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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Jordan Spieth's Brain Games

Golf Digest has an interesting article about mirror neurons and how Jordan Spieth uses the science behind them to improve his game. It may not appeal to some of you but I'm guessing that a lot of you are just plain curious.

Everybody's brain has neurons, billions of them. At the risk of oversimplifying things, they're responsible for muscle memory. Mirror neurons are a subset of them -- roughly 20% or so -- that allow you to watch someone else do something and feel the action closely enough that you can copy it.

In other words, mirror neurons may help explain why we play better when we play with good players and worse when we play with players who aren't so good... at least, not on the day we play with them.

Yeah, that's dreadfully oversimplified... but it's good enough for our purposes.

Jordan's coach Cameron McCormick says that Jordan realized this relationship early on -- that is, he noticed that relationship between your play and that of the players you watch -- and talked to him about it. McCormick then says that "from then on [Jordan] made a concerted effort to pay keen attention to players who do things well, and to ignore those who didn't."

The article then covers some things you can do to use this information to help you play better. I won't list them here because it's not a long article and I don't want to just copy McCormick's work. But he has three examples of ways to use this info... and several funny ways to avoid watching bad players in your foursome, such as:
  • 2-Fairways-Over Slicer: Embark on an exhaustive search in your bag for that candy bar you ate already
Many of you have probably already figured this out, and you watch players you admire -- for example, you watch videos of Steve Stricker's swing and imagine what it must feel like -- while looking away when your partner starts jerking his putts ten feet off-line. But this article will give you the basic scientific reasons for it and maybe help you find some new ways to copy your golf heroes.

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