News & Opinion

Golf scientists strive to give us an edge

Unless you’re a true golf geek, chances are good that you’ve never even heard of the World Scientific Congress of Golf. 

But the chances are even better that you, and just about every other golfer, have been influenced by this biennial summit.

Among other obtuse topics, past conferences have explored the “neuroscience of the quiet eye.”

OK, we lost most of you there. Stay with me.

In almost 30 years, the WSCG has blazed a trail in golf research. 

Maybe blazed is too strong of a word. But its impact is pervasive.

“Much of what we do as golfers, from how we swing to the equipment we use to the training and practice habits we employ and so on, has been born from great research,” Glenn Cundari said.

Cundari, the PGA of Canada’s technical director, is the chair of this year’s World Scientific Congress of Golf, to be held July 11-13 at the University of the Fraser Valley in Abbotsford, British Columbia. He attended his first WSCG in Australia in 2014. Two years later, at St. Andrews, Scotland, he got approval to bring the prestigious gathering to Canada for the first time.

The first WSCG was held at St. Andrews in 1990 with the goal of bringing together “researchers, professionals and interested golfers in the areas of The Golfer, The Golf Course, and Equipment and Technology,” according to the organization’s website,  www.golfscience.org.

“The research, keynote and invited presentations, workshops and distinguished speakers’ forum are designed to represent innovative and diverse topics in the game of golf…. Presenters come from all over the world to share their expertise and provide a platform for discussion to further our knowledge in the game of golf.”

While acknowledging that research into all aspects of golf is widespread, Cundari speaks of the WSCG as the Super Bowl of golf research. The committee reviewing prospective presenters received scores of research abstracts to winnow through. 

Among the many notable past presenters were short-game guru Dave Pelz, former USGA equipment czar Frank Thomas and Mark Broadie, whose research into “strokes gained” produced what is one of the most significant statistics in golf.  There have been deep delves into the cause of the “yips” and “improving accuracy and carry distance with an external focus of attention.” 

Oops, almost lost most of you again. 

How about this? Another presentation led to restrictions on the coefficient of restitution, the so-called “spring-like effect” from clubfaces.

This year’s keynote address will be delivered by Sasho McKenzie, who holds a doctorate in sports biomechanics focusing on “3D forward dynamics simulation of the golf swing.” McKenzie, a professor at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, has done research centering around “optimization of human movement, with a strong emphasis on sport performance.”

When asked for a hint of his message, he said, “My talk will focus on the current state of increasing clubhead speed with the driver. It will cover possible options from improving mechanics, tweaking club properties and optimizing physical training.”

Now, that’s something to which all of us can relate, based on recent controversies.

Cundari is optimistic that this July’s gathering will be a tremendous learning opportunity, not just for those involved in golf research but for PGA and LPGA professionals, especially those involved in teaching and coaching. 

“Much of the emphasis is on teaching and learning,” he said, "so we hope that this Congress will have a wide appeal to the overall golf community.”

For more information or to register, visit the website or contact Cundari at 705-492-2152 or email wscg2018@gmail.com.

John Gordon, who has covered golf for more than 30 years for Canadian newspapers, magazines and a TV network, has authored eight books on the game. He lives in Midland, Ontario. Email:  gordongolf@outlook.com;  Twitter: @gordongolf