, or
mass. All objects freefall with exactly the same pattern
of motion -- that is, the force of gravity gives all
objects the same pattern of acceleration from zero
you know that gravity is not exactly
the same around the Earth? The actual pull of
gravity varies from mountain tops like Everest
to low spots like the Dead Sea, on the continents,
and under the oceans, and depending upon what
density of rocks and other material are inside
the mantle. Balls weigh less in Colorado than
they do in Miami. But it's close enough for
government work all over the Planet (usually
under 1% variation).
test this, take a quarter and hold it above your open
palm about six inches and drop it and time the fall
until it hits your hand. Now try a dime; now a golf
tee; now a golf ball. They all hit your hand at exactly
the same time, which can easily be calculated from
the physics of gravity as follows:
of fall (in seconds) = Square root of [2 x Distance
of fall (in feet) / Accleration due to gravity (in
feet per second per second].
only 3 quantities here are TIME, DISTANCE, and GRAVITATIONAL
ACCELERATION. Gravity on earth always accelerates
objects towards the center of the earth at the rate
of 32 feet per second every second, so after one second
a golf ball dropped off the Leaning Tower of Pisa
will accelerate from 0 to 32 feet per second; after
two seconds, it will have increased its downward speed
to 64 feet per second, and so on.
only reason you don't fall down into the center of
the earth like into a deep well is that the dirt got
there first. Even so, gravity is what makes your body
mass"weigh" something. Out in deep space
away from the earth's gravity, your body mass would
be weightless. So, on earth everything labors under
the very constant and exact "hugging" of
gravity. If the surface is somehow removed between
the object and straight down (by jumping up, getting
dropped over the side of a tower, or the surface tilts
out of the way a bit), then the constant hugging starts
moving the object, adding that motion to whatever
other motion is present.
to timing: In our eaxample, 6 inches is 0.5 feet.
That's the only number you need to see how much time
it takes for gravity to move any object down 6 inches.
From the formula, TIME = SQR [2 * 0.5 / 32] = 0.177
seconds - a little less than 2/10ths of a second.
sort of thing can be approached from the opposite
direction: how high do you have to drop an object
for the fall to take EXACTLY ONE SECOND? From the
same formula, just square both sides and rearrange,
as follows: TIME(squared) = 2 * Distance / 32, rearranged
as DISTANCE = Time(squared) * 32 / 2. Stick in one
second and crank out the answer: DISTANCE = 1*1*32
/ 2 = 16 feet! In other words, if the object starts
at zero from 16 feet high, at the end of one second
it will be going 32 feet per second, so over the whole
course of the 16 feet, it AVERAGED half that or 16
feet per second.
terms of tempo, gravity's constant hugging force determines
whether your stroke will be smooth or jerky, depending
upon how you time it with your body. You just can't
brain on earth is taught timing by gravity all the
time. The evolution of all brains has been guided
and directed by gravity towards better and better
movement control. The human brain for movement is
tyhe beneficiary of eons of animal brain refinements
in this evolutionary process for the timing of movements
of the body and objects in gravity on earth. The brain
knows the tempo and timing of gravity better than
any other tempo. When astronauts travel into the microgravity
of outer space, they have a very difficult time adjusting
to the new timing pattern of objects in motion in
outer space because this brain awareness of gravity
is so deeply fixed in our brains.
a pendulum moves in response to gravity, you
can actually use a pendulum to measure gravity!
Geologists do this all the time. All it takes
is a very precise length of your pendulum and
a good stopwatch. With these two squared away,
you just let the pendulum swing to and fro and
time it as accurately as you can. The math then
tells you the force of gravity at that location
on the planet. Geologists use this trick to
look around for huge oil deposits beneath the
surface, because these show up by affecting
local gravity measurements. Nowadays, they use
satellite gravity mapping, too.
pendulum is a special case of freefall in gravity
-- one where the falling object is swinging on a vine
like Tarzan. It doesn't fall straight down, but arcs
beneath the pivot where the rope or rod is attached.
