The Contact Zone

In the golf swing when the player hits the ball (impact) certainly remains the most decisive part of the swing and great player's behavior shows us that the ball is not always the relevant cue. Indeed, they differ significantly in having a longer fixation on the ball combined with a fixation on the contact zone until the end of the follow through. It is well illustrated by Tiger Woods focusing on the contact zone at - and after - impact, holding his head still and in the direction of the contact zone. In particular, keeping the head still during the preparation phase and at impact helps ensure better balance and a consistent hit on the center of the clubface.

More than these physical effects, the recent observations tend to go in favor of the mental benefits to control the head position and prolong the fixation of the contact zone to the entire duration of the follow-through.

Thus, lets look at the relationships between gaze and head fixation on the contact zone during the hitting phase and mental states of potential relevance in high level competitive golf such as concentration, control or confidence.


1. CONCENTRATION


A common error of most golf players is to believe that they have to be concentrated with the same intensity throughout the entire round. In fact, the problem is not to stay focused but to know how to refocus efficiently.

Concentration can be improved by watching the contact zone, but also by the fixation of this zone until the end of the follow-through. So, it is essential for concentration to keep the eyes some fraction of seconds on where the impact takes place.

2. CONTROL


Mentally efficient players remain in control or at least feel in control. However there are many areas where players can experience a loss of control: wind, sun, temperature, spectators.


The fixation allows such focus because it teaches a certain ritual of repetitive body movements which gives the player the feeling that everything is under control.

In addition, fixation allows the player to exclude irrelevant thoughts and to tune into the task at hand, thus, achieving the fixation leads to better control.

3. STRESS AND ANXIETY


Under stress people forget the more recent instructions causing them to revert to old software which impacts their stroke production. To cope with pressure, top players often employ individual routines based on relaxation, breathing or self-talk.

Another way to reduce the anxiety is to redirect the focus onto the process. Fixation - considered as a process focus - giving the player more control can be an efficient way to counteract pressure. Indeed, by focusing on mechanics the player will deflect emotional content from the moment and he will not fall victim to motor paralysis.

Instead, he will be able to send messages to his brain that will allow him to hit the ball correctly. This control reduces the stress response and ultimately frees the athlete from fear of failure.

4. STAYING IN THE PRESENT


Under stress the greatest lapses in concentration come when the player allows his mind to project what is about to happen or on what has already happened. Hence, the ability to stay mentally in the present is the key to being focused in a round

The fixation after the impact helps the player to stay in the "here and now." Focused on present, the physical sensations usually remain stable , what reinforces the feeling of control. In a sense, gaze and head control provides an extended period of control.

5. CONFIDENCE ENHANCEMENT


Concentration and control can only be achieved if the player has confidence in what he is doing.

Using specific and repetitive body and visual control he can maintain a confident mental attitude then execute shots under increasing competitive pressure. Therefore, even during the hitting process, the player can gain confidence in his abilities.

6. ZONE


Once the player feels confident, his mind is free to focus on the task at hand.

Focusing on the contact zone could be viewed as an efficient process (or performance) routine which reinforces the concentration on the task at hand and the sense of control, both fundamentals dimensions which best describe the mind-set in flow. .

CONCLUSION


This article supports the hypothesis for head and gaze fixation as a fundamental golf skill allowing optimal mental states. More precisely, the idea is that great players' fixation on the contact zone can help them to achieve efficient and consistent concentration during play.