In 2018, Ben travelled to Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada for the World Scientific Congress of Golf. With an delegate mix of academics, golf coaches and support professionals, Ben presented two papers on his golf research, one of which has influenced the drive to create the AMI Sport: Golf app. The paper, titled ‘Practice and tournament volumes of young golfers in regional and national squads’, sought to understand the influence of practice and competition volumes on handicap. Here is a summary of the presented paper and the full paper can be viewed here

We know that practice plays a part in determining skill development, expertise (Ericsson & Pool, 2016; Baker et al., 2003), levels of creativity (Memmert et al., 2010) psychological preparation, increases in novice golfers’ gray matter (Bezzola et al., 2011), and decision making (Baker et al., 2003) – all important attributes for a golfer. However, there is currently little empirical research demonstrating the amount of practice golfers conduct on a session to session, weekly, monthly, seasonal or annual basis and the impact this can have on their handicap. Previous research has suggested that deliberate practice can explain some of the variance in performance levels (Macnamara et al., 2016). However, with a paucity of golf specific research in this area, it is important to establish the volumes being undertaken and the impact of those volumes on the golfer’s ability.

This initial study aimed to establish the practice and tournament volumes of young golfers involved in a national governing body’s development programme and investigate how practice volumes influence handicap.

Discussion:

The data collection and analysis revealed long game practice volumes to be a small but significant predictor of handicap change (R2= .041). However, this result should be applied with great caution as this is a small predictor amongst many other variables that can influence golf performance and reduction in handicap.

There is currently no evidence that provides individualised practice and tournament volume thresholds with regards performance or injury for any golfers, most notably for those striving for progression through regional and national squads. With large fluctuations in volumes seen across the golfers in this sample (n = 111 regional and national squad golfers; Males n=68, Females n=42; Age=16.21 ± 1.69 years; Initial hcp=3.62 ± 3.45 strokes; Final hcp=1.77 ± 2.91 strokes), it is clear that each golfer currently employs an individual approach to practice. Average monthly total volumes can be dictated by the time available to the golfer. The results showed significant differences in average monthly volumes between January compared to April and July, and also between May compared to April and July (pictured). With many of those on the performance programme facing academic examinations during May and June it is apparent that this could have impacted upon their practice and tournament volumes. The Easter break often provides the first opportunity of the year for tournament golf in the UK, with this falling in April during the data collection it is unsurprising that the total volumes here and in the summer month of July were significantly higher than at other times of the year.

Practical Application:

The fluctuations in volume seen here highlights that some young golfers may need support in structuring effective practice and tournament scheduling to aid handicap improvements. PGA Professional golf coaches and other support staff should facilitate the monitoring and structuring of practice / tournament volumes whilst taking into account the impact of other external factors (e.g. academic pressures).

Further data collection and analysis is required over the next 5-10 years to establish the longer-term impact of recorded practice and tournament volumes in no only young golfers, but of all ages. It is vital that future research informs coaches, junior development organisations, parents and golfers of the impact workloads from golf and training can have on performance (e.g. handicap), wellness and also the occurrence of overuse injuries and golfing performance. With more and more golfers logging their data and consenting to its use in anonymised research we are starting to understand more about the practice and training behaviours of golfers. As we establish new trends and significant influences on fatigue, performance, and wellness the AMI team will post updates on the research blog. Your data is helping us to establish how you can further help to optimize yourself alongside your golf and S&C coaches and wider support team.

References
Baker, J., Cote, J., & Abernethy, B. (2003). Sport-specific practice and the development of expert decision-making in team ball sports. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 15(1), 12-25.
Bezzola, L., Mérillat, S., Gaser, C., & Jäncke, L. (2011). Training-induced neural plasticity in golf novices. Journal of Neuroscience, 31(35), 12444-12448.
Ericsson, A., & Pool, R. (2016). Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Macnamara, B.N., Moreau, D., & Hambrick, D.Z. (2016). The relationship between deliberate practice and performance in sports: A meta-analysis. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 11(3), 333-350.
Memmert, D., Baker, J., & Bertsch, C. (2010). Play and practice in the development of sport‐specific creativity in team ball sports. High Ability Studies, 21(1), 3-18.
Senior Lecturer in Sports Coaching at | AMI Sports: Golf | + posts

Dr Ben Langdown is a Senior Lecturer in Sports Coaching at The Open University and has published various journal papers in the area of golf and sports science. Specifically, Ben's research focuses on athlete monitoring, warm-up protocols, and training interventions in the sport of golf. Ben is also a Strength and Conditioning Coach for England Golf and over the past 15 years has provided biomechanics and S&C support to golfers from amateurs through to European (Men’s and Ladies’) Tours and a European Senior Tour Season Champion. Ben has presented at 4 World Golf Fitness Summits and the 2018 World Scientific Congress of Golf, where he also acted as an invited review panel member supporting education for >150 academics/coaches. He has delivered various invited keynote workshops with international organisations, including England Golf, The PGAs of GB&I, Spain, Czech Republic and Slovakia with all adopting his applied approaches. Most recently, Ben has developed the AMI Sports: Golf athlete monitoring app allowing further insight into golfers’ practice, tournaments, training and daily wellbeing.