From the top on one side, like a trapeze artist standing
on the platform, gravity is allowed to start to work
by releasing the trapeze artist, who leans out off
the platform holding onto the trapeze bar. Gravity
then starts to accelerate the artist with its perfectly
consistent force of acceleration, but the trapeze
artist is not free to fall straight down, since the
trapeze gear redirects his fall laterally, so he falls
in an arcing combination of down and across. The artist
speeds up as he arcs down and across, and when he
reaches the bottom of the arc, he is traveling as
fast as he will ever go. At this point, the trapeze
cables prevent any further downward fall (as they
have been gradually doing all along). Now, the artist
is a moving object who starts to head up and across.
How far he gets depends upon where he started from:
how high. If there is no loss of energy from air resistance
or friction in the trapeze gear, the artist should
make it all the way back up on the opposite side and
be able to stand on the platform.
putting, if you construct a well-lubricated putting
robot to hold a putter and swivel the putter-arms
back to a certain height, and let go, the putterhead
will move like the trapeze artist down and through.
Starting from zero speed, the putterhead will reach
maximum lateral speed right at the bottom, and will
then continue up the other side of the stroke to a
finish at the same height as the start.
total time from start to finish and the lateral speed
of the putterhead at the bottom (or anywhere else
along the way) has been known from physics for centuries.
So what DOES set the timing of the pendulum, other
than gravity? The only thing that matters for the
ideal pendulum is the LENGTH of the rod. The longer
the pendulum from pivot to bob, the longer the time
from side to side. Now here's the neat part: within
a certain range of settings to start with (out to
about 20 degrees off vertical), a pendulum with a
fixed LENGTH will take exactly the same time from
start to finish no matter where you start from to
release it. (That's why you adjust the timing of a
metronome by sliding the "bob" farther out
the rod to get a slower beat.) But the maximum speed
at the bottom of these different arcs, though, will
increase the higher back the starting position is
for that particular length pendulum.
There's one trick, though. In an IDEAL pendulum, where
the "bob" is a mass in one single point
without extension in space, and the connecting "rod"
between bob and pivot is just a fixed line without
mass or extension in space, and the pivot has no friction,
none of the pendulum's timing aspects depend in the
slightest upon the weight or mass of the bob, since
all objects freefall the same way in gravity. And
for a REAL pendulum, like a clock pendulum in a grandfather
clock, taking the mass of ther bob and the mass and
shape of the rod into account is necessary, but the
end result is close, but always QUICKER than an ideal
pendulum. In effect, there is some mass closer to
the pivot that is falling along with the bob at the
end, and this speeds up the timing of the real pendulum.
there are two opposite factors: LONGER=SLOWER but
the overall timing or tempo of a putting pendulum
depends almost exclusively on the length of the system
(arms plus putter length out from pivot in your neck
area) , while the speed of the putterhead at the bottom
of the arc depends on this length and the length or
height of your backstroke. Since the length of your
arms and putter are always the same, the only factor
that determines putterhead speed at impact in this
type of stroke is the extent of the backstroke for
releasing the freefall into gravity. And since putterhead
speed determines the distance the ball will roll on
any given green speed, backstroke length determines
distance control -- not hit or "muscle memory"
or "acclerating through the ball."
this sort of freefall stroke, the total time from
top of backstroke to top of follow-through is your
tempo. I say "your" tempo on purpose. Gravity
always has exactly the same tempo given a set length
of the pendulum. So why isn't your tempo the SAME
AS GRAVITY'S? It can be, pretty close.
is gravity's tempo in putting? It depends upon the
length. In fact, a "meter stick" pendulum
was formerly the defined as the length of a 1-second
pendulum: how long it takes a pendulum 1 meter long
(39.37 inches) to swing from side to side (1.0035
seconds). The physics is expressed in the formula:
TIME (side to side) = Pi * SQR [Length/Gravitational
Acceleration]. In this case Time = 3.14 * SQR [1 meter
/ 9.8 meteres per sec. per sec.] (National
Institute of Standards & Technology -- historical
definition of meter.)
