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By the Numbers - Why Golf is Hard


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I was doing some little calculations last night and thought you might enjoy the following tidbits:

  • You're accelerating a clubhead from 0 to 100 MPH (nominal driver swing) and back to 0 again in about a second.    A Bugatti Veryon does this in about 10 seconds.
  • The ball is only on your clubface for about a 1/3 of a millisecond.     A typical human reaction time is about 250 milliseconds; a fast time is around 200 milliseconds.    If you have a 100 MPH swing speed and hit the ball well, by the time you've registered the contact in your mind and try to react to it the ball is already more than 40 feet towards your target.     So much for the assertion that someone can react to the contact and do anything to change it.
  • If the ground has only 1 degree of side slope (a nearly imperceptible feel) the ball is either 1/2 inch above or below your feet depending on the slope, about the difference between a very thin or very fat shot if you had your normal level swing.
  • A putter misalignment of only 1 degree at the moment of contact (again, a very tiny amount) means you'd miss the cup completely on a 10 foot or longer straight putt aimed at the center of the hole.
  • About 24 major muscles are involved in making a full golf swing - these have to be all timed and sequenced within tiny fractions of a second to create any speed and proper contact.

Remember these when you ask yourself why you're not able to play this game sometimes!

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Originally Posted by Clambake

If you have a 100 MPH swing speed and hit the ball well, by the time you've registered the contact in your mind and try to react to it the ball is already more than 40 feet towards your target. So much for the assertion that someone can react to the contact and do anything to change it.

While that's true, as an instructor, we see lots of instances in which a better player does something in transition or somewhere in the swing and compensates for it mid-downstroke. Uncocks the club, tips back, whatever.


Originally Posted by Clambake

A putter misalignment of only 1 degree at the moment of contact (again, a very tiny amount) means you'd miss the cup completely on a straight putt aimed at the center of the hole.


Well that's only true from outside of 10 feet. C'mon now, be fair.

http://thesandtrap.com/b/the_numbers_game/angles_of_error

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If the ground has only 1 degree of side slope (a nearly imperceptible feel) the ball is either 1/2 inch above or below your feet depending on the slope, about the difference between a very thin or very fat shot if you had your normal level swing.

A putter misalignment of only 1 degree at the moment of contact (again, a very tiny amount) means you'd miss the cup completely on a straight putt aimed at the center of the hole.

I think about these two all the time. We have so little room for error so much of the time. I use this to justify why golfers, as a hole, are so particular about their setting before hitting. Be it clothing, glare, an itch, the need to waggle a few times in a certain way, a dislike for certain background noise, the need to back off and realign, etc, if anything puts you outside your element and causes a slight deviation from a good swing, the results can be quite noticeable. (I'm not saying that everything is justified, pickyness-wise, but when people wonder people who play golf are so particular compared to other sports, that's the reason.) Recently I was watching video of my swing and I put two DTL short iron videos side-by-side. They were nearly identical -- I'm sure the untrained eye wouldn't have been able to distinguish them at all. I was shocked at how extremely similar they looked. And I'm an [i]inconsistent[/i] ball striker.

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Originally Posted by Clambake

You're accelerating a clubhead from 0 to 100 MPH (nominal driver swing) and back to 0 again in about a second.    A Bugatti Veryon does this in about 10 seconds.


As a car person, I like this one.

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Originally Posted by iacas

Well that's only true from outside of 10 feet. C'mon now, be fair.

You're right - I meant to write a "putt of 10 feet or more" and forgot to add in the number.

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Originally Posted by DaSportsGuy

Interesting facts...why golf is the hardest sport to excel in IMO.



Respectfully disagree ... pool is harder (at least for me).     I put 3 years into trying to play serious pool - got respectable, but realized I will never be really good.    Took up golf last fall & have played about all that a person could play & hold down a job & have researched everything I can put my hands on, and am already a much better golfer than pool player.     I think if a person has played stick and ball games successfully in his younger days, golf is more of a natural game, whereas pool is more mental (the truly good players can analyze the table & plan a half dozen or more shots - my mind just doesn't work that way - can't plan more than 3 or maybe 4 shots ahead) & involves far more precision and less room for error - not that hitting a wedge from 90 yards out & spinning close to the hole doesn't ...

