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Title: The role of biomechanics in achieving different shot trajectories in golf
Author: Leach, Robert J.
ISNI:       0000 0004 6493 9607
Awarding Body: Loughborough University
Current Institution: Loughborough University
Date of Award: 2017
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In golf, a range of shot types are necessary for successful performance, with driving and iron-play constituting the long-game. It is possible to vary long-game shots through altered trajectory, for example, by utilising right-to-left or left-to-right ball flight curvature, providing course management advantages. However, how golfers vary their biomechanics to achieve different trajectories is not scientifically understood. Therefore, the purpose of this thesis was to biomechanically investigate different trajectories hit with the same club. To investigate shot trajectories, accurate measures of performance were necessary. Launch monitors (TrackMan Pro IIIe and Foresight GC2+HMT) are bespoke technologies capable of tracking the clubhead and ball through impact. However, their accuracy for scientific research has not been independently validated. Therefore, a novel purpose-designed tracking method was developed using a three-dimensional optical tracking system (GOM). The accuracy of this method was validated and the system used as the benchmark to which the two launch monitors were compared through limits of agreement. The results showed, in general, the launch monitors were in closer agreement to the benchmark for ball parameters than clubhead. High levels of agreement were found for ball velocity, ball path, total spin rate and backspin. However, poorer agreement was shown for ball sidespin and spin axis as well as clubhead velocity, clubhead path and clubhead orientation. Consequently, the launch monitors were deemed unsuitable for inclusion in scientific research across a range of impact parameters. Draw and fade trajectories with a driver and draw, fade and low trajectories with a 5-iron were investigated biomechanically. The clubhead and ball were tracked using the optical method developed in this thesis. Key biomechanical variables (address position and whole-swing) were defined based on coaching theory. Statistically, analysis of variance (address) and principal components analysis (whole-swing), were used to compare draw against fade and low against natural trajectories. Multivariate correlation was used to identify swing pattern similarities between golfers. The group-level comparison showed draw-fade address differences whereby for draw trajectories, the ball was positioned further away from the target, the lead hand further towards the target and the pelvis, thorax and stance openness closed relative to the target line. Over the whole-swing, the draw when compared to the fade demonstrated a pelvis rotation, more rotated away from the target with later rotation; lumbar forward flexion, with slower extending in the downswing; lumbar lateral flexion, with more flexion towards the trail throughout and prolonged trail flexing through ball contact; thorax lateral flexion, with greater, slower lead flexing in the backswing and greater, more prolonged trail flexing in the downswing; pelvis translation further towards the target throughout, with earlier forward translation and centre of pressure, with an earlier, quicker, greater forward shift. Cluster differences were evident, with both Clusters I (57% of golfers with the driver) and II (71% of golfers with the 5-iron) showing greater, earlier thorax rotation towards the target and a tendency for greater lumbar forward flexion over the whole-swing (Cluster II) and backswing (Cluster I). For the group-level low-natural comparison, golfers positioned the ball further away from the target and their lead hand further towards the target for low trajectories. Further, Cluster IV (45% of golfers), narrowed their stance width and laterally flexed their thorax towards the lead, for the same trajectories. Over the whole-swing, the low when compared to the natural showed the pelvis translated towards the target throughout, with later, lesser forward shift for the low trajectories. Furthermore, centre of pressure displayed a greater forward shift for the same shots. Finally, both clusters (Cluster III 36% of golfers and Cluster IV) differed in lumbar forward flexion when playing low trajectories; over the backswing, Cluster III extended, whereas Cluster IV flexed. Cluster IV also showed greater extending in the downswing. Finally, Cluster IV showed more lumbar lateral flexion towards the lead throughout. The results of this study have implications for scientific researchers as well as golf coaches, club-fitters and professionals. Commercially available launch monitors appear accurate enough for coaching applications, however caution is needed for scientific research when tracking a range of clubhead and ball parameters. Furthermore, changes in biomechanics when playing different trajectories has implications for future research and interpretation of published work, as well as for coaching theory. Future work following this thesis could utilise the optical tracking method to validate further commercial systems and for more detailed experimental investigation of clubhead-ball impacts. Furthermore, additional biomechanical investigation into a wider range of shot trajectories across more variables could be conducted, with a more in-depth understanding gained from principal components analysis and golfer clustering.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Loughborough University ; Glendonbrook Doctoral Fellowship
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Golf ; Clubhead tracking ; Ball impact mechanics ; Biomechanical analysis ; Kinetics ; Kinematics