is the length of a typical putting "system"
of arms plus putter? For a six foot male, the center
of the palms take hold of the putter handle about
two feet out from the pivot area in the neck (check
this by holding a yardstick against your neck), and
since the hands are part-way down on the 35"
standard putter, the putterhead ends up a total of
about four and one-half feet (54 inches) away from
the neck. This is a pendulum length of 4.5 feet. If
you construct an IDEAL pendulum 4.5 feet long, gravity
gives it a timing period from side to side of 1.18
seconds, no matter how far back the backstroke goes
(within a certain range of about 1.5 feet back). A
REAL pendulum is a little quicker, as the shape and
masses have an effect. For a rod 4.5 feet long built
like a "meter stick", the quicker timing
means the REAL pendulum takes only about 80% of the
time of the IDEAL pendulum (or 1.22 times faster).
The REAL pendulum 4.5 feet long takes about 0.96 seconds.
Compared to a meter stick, the real putting system
is longer (and therefore slower) but real with mass
in the arms (and therefore quicker). When all is said
and done, these two counter factors almost cancel
out, and a meter stick and a putting system that is
4.5 feet long act about the same for timing or tempo.
a meter stick takes 1 second, and a longer real pendulum
does too, just about (0.96 seconds). The significance
of this is that if you use a totally relaxed pendulum
stroke powered solely by the freefall of gravity,
without any contribution from muscle hit, your putter
will have a gravity tempo of about 1 second from side
to side. Every single time! The total time for the
stroke from start to top of backstroke, and from there
across to the finish will be about twice that long.
So a gravity tempo for a hitless pendulum freefall
stroke is "one potato, two potato" from
start to finish, with impact on "two."
you want to observe this first hand, just grip the
top of your putter handle between the thumb and index
fingertips and let the putter swing like a pendulum
from side to side. It doesn't matter how far, really.
The back-and-forth motion should take roughly the
same time -- about one second from side to side. Nice
and slow and even and consistent and repeating. Nothing
you can do with a "hit" stroke can get this
smooth and consistent. To see a pendulum demonstration,
pop up this
typical relaxed heart rate for an adult male in good
health is about 72 beats per second. For most of us,
a heartbeat defines a moment for us as about 8/10ths
of a second. A finely conditioned endurance athlete,
on the other hand, might have a heartrate closer to
60 beats per minute, or one each second. There is
usually a disparity between a golfer's heartrate and
his putting tempo, so that the heartrate is faster
than a good putting tempo. In addition, anxiety and
pressure and adrenalin make the heart race faster,
so your tempo gets harder to identify. Ideally, you
would like to have your heartrate match your putting
tempo, so a good heartrate target ought to be about
60 beats per second.
cardio-pulmonary system of oxygen intake and oxygen
conversion and carbon monoxide expulsion determines
your breathing rate and your heart rate. Usually,
there is a normal ratio between the number of heart
beats and the number of breaths per minute -- about
15 breaths for every 60 heart beats (1:4, or four
heart beats for each breath). This ratio has a big
influence on how the body is using oxygen (and producing
carbon monoxide as a byproduct). If the breathing
is too fast for the heart's moving the blood into
the body, there is too much oxygen in the blood and
not enough carbon monoxide. If the heart is outracing
the breathing, the blood gets oxygen-thin and builds
up excess carbon monoxide. In either case, your brain
will not be functioning optimally. Breathing control
is how you get a handle on anxiety, pressure, and
adrenaline to calm your heartrate and get your body
closer to your optimal tempo. Breath control has been
the foundation for most eastern meditative practices
for millennia, including yoga and zen. "Deep
abdominal breathing" is a western stress control
relaxation technique that works on the same principle
of coordinating the cardio-pulmonary system. One of
the most important features to know about this is
the benefit of controlled exhalation. This is where
the timing control is found.
