Today I'd like to introduce you to Geoff Mangum. Geoff is a former attorney turned full time putting coach and is also the owner of the website www.puttingzone.com. In the interest of full disclosure, I've never personally met or spoken to Geoff. However, the information contained on his site has been very useful in my understanding of the neuroscience behind perception and motor control. More specifically, targeting, distance estimation, and touch, all of which play a monumental role in effective fly casting. The sheer volume of information Geoff has amassed over several decades of neuroscientific research is worthy of a visit to putting zone. Additionally, much of it has very significant crossover appeal into high performance fly casting...especially competitive fly casting. Geoff's site is definitely worth the price of admission, and even though navigating through the documentation (over 11,000 references and resources) can be a bit overwhelming, I guarantee you that if this type of data interests you at all, you'll spend HOURS going down the rabbit hole at his site. And the bonus is that all of it is provided at no charge to the reader.
Rather than make a lame attempt at scaling down thousands of pages of scientific research, into a short, easily digestible article, I am going to present a couple of Geoff's targeting and distance drills to wet your pallet and hopefully shed a little light on the type of work he's doing. For reference, the entire article these drills were taken from (among thousands of others) can be found at www.puttingzone.com/mytips/stonecold.html.
The two drills I am referring to, that I believe have helped my targeting and distance estimation in both golf and fishing involve what I like to think of as "Scan & Gaze". The basic science behind the drill is that we have to feed our brain the proper information in the right amounts, in order for it to make a reasonably accurate prediction about distance and direction. To do this correctly there is a "time factor" involved that we must adhere to. To that end Geoff instructs us as follows;
"Focus a Still Gaze on the Hole Itself for at Least 4 Seconds. Once your gaze is at the hole, keep it there at least 4 seconds. Three seconds is not enough because the brain gets bored and wants to get on with it, so you have to override the urge to look away. It takes at least 4 seconds for the brain to form an enduring image and to sort out the distance fully. Also, don't let your eyesight jump or wander about. Look steadily at the hole or even some point on the lip or down into the center of the cup. This procedure creates an anchor point as your body assesses direction and distance, and it also creates an image of the apparent shape and size of the hole that your brain uses to assess distance as well. (This aspect of the routine also helps with orienting the body for a stroke on the proper line.).
Scan Along the Line from the Hole Back to the Ball. Then, look from the hole along the path with a smooth neck turn back to the ball. At this time, you have about as vivid a sense of the location of the hole in terms of distance and direction as you are likely to get, and you have an internal mental image of the appearance of the hole. You also have a kinetic, rhythmic sense of the neck turn and a memory of just how far to turn the neck to get back to the hole."
If you simply replace the term "hole" with "fish" or "target", all of a sudden these concepts become extremely relevant for fly casters. I do this drill in one of two ways: The first involves a scan and gaze prior to any cast being made. Then, depending on the distance I try to hit the target with as few false casts as possible. The second Involves a scan and gaze WHILE false casting and then a drop to the target once the four seconds is up. Again use as few false casts as possible for maximum efficiency. In a real-world situation, you'll have to melt this drill into your own personal style of fishing. However, there really isn't a "style of fishing out that that cant benefit from maximizing and streamlining the process of both distance estimation and target assessment.
We'll delve more into both Jim Walrdon and Geoff Mangum's drills over the next few weeks. I feel there is a ton to be learned from the research these guys are doing, and the fact that it translates over to both casting and fishing is a HUGE bonus for all of us. To read more about Geoff and his research, visit http://www.puttingzone.com/geoff.html
Until then, keep up the slow motion practice drills, and have a great week.