Want To Hit More Accurate Golf Shots? New Study Says This Is Where You Should Be Aiming (Not The Flag)

Golfer golfing golf

Court Prather / Unsplash


I’ve played more golf in the past year than I have in the previous five years combined and while I saw a rapid improvement in my golf game it was primarily because I bought new clubs for the first time in a decade (TaylorMade M4’s), it wasn’t because of practice and play.

I might’ve shaved a few strokes off my game after joining a local club and getting to spend time practicing around the green, not on the green, but I’m intrigued by this new study that claims golfers have been aiming in the wrong place all along. The study claims that golfers shouldn’t be aiming at the target. Instead, they should be aiming at a closer intermediary target and their results will improve.

The study was conducted by Dr. Bob Christina who’s an Emeritus Professor of Kinesiology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and GOLF Top 100 instructor Eric Alpenfels who has been teaching at Pinehurst since 1985. They had 29 golfers ranging across every skill level, and they had them hit a series of shots by aiming at spots.

The participants hit six shots aiming in three ways: (1) aiming while looking at the distant target (flag, etc), (2) aiming while looking at an intermediary target like a spot a few feet in front of the ball, and (3) the traditional method of looking at both the distant and intermediary targets. The results were pretty astounding, via GOLF:

They measured the results, and found across-the-board improvement amongst all golfers when they forgot about their distant target, and looked only at the intermediary target.

That’s right. Alpenfels and Christina found that golfers actually hit the ball straighter and just as far when they don’t look at where they want to hit it, and only focus on a spot a few inches in front of their ball. Their overall accuracy increased, as did their Smash Factor — a metric that can be used to measure the overall quality of strike. (via)

Here’s how the numbers broke down:

Aiming at the distant target: 76% fairways hit, 34.3-feet variance, 1.458 Smash
Aiming at the intermediate target: 88% fairways hit, 25.9-feet variance, 1.461 Smash
Aiming with both targets: 72% fairways hit, 35.9-feet variance, 1.451 Smash

According to the study, the reason golfers are less accurate when they aim at the target where they want to actually hit the ball is that when aiming far away they also see all of the places *they don’t* want to hit the ball. The golfer sees bunkers, tree, lakes, etc and this forces them to make slight corrections in their swing such as over-compensation that could send the ball off target.

I don’t fully understand how this study can determine why people are making these corrections and are less accurate when aiming at a distant target when all the study did on paper was prove that golfers are more accurate aiming a few feet in front of the ball. It seems like they’re REALLY trying to fill-in-the-blanks here with psychology.

Nevertheless, I’m playing golf tomorrow morning with a 7:15am tee time and I’m going to give this method a trial run on the course and report back next week if it works well. If it goes miserably I’m sure you’ll find some angry tweets from me tomorrow at @casspa.

(h/t GOLF)

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