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Clambake,

Thanks for the math.  I guess we shouldn't be so hard on ourselves.  I think, for Eric's point, the body knows on the way down that it is off line and adjusts.  As for pool, I find that harder now because I wear bifocals!!  When I look down the cue, it is all out of focus!!  Makes me crazy.  At least with Golf, I can see the ball in focus at address.  Man it stinks getting old.

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Originally Posted by inthehole

Respectfully disagree ... pool is harder (at least for me).     I put 3 years into trying to play serious pool - got respectable, but realized I will never be really good.    Took up golf last fall & have played about all that a person could play & hold down a job & have researched everything I can put my hands on, and am already a much better golfer than pool player.     I think if a person has played stick and ball games successfully in his younger days, golf is more of a natural game, whereas pool is more mental (the truly good players can analyze the table & plan a half dozen or more shots - my mind just doesn't work that way - can't plan more than 3 or maybe 4 shots ahead) & involves far more precision and less room for error - not that hitting a wedge from 90 yards out & spinning close to the hole doesn't ...


Interesting.  It's obviously hard to compare sports to determine which is harder since people find different things difficult, and different sports can just be different.

Pool is interesting because you've got the strategic elements that are not present in golf.  Yes, golf has strategy, but it's a bit less involved because each player is playing an independent ball.   You don't have to consider whether your choice leaves your opponent with an easy putt if you miss.  There are elements of this in match play, but it's less direct.

Also, the carroms and multi-ball interactions lead to extreme precision requirements.  On the flip-side, the distances are much smaller, but bouncing balls off the rails and off each other can magnify slight errors.  On the other hand, you don't have as forceful an athletic component as you do in golf.

In the end, I think we can probably agree that both these sports are technically challenging.  Playing at the highest levels requires pretty insane skill and dedication.

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  • Quote:
    • You're accelerating a clubhead from 0 to 100 MPH (nominal driver swing) and back to 0 again in about a second.    A Bugatti Veryon does this in about 10 seconds.

    Yes, but a clubhead weighs slightly less than a Bugatti.

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    Pool is a game that has always baffled me. It's a game that I think I should be at least half decent at (I might not look like much of an athlete, but I can usually achieve half-decency pretty quickly), but I've never really gotten the hang of. I suppose you can only think your way through pool so much.

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    Originally Posted by plugged

    Yes, but a clubhead weighs slightly less than a Bugatti.



    True.   But the human has about 999.5 less horsepower too.

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    Originally Posted by Clambake

    I was doing some little calculations last night and thought you might enjoy the following tidbits:

    You're accelerating a clubhead from 0 to 100 MPH (nominal driver swing) and back to 0 again in about a second.    A Bugatti Veryon does this in about 10 seconds.

    The ball is only on your clubface for about a 1/3 of a millisecond.     A typical human reaction time is about 250 milliseconds; a fast time is around 200 milliseconds.    If you have a 100 MPH swing speed and hit the ball well, by the time you've registered the contact in your mind and try to react to it the ball is already more than 40 feet towards your target.     So much for the assertion that someone can react to the contact and do anything to change it.

    If the ground has only 1 degree of side slope (a nearly imperceptible feel) the ball is either 1/2 inch above or below your feet depending on the slope, about the difference between a very thin or very fat shot if you had your normal level swing.

    A putter misalignment of only 1 degree at the moment of contact (again, a very tiny amount) means you'd miss the cup completely on a straight putt aimed at the center of the hole.

    About 24 major muscles are involved in making a full golf swing - these have to be all timed and sequenced within tiny fractions of a second to create any speed and proper contact.

    Remember these when you ask yourself why you're not able to play this game sometimes!


    Damn! No wonder I suck.

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    At least part of the time i can hit decent shots.  I could stand at the plate against any major league pitcher, take 100 swings and probably would be lucky to make contact maybe 5 times(never played baseball beyond little league).    Or go one-on-one with Kobe, Lebron, etc and probably not make a shot unless they just quit guarding me if i got far enough away and i made a 25 or 30 footer.  Or stand at the 5 yard line and try to tackle Adrian Peterson, Steven Jackson,  etc and they'd just make me look silly and might even get hurt.   I could play 18 holes of matchplay against a pro golfer and maybe could tie a couple holes on par 3's, all it takes is a great tee shot by me and an average tee shot by the pro and we'd both make par.     If it was stroke play, id lose badly, but match play id at least have a chance to tie with a par.

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