What do lowering your golf score and overcoming chronic pain have in common?

The key is reliable feedback.

On pain management, recent studies using fMRI technology finds that that showing you a visualization of your own brain’s pain center gives the sort of feedback that lets you figure out what works and doesn’t in fighting pain. Here is a discussion of another study on burn victims. Melanie Thernstrom wrote an interesting article about her own experiences trying this in last Sunday’s New York Times magazine.

Perhaps not as important as pain, but onto golf.

I used to play a lot of golf as a kid. Often eight or more hours a day. I’d do a lot of experimentation, but it was hard to get good feedback when I tweaked my swing or my putting stroke.

While time (and having four kids) has led my always limited golf skills to depreciate badly, technology is on my side. New clubs are much more forgiving then what I used as a kid. But much more interesting to me, especially in light of our recent New York Times column, are new technologies for analyzing the golf swing and providing more immediate and reliable feedback.

I bought a golf swing analyzer for my backyard. You hit a ball into a net off a special pad with electronic sensors and it feeds the information into a laptop with the clubhead speed, angle of attack, spin, etc. On a golf course or a range, it is very hard to really see what works and what doesn’t because the outcome of the shot is affected by so many variables: wind, the exact contact between club and ball, the lie, etc. With the analyzer, seconds after you swing you can get (hopefully) reliable feedback.

Within a week of purchasing the golf swing analyzer, I had added about 7 mph to my clubhead speed with woods, an increase of 8%, implying an increase in distance of 20 yards or even more. Being the weakest human alive, my primary goal in golf has been to hit the ball further, and as hard as I tried without the analyzer, I couldn’t figure out how to do it. I made more progress with the swing analyzer in a week than I had in ten years without it.

Not surprisingly, professional golfers have figured this out as well. An interesting article in USA Today shows how the pros are improving their games using these same types of swing analysis.

Forget about piano and ballet lessons. My daughters are spending the summer hooked up to the golf swing analyzer.

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  1. kramsauer says:

    Great post.

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  2. kramsauer says:

    Great post.

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  3. Bill L. Lloyd says:

    But your daughter will only make the golf team if she was born in the first half of the year.

    I notice that article’s still the most e-mailed piece in the NY Times over the last 30 days. I notice you boasting about this on the front of your website.

    I really think it’s odd that you’re bragging. You’re spreading disinformation, you know you’re doing it, and you don’t correct it. What’s more, you brag about it.

    World Cup soccer players aren’t more likely to have been born in the first half of the year, as you claimed.

    And several people, like Steve Sailer and David Kane, showed in your comments section why hockey specifically has a pronounced early-year births quirk.

    So both the thesis of that piece and the example you gave the illustrate the thesis were shown to be likely false.

    And yet, you write:

    ” NAKED SELF-PROMOTION
    5.17.2006
    What is the most e-mailed article in the New York Times over the past 30 days? Dubner and Levitt’s most recent “Freakonomics” column, about the work of Anders Ericsson and others in the “Expert Performance Movement.” The gist: talent is overrated; practice makes perfect; do what you love.”

    Inexplicable.

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  4. Bill L. Lloyd says:

    But your daughter will only make the golf team if she was born in the first half of the year.

    I notice that article’s still the most e-mailed piece in the NY Times over the last 30 days. I notice you boasting about this on the front of your website.

    I really think it’s odd that you’re bragging. You’re spreading disinformation, you know you’re doing it, and you don’t correct it. What’s more, you brag about it.

    World Cup soccer players aren’t more likely to have been born in the first half of the year, as you claimed.

    And several people, like Steve Sailer and David Kane, showed in your comments section why hockey specifically has a pronounced early-year births quirk.

    So both the thesis of that piece and the example you gave the illustrate the thesis were shown to be likely false.

    And yet, you write:

    ” NAKED SELF-PROMOTION
    5.17.2006
    What is the most e-mailed article in the New York Times over the past 30 days? Dubner and Levitt’s most recent “Freakonomics” column, about the work of Anders Ericsson and others in the “Expert Performance Movement.” The gist: talent is overrated; practice makes perfect; do what you love.”

    Inexplicable.

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  5. sophistry says:

    I think it’s really odd that Bill L. Lloyd has nothing better to do do his best to tie in every post Levitt makes to the recent NYT article.

    But what do I know? Bill might come ask me what month I was born in, and maybe my birth weight while he’s at it.

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  6. sophistry says:

    I think it’s really odd that Bill L. Lloyd has nothing better to do do his best to tie in every post Levitt makes to the recent NYT article.

    But what do I know? Bill might come ask me what month I was born in, and maybe my birth weight while he’s at it.

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  7. smili says:

    There’s a blog posting admitting that the world cup wasn’t a good example. This should’ve been caught prior to publication of the article though.

    The article on pain reminds me of a quote by Temple Grandin in Animals in Translation, where she points out that we seem to be one of the few animals that are completely dibilitated by pain. There’s a reference in the NYTimes article about a proceedure that cuts connections in the brain where patients say the pain is still there, but it doesn’t overwhelm them anymore. She thinks that’s how animals deal with pain – Why a dog that’s just been spayed can be up and playing the same day and nearly pull all of it’s stitches out without pause. They seem to be able to disregard pain more easily than we can.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  8. smili says:

    There’s a blog posting admitting that the world cup wasn’t a good example. This should’ve been caught prior to publication of the article though.

    The article on pain reminds me of a quote by Temple Grandin in Animals in Translation, where she points out that we seem to be one of the few animals that are completely dibilitated by pain. There’s a reference in the NYTimes article about a proceedure that cuts connections in the brain where patients say the pain is still there, but it doesn’t overwhelm them anymore. She thinks that’s how animals deal with pain – Why a dog that’s just been spayed can be up and playing the same day and nearly pull all of it’s stitches out without pause. They seem to be able to disregard pain more easily than we can.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0