Golf Putting: Establishing the impact and mechanisms of a target focus with high level golfers

Moffat, David (2020) Golf Putting: Establishing the impact and mechanisms of a target focus with high level golfers. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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This thesis aimed to address and inform the significant gap in current sport psychophysiological research, knowledge and practice relating to target focused aiming in golf putting. Chapter 1 presents the thesis as a multi-factorial examination of mechanisms, applications, and usage of Target Focused Aiming by and for applied practitioners. Chapter 2 serves to outline the journey of my PhD, addressing my choice of pragmatism as a philosophy, the research methodologies and evaluation of qualitative research quality. Chapter 3 defines and outlines the research philosophy of pragmatism. Chapter 4 critically reviewed existing empirical literature and revealed several important inconsistencies and omissions, which limits the ability to know whether the method is effective or how it might work mechanistically. Chapter 5 tested the performance of a target versus ball focus with high-level golfers using it for the first time under ecologically valid and competitive conditions, resulting in no significant difference. Chapter 6 explored psychophysiological and perceptual measures and measurements to inform an empirical direction to further probe why no difference was apparent. Chapter 7 found a higher increase in alpha power reactivity within the visual cortex of the brain compared to a ball focus, which was associated with a greater intentive state; however, golfers’ perceptions were not always congruent with this explanation. Chapter 8 examined a target focus over an extended period of time. Performance outcome improved when using structured practice, where there is a strong inference that it removes a potential negative (e.g., distraction from the hands and/or putter movement), is perceived to increase focus of attention, is easy to learn, and improves distance control. Chapter 9 investigated target and ball focus in existing practice from a world-renowned putting coach to gain insight into his perceptions with each method. Results suggested that little is known about a target focus and that what he did explain is not consistent with the empirical data reported within this thesis. Finally, Chapter 10 summarised the findings and implications of this thesis. Particular emphasis was directed towards the potential for a target focus and the wider implications of this research within the applied practice domain of golf putting performance.

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