Golfers often encounter competitive situations during performance, especially when sinking a putt is required for a win. Putting under pressure can sometimes result in impaired performance, a condition commonly referred to as the "yips." A competitive environment produces physiological and behavioral changes that can affect performance, but simultaneous measures of heart rate and postural sway variability during a competitive putting event have not yet been examined. This study was guided by embodied cognition theory and assessed changes in postural sway and heart rate measures in experienced and inexperienced golfers in two separate experiments. To foster a competitive environment, participants had the opportunity to win valuable gift cards in both experiments.
In the first experiment, 19 active golfers participated in one to three rounds of golf putts on an outdoor practice green while standing on a balance board and wearing a heart rate monitor. The first two rounds comprised 15 putts each, and participants were told the first round scores would not count while the second round scores would. The top seven performers from the second round advanced to the third round, which utilized a knockout tournament format to determine a winner. Putting performance, postural sway, and heart rate measures were recorded during each round, and gift cards were awarded to the first and second place participants after the final round.
The second experiment involved 20 university students that were not experienced golfers. This experiment followed a similar protocol to the first, but participants attempted five putts from two different distances during each round in an indoor facility. The top eight performers from the second round advanced to the third round for a chance to win more money. Putting performance, postural sway, and heart rate measures were again recorded, and the Sport Grid-Revised was also included to provide an additional measure of arousal.
Within each experiment, participants with lower postural sway variability had better putting performance in the second round, which involved more pressure than the first round. Participants in the final round tended to have increased heart rate and decreased heart rate variability, showing a greater degree of arousal. Lower heart rate variability was also associated with better performance of short putts in the second experiment. Comparisons between the two experiments showed experienced golfers and beginners differed in measures of postural sway, heart rate, and heart rate variability while putting. These results support the notion that postural motion and physiological change (heart rate responses) are not autonomous systems, but are linked, and are related to golf putting performance in competitive situations. The results are used to discuss the broader implications of embodied cognition in the context of competitive human movement situations.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. November 2011. Major: Kinesiology. Advisor: Michael G. Wade, PhD. 1 computer file (PDF); vi, 114 pages, appendices A-E.
Haag, Samuel John.
Heart rate variability and postural motion as correlates of competitive situations in golf putting..
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