Sanskrit for Om Sound
slow, even, steady exhalation is worth its weight
in gold for centering your timing. All buddhist meditative
chanting is voiced by steady control of exhalation.
The OHMM sound of transcendental meditation is the
same - controlled exhalation. Humming a tune is the
processes are phenomena in time. For example, vision
works in this fashion: light reflects off an object
a certain distance from the eyes; light travels at
the speed of light (186,000+ miles per second) through
the eyeball to the nerve endings at the back on the
retina; there the light energizes the chemicals of
cones and rods and a chemical reaction later fires
the nerves; the nerves then send their impulses along
into the brain in a combination of chemical and electrical
reactions; the brain wiring routes the impulses into
different areas of the brain until it "recognizes"
the shape and undertsands its identity and location
in space. Touch and body-sense from position signals
in joints and muscles also take time.
example, in baseball, the pitcher's plate on the mound
is located 60.5 feet from the back of home plate (MLB
Diagram). Pitchers in The Show typically
throw the ball at velocities topping out at about
90 mph. Assuming the average velocity of the ball
from pitcher's release to contact with bat is this
full 90 mph, the actual distance is probably closer
to 58 feet as the pitcher leans into the throw beyond
the plate. 90 mph is the same as 132 feet per second.
A baseball covers those 58 feet in less than 0.5 seconds
(58/132 = 0.44 seconds). Once the batter commits to
swing, it takes about 0.3 seconds for the brain to
move the arms and swing the bat to the contact position.
That means the batter has to commit after only 0.2
to 0.3 seconds of the pitcher's release of the ball,
at which point the ball has already come 25 to 40
feet of the way to the bat. If the mound were much
closer or pitchers able to throw the ball much faster,
the batter wouldn't stand a chance! He's already at
the limits of perceptual timing as it is. The lesson
is that visual processes need about at least one-quarter
of a second to register the cues necessary for hand-eye
coordination. Slower is definitely better.
same is ture for slamming on the breaks in an emergency
stopping of your car. The reason the State makes tailgating
illegal is because the time required for our perceptions
to register and prompt action make it necessary that
we stay far enough back behind other cars to give
ourselves time to see the emergency and stop our car.
The faster the two cars are traveling, the greater
the separation distance required by our reaction time:
one car length for every ten miles per hour of speed.
At 60 mph, six car lengths is about 100 feet. The
cars would be traveling at 88 feet per second at that
speed, so 100 feet of separation allows you just a
little over 1 second to see and react to trouble.
Of that 1 second, the first 0.3 of it is seeing and
moving the foot to the brakes. The other 0.7 of it
is for the brakes to take hold and slow the car quickly.
Again, the minimum reaction time to see and react
is about 0.3 seconds.
time the body interacts with the world, the process
takes time, sometimes faster and sometimes slower.
But there are minimal timings and optimal timings.
The time it takes the eye to look from one object
to a different object at a different distance and
then reshape the lens to focus at the new distance
is usually about 1 second (faster for kids than for
adults). Also, visual attention takes time to shift
from one location to another (Time
Course of Visual Attention). The time it takes
for the inner ear to settle down after turning the
head to look at something off to your side is roughly
the same, depending upon how fast you turn your head.
Visual memory, spatial memory, and working memory
all last only so long -- generally not over about
7-8 seconds without special mental effort to refresh
the memories. So there are both minimum times for
perceptions and movements, and maximum times for perceptions
to retain potency and value in structuring the movement.
these timing factors have to be respected in optimal
putting. You simply cannot have help from your eyes
to correct a stroke midway through if the stroke is
too quick for the eyes to register the path of the
stroke. And your sense of the target's location and
mental imagery or visualizations won't do you any
good unless you make use of them before they fade.
