Brain, Podcast

Research + Insights into Swing Thoughts w/ Dr Noel Rousseau

We sit down with golf coach and researcher, Noel Rousseau to talk about his study and approach to improving our swing thoughts.

Noel’s coaching approach is aligned with the Golf Science Lab mission and has a unique look at helping you play better.

Make sure to check out some of his training programs.

Learn more here and use the coupon code GSLAB20 for 20% off

One of the main points Noel has addressed with his study is this concept of we should just… ‘not think about your swing’ and ‘stay in the moment’.

Here’s Noel’s thoughts on his study and what we can learn from it…

The Study

My route into this study was as a coach with an intervention to test. The intervention (flow drill) was in essence, to walk into the ball and hit with only the minimal time required to set our address position and initiate the action. This had proved transformational for many and a wrecking ball for some. For others, including myself, this approach was extremely useful in some scenarios but not effaceable for the vast array of task variation we have to deal with on the golf course.

In its entirety, the study involved a number of experiments over 8 years with expert golfers (hcp <6) under baseline and anxiety conditions. Early results only highlighted the disparity of golfer’s reactions to the forced ‘low reinvestment’ intervention with some improving and some getting worse. The assumption was made that the intervention was quite harsh on first exposure so we even tested a 6-week practice period to accommodate to the temporal restriction. Surprisingly, this didn’t lead us to any further conclusions. It was at this point; a more individualistic approach was taken with the aim of uncovering any personality factors that may influence the golfer’s reaction to hitting in the absence of conscious control. Among a number of measures introduced, the scales below were correlated with the state reinvestment (level of swing thought) and performance data (5 iron shots) during baseline and anxiety conditions. 

Verbaliser/Visualiser

The concept being tested here was that verbal and visual information weigh differently on cognitive load. Would someone who tested high in the visual domain have a different thought process and react differently to a golfer who thinks in more of a verbal style? This could go back to the initial coding of the movement.

What we found was that when swing thoughts were severely restricted, the high-verbal group’s performance declined while the highly visual group performed better in comparison to their baseline scores. Various interpretations of this result were offered but in terms of the big picture, we can clearly see a personality factor that influences one’s cognitive process during shot execution.

Working Memory Capacity

It seemed logical that the effect of swing thoughts would be influenced by how much information one can hold and process at any given time. Essentially, this is the realm of working memory so, novel as it was, it seemed only logical to test for an affect of working memory capacity (WMC).

Contrary to existing theories of WMC and pressure, in this study the low WMC group got worse while the high WMC remained stable in performance terms. The interpretation was made that WMC plays a much bigger role in movement production than previously thought and without the ability to hold and process information, the automaticity intervention is actually destructive.

Noel’s coaching approach is aligned with the Golf Science Lab mission and has a unique look at helping you play better.

Make sure to check out some of his training programs.

Learn more here and use the coupon code GSLAB20 for 20% off

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Founder and chief curator of the Golf Science Lab. Documenting what's going on in the world of research and beyond that can help you play your best golf on the golf course (when it counts). Join the movement of researched based coaching over trusting beliefs and what worked for one person a few decades ago. Follow on Twitter