Listening to Sanford Health lead biomechanical engineer Aaron Trunt talk to legendary golfer Bernhard Langer in front of an audience of some of the leading minds in golf science was a perfect centerpiece this week for the 10th World Scientific Congress of Golf.
Held at Great Shots in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the event coincided with the Sanford International PGA Tour Champions golf tournament going on in town.
That unofficially made it a record amount of golf knowledge in the same vicinity at the same time.
‘A world stage for golf’
A look at the schedule for the week at the World Scientific Congress of Golf revealed that the work done at the Sanford Sports Science Institute makes it an industry leader in the world of golf technology, training, health and education.
“It represents several years of work,” said Lisa MacFadden, Ph.D., director of the Sanford Sports Science Institute and the conference chair. “We’ve partnered with Golf Science for the past few years to create a program and agenda that is going to be attractive to all of the attendees. We have people from 11 different countries here teaching, learning, and networking with each other. It’s been awesome.”
The three-day gathering represented a scientific deep-dive into a sport that continues to evolve centuries after it first became popular. Evidence of the state-of-the-art progress was wherever you looked at Great Shots throughout the series of presentations and workshops being offered.
“This is a world stage for golf,” MacFadden said. “We’ve had some incredible people come in to give presentations. To see people from our team give keynotes, moderate sessions and join panels on this stage speaks to our leadership and the knowledge our team has developed over the last few years.”
Langer’s scientific approach to the game
The keynote address on Wednesday was an overview of the role that science can play in golf featuring Langer, who at age 65 continues to amaze the golfing world by remaining one of the top PGA Tour Champions golfers. He was paired with Trunt, who has worked closely with the Hall of Famer on his annual visits to Sioux Falls for the International.
In a literal sense, Langer remains one of the great “students of the game” in addition to one of its best players ever.
“As a scientist you always are hoping you know what you’re talking about,” Trunt said, laughing. “We can show that with numbers but when somebody goes out there and proves it, that’s the icing on the cake. We can say, ‘Well, maybe we helped 1%.’ He’s been so great to work with because of his hunger for knowledge. He’s always been about what he can do to get a little better. He’s very open to all of it.”
During the address, Langer told stories about how he approaches the game and how it fits into his life. It was not all about science.
“When I started golfing it was amazing to be able to see yourself hit a golf ball on video,” Langer said. “It has been very interesting to see how it has all evolved over the years. The only guy who was known to do weights when I started was Gary Player. We were told you weren’t supposed to do heavy weights because in golf you don’t need to be big in the shoulders.”
That all changed, Langer said, when Tiger Woods arrived and was bench-pressing 300 pounds.
“Then we all tried to get 1% or 2% better however we could,” Langer said. “Many then realized fitness was a big part of this. In the old days guys would play 18 holes, practice, then go to the bar and have a few drinks. You don’t see that much anymore.”
Using science to teach and play better
Langer talked about getting a taste of golf training technology in Australia back in its infancy. Since then he’s always looking for the next new way to get better.
“I got in touch with Aaron several years ago and he put all these – what do you call them? – we put all these markers on me,” Langer said. “We were able to track down all sorts of things.”
During an event that got into the guts of the game, the Trunt-Langer conversation provided insight – as did the entire conference – into how to teach it better and how to play it better.
“Four years ago, we attended this event and I was with Lisa when she walked up to the organizers and said, ‘We’ll host the next one,’” Trunt recalled. “And I’m hearing that and thinking, ‘We will?’ She did a great job of putting this on.”
SSSI and its work with golf has been there for years. Now a lot of people outside the area are aware of it.
“Getting the opportunity to showcase the kind of work we’re doing on the world scale is what is really awesome about this whole conference,” Trunt said. “The golf science community is small but the people who are a part of it are really smart. Getting to share the stage with them and exchange ideas with them is what makes it so great.”
Sanford golf scientists’ findings
A look at presentations Sanford was directly involved in:
- “Exploring the Relationship Between Hip Kinematics and Driver Club Path,” a presentation from Trunt on the role of hip movement/mobility in golf swing performance. Specifically, how a lack of proper hip movement might be what’s causing your slice with the driver based on research performed at SSSI.
- “Physiological Responses of Elite-Level Golfers in a Hot/Humid Environment.” Sanford lead exercise science specialist Jason Dorman gave a presentation based on SSSI research assessing sweat rates and body temperature changes in golfers when they work out in very hot conditions. This research could help golfers prepare for rounds or tournaments in hot, humid locations and determine how their performance might be influenced by electrolyte loss and dehydration.
- “Frontal Plane Knee Joint Moments Differ Between