awake brain has a gross level of electrical activity
that shows up as a beta wave, meaning the brain's
electrical activity is pulsing overall at about 14
cycles or pulses each second. The awake brain basically
buzzes all day. The brain when the eyes are closed
or in the dark, when the person is very relaxed and
not working on anything mental or physical, operates
in an alpha mode of about 6 pulses each second. Specific
stimuli, like the cocking of a pistol hammer, set
off a quick beta burst. Other patterns are theta for
sleep or hypnagogic drowsiness and delta for deep
sleep. Newborn infants spend a lot of time in theta,
as this promotes learning at that stage of development.
of the more interesting aspects of brain waves is
the notion of "entrainment." Entrainment
is the collective organization of brain waves both
in their timing and in their spatial arrangement in
the brain. For example, the brain stem contains a
group of nerve cells (the inferior olive) that sends
a steady pulse into the cerebellum of about 40 cycles
per second (40 Hz). This pulse organizes the array
of Purkenje cells inside the cerebellum so that they
can time body movements, sort of like the atomic clock
for the body's train schedule. Another pulse, also
around 40 Hz, courses across the cerebrum's cortex,
and this pulse is thought to help organize and integrate
separate mental processes like vision, body-position,
and action planning and execution.
stimuli like sound waves and light waves come in certain
frequencies, and these auditory and visual pulsations
affect the brain and help "entrain" certain
mental states. That's how the meditative mantra works,
and why Baroque music is more relaxing than Hip Hop.
It's also how the daily phases of sunlight and darkness
enter the eyes and activate brain chemicals for arousal
and mood. In the morning, the growing light of dawn
comes through our eyelids and stimulates a knot along
the optic nerves. This knot, the suprachiastic nucleus,
registers the brightness of the light and signals
other parts of the brain to send wake-up juice (serotonin)
into the brain, to take over for the day shift from
the nighttime's melatonin. Imbalances in this system,
from sleep deprivation or becoming out of sync with
the daily pattern of sunrise and sunset (as happens
with jet lag), affects mood and arousal level. The
same mechanism underlies the Winter Blues for light-deprived
residents of the far north, or Seasonal Affective
Disorder (SAD), and light therapy is a well-recognized
and accepted treatment.
wave training and therapy is becoming an accepted
part of advanced medical practice. It currently is
used regularly at the Sloan Kettering Institute, Harvard,
and other preeminent medical institutions around the
world. In addition, a growing field is neurofeedback,
wherein brain wave training is used for such problems
as Attention Deficit Disorder, and is increasingly
being used in sports performance enhancement. (E.g.,
The brain is seen today less in terms of a fixed network
of computer circuitry and more in terms of a symphony
of independent but cooperative centers of oscillation
and resonance. The brian is made for action, and that
means perceiving and moving in time. Hence the brain
makes us part of the action of the world through its
timing processes. Because of these neural mechanisms,
sound patterns and light patterns can be used to help
optimize athletic performance by encouraging appropriate
timing and levels of arousal, focus and coordination.
in putting is the total time the movement in the stroke
takes from beginning to end. Tour pros have been timed,
and pros like Nick Price and Chip Beck have tempoes
of about 2 full seconds. price was timed at 1.85 seconds,
and beck at 1.92 seconds. Because the putting stroke
really has two distinct movements (back and then down-and-through),
the critical part of the stroke that matters most
for timing is the down-and-through stroke. This part
of the stroke is roughly half of the total, so a down-and-through
stroke timing is somewhere around 1 second from top
of backstroke to end of follow-through, or a little
quicker. A tempo of 1 second is the same as 60 beats
per minute. A tempo of 0.8 seconds is 75 beats per
minute. Since the gravity tempo is about 1 second,
any movement tempo quicker than this requires some
"hit" in the stroke to move the putter faster
than gravity alone moves it. To check how the various
tempoes feel, use this computer metronome and experiment
with settings between 60 and 75 beats per minute.
the way, there is a maximum movement speed. If a musical
composer were to write a violin concerto for Paganinni
to play, or a piano piece for Mozart to play, the
fastest notes he could write would be about 12 notes
per second, and probably a lot less. Try tapping your
index finger on a table as fast as you can and count
"one mississippi" to see how many taps you
can jam into one second! If you have a palsied tremor
in your hand, your hand will shake at about 8 to 10
shakes per second (8-10 Hz). The shaking results from
the breakdown of our normal control, so old age in
effect "unmasks" our underlying reality.
