By John Strege
Golf is played on a 5 1/2-inch course, Bobby Jones once said, referring to the space between the ears. If he's correct, why is so little attention paid to the mental side of the game?
It was a question that a Phoenix area PGA professional, Tim Suzor, was asking.
"We're certainly given a lot of drills for the golf skills," Suzor said, "but when it came to working on mental skills, the options were maybe a sports psychologist or reading a book."
Suzor was working with a tour player on the range one day, having him do focus drills. "He turned around and said, 'this is kind of fun. It's like a video game.'"
So Suzor decided to approach Dr. Debbie Crews, an LPGA Master Instructor, a sports psychology consultant, and the chair of the World Scientific Congress of Golf, and asked her, "could we build a video game to learn these skills?"
That was the impetus behind the Scottsdale, Ariz., company, ThinQ Golf, a cognitive training website that uses video games to develop mental skills. "Debbie had been doing that research," Suzor said. "We took her book ["Golf: Energy in Motion"] and turned it into a practical application."
It is similar to Lumosity, a popular brain-training program, though ThinQ Golf was designed specifically for athletes, Suzor said. "We saw what Lumosity is doing and thought, 'there's something here.' They were already building games for surgeons to prepare them for surgery. If they can do it for surgeons, we can do it for golfers."
But does it work?
"Dr. Debbie's done some testing to see what side of the brain golfers are using," Suzor said. "Some golfers are using the left-brain only. She conducted a three-week test on synchronicity, playing the synchronicity game 20 minutes a day, three times a week for three weeks. Those who played the game reported 20 percent more putts made post test compared to those who didn't play the game. Synchronicity balances the left and right brain."
The cost is $80 for a year's subscription. "We're priced right, we're built for the masses," Suzor said. "The bottom line really is that the mental game isn't all that fun to work on, so how do we make it fun? We're building games and gamification. It's fun. It's pretty addicting."