Date: November 14, 2011

Mapping out the stars

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Cathleen Santoso (The Lakes Golf Club) having her swing bio-mechanically analysed.

Beyond the 587 picturesque-acres of the kangaroo-inhabited Riverside Oaks Golf Club, Golf Australia, on the 26-27th October, recruited Chris Smith, Noel Blundell, Ryan Lumsden, Ramsay McMaster and Marty Joyce to run an elite amateur golf camp. Despite a prevailing falling mist and a lingering cloudcover the coaches each ran a two hour intensive session that focused on assessing the players performance in putting, fitness, body-condition, psychology and swing biomechanics.

The goal of the day was to teach the players to develop their games to the upmost potential.“Players already at this level are looking at a one-to-two percent improvement. The fine tuning is what takes them to the next level” said Khan Pullen, event organiser from Golf Australia. There was an abundance of complex cables, analytical software and fluorescent yellow Srixon-imprinted balls to get the day underway. The players all received a program at 7:30 am that 'mapped' out their journey through the five different stations with each coach.

Depending on their luck the players may or may not have had their day begin with a gruelling Ramsey McMaster physiotherapy session. “Pain is bad things leaving the body” was the mentality of his scheme in which he treated and assessed the players muscular composition and apabilities. McMaster's station followed the “Four rooms theory” which involved the four stage break-down of the players tournament preparation. It segregated their schedules into separate stages involving: intense-technical focus, functional development then pre-tournament preparation. Along with the player's new-found discovery of how far their shoulders and backs could be twisted and hyper-extended, McMaster created specific schedules that allowed the players to develop their bodies to an ultimate physical condition for peak performance. Through his video analysis of the muscular composition of the player's bodies he was able to create a visual representation of identifiable key areas of weakness that need to be developed. He created the players a schedule that allows them to “work with their local physiotherapist to build a development program to improve overall bio-mechanical fitness”.

The second session that assessed physical composition was run by Chris Smith. He conducted a series of stations of strenuous activities that allowed him to conduct an analysis of the players cardiovascular-fitness and physical strength. One of the tests involved the use of a pulse strap fitted around the players torso to gauge the players pulse rate during the exercise. The strap transmitted the players pulse rate to a watch-like device worn on the player's wrist allowing them to fluently move through the stations and record how their bodies were responding to the different exercises. The results were tracked allowing the players who had been at the camp before to compare their previous results and also for future comparisons. Chris was able to highlight key areas of weakness within the players physical fitness to reflect what sort of conditioning they should treat their bodies with in the future to increase their potential. Chris had an art for pushing the players to their limits, registering pulse rate of up to 199 beats per minute.

A doctor visit could have been most certainly required after the players survived the two prior, painful but challenging sessions. Much to their relief, world-renowned Australian sport psychologist, Dr. Noel Blundell set up a station with the players that assessed their mental fitness which involved no sweat or pain. He attached a band around the players' temples that “transmitted the brain wave patterns through three
electrodes”. This effectively created a “representation of the brain wave patterns” which analysed the players concentration consistency. Noel explained to Jake Higginbottom, whilst wired up,“The software takes the
data and converts it into concentration focus. So as your concentration focus changes, the changes are reflected on the screen”. He compared the track-reading to “standard deviation”. The variables in the wave
ambivalence reflects the stability of the focus. The lower the variable, the higher the score the player will receive under testing as it reflects a more constant focus. Noel also tested the players energy usage at different concentration levels and coached the players accordingly to create the ability to establish a more consistent focus with minimal fatigue through reducing the energy being expelled.

For some, the first touch of a golf club came in their third station with Marty Joyce, the putting extroadinaire. Not only was he able to help the players correct their putting strokes, he ran the majority of his session within the comfortable confines of the club-house. McMaster had the tiger within but Marty was bringing the tiger out of the golfers as he analysed the swing arc of their putting strokes. After six to seven years of putting analysis he has mastered the art of “turning numbers into figures” with his machine that has “tested well into the thousands, the good the bad and the in between”. The putting-system he was using measures 27 aspects of the putting stroke through a German Scientist's encapsulation of ultrasound technology and small spy cameras that is able to track variations from impact point to speed of stroke. Joyce's putting technology is used internationally and he spoke about players he was working with
conducting stroke tests overseas and sending back the machine generated reports for individual analysis. Joyce was able to identify fine weaknesses in the players short game and even draw out explanations as to why. Like Blundell's psychology session he placed a strong emphasis on the “measurement ability”. Having the capability to show the players a statistical trend to analyse the areas of their stroke needing work also allows the players to gauge a more thorough understanding and track their progress.

Last but definitely not the least was Ryan Lumsden's bio-mechanical breakdown of the players' golf swings. The computer-aided system he was using allowed him to track the swing trajectories and movement
sequences of the golfer. The technology works by capturing, analysing, and displaying on a computer monitor, animated 3D models of the players swing. The wiring attached to the players body and the entered
sensor points allowed the software to construct a virtual avatar of the players figure on the computer screen. This allowed the fine movements within the swing to be assessed along with the muscular reactions within
the swing. The technology enabled Lumsden to conduct a conceptually accurate swing assessment with the ability to combine the launch, club head speed, impact angle, and swing path assessment whilst
simultaneously critiquing the body and muscular movements to perfect the swing. This station involved players hitting several balls whilst wired up to allow Ryan to replay their swing and do a technical-breakdown
analysis of both well and poorly struck shots to engage in a more efficient understanding of their swing. Its the machine-like accuracy that the players were trying to capture within their swings.

After training from 7:30 am until 6:30 pm the players, although drained in all ways possible, left the camp with a bounty of new ways to improve their games. The day served not just as a learning experience but also an inspiration to take their games to the next level. The players were given a closing speech in congratulations of their work ethic and reminded of the importance of putting in the hard-yards to make it to the top. It is a rare occurrence to have such an experienced team of service providers all working together with the access to rare game-aiding technology. The stars certainly aligned for those who attended and only a bright future can be expected from Golf Australia's players.