A healthy athlete would have a shake like this if
his brain were not in good working order, and partially
that's what Parkinson's Disease is -- a brain in which
the normal circuitry for controlling this underlying
shakiness wears out. Some people believe the "yips"
can be traced to a similar wearing down of similar
circuits. These maximum movement times don't matter
much in putting unless you have the shakes, but it
may be important to know that our smoothness is not
really the normal situation, but is the result of
constant controlling work done by our brains.
(distance control for a specific green, putter, and
ball) and Targeting are critically dependent upon
Tempo. Without a sense of stable, repeating Tempo,
one has imprecision in movement interaction with the
environment. Tempo, in a manner of speaking, is the
"grid" within which we map the environment
for Targeting and by which we imagine and generate
movement with reference to these targets (Touch).
If the "grid" of latitude and longitude
is not relatively fixed and known, navigation is difficult
and lacks accuracy.
importance of Tempo to Touch and movement control
should be fairly obvious, and the connection to Targeting
more nebulous. Everyone appreciates the importance
of good timing in precise motion control, but it's
harder to see how Tempo underlies Targeting. The Targeting
here is not simply "seeing" a target, or
not even "knowing where" the target is located.
Targeting here means building a physical relationship
between the target and the body for purposes of action
(in putting, rolling the ball across the surface into
the hole). This sort of Targeting requires a mental
preview of the action -- like Jack Nicklaus' "movies"
of the putt or other golf shot -- and this is an imagining
in 4 dimensions, the fourth being TIME. For the purposes
of putting, all the physics boils down to the Classical
Physics of motion, which is the change of location
in TIME. The brain needs to imagine the desired motion
of the ball, but first it needs to clarify what the
desired motion ought to be. This is the process of
Targeting that sorts out variations of motion and
fixes the one motion that then becomes the intented
motion. One can simply look at the green surface and
imagine a ball rolling across it in a given pattern
of speed and "watching" how the ball takes
the break of the surface contour, and then imagining
variations with different speeds or paths.
this level, Targeting is concerned with the motion
of the ball, and not the motion of the body to produce
the motion of the ball. Tempo is what integrates these
two components into the desired putt motion with proper
Touch. If you have a stable Tempo, then your imagining
of the body movement is simplified and clear: make
a stroke that conforms to the Tempo. For this reason,
ALL putting body motions are the same stroke, except
for the amplitude of the backstroke. The "choosing"
of the appropriate backstroke (Touch) comes solely
from Targeting. That is, the Touch is produced automatically
from accurately imagining how the body movement will
roll the ball (Targeting in the second sense) and
by getting this sense in tune with the intended motion
of the ball across the surface (Targeting in the first
sense). Tempo integrates Targeting for Touch. Because
of this, putting boils down to: Target well and putt
with Touch by adhering to a good Tempo.
is the combination of behaviors (perceptions and movements)
in Targeting and Stroking. The putt is not comprised
of separate, distinct behaviors, such as "plump
bobbing," "logo alignment," "face
alignment," "practice stroke," "last
look at the target," and so forth. The putt is
a segment of time in the game of golf when the intention
of rolling this ball into that hole is put into action.
The behaviors that the golfer engages in during this
segment of time should be productive and helpful ones,
but by far most of the behaviors of golfers on the
greens today are chaotic and conflicting. Optimal
putting requires taking the TIME of this segment on
the green and structuring it so that the perceptual
and movement behaviors engaged in are well-considered,
effective, and mutually enhancing. So optimal putting
is all about sequencing peceptual and movement processes
in time during the action of the putt in light of
how these processes work best and work best together,
for purposes of rolling the ball into the hole. As
guitarist Brian Mullen says, "It's all in the
ty-MING." Technique is the well-considered timing
of perceptual and movement processes in the action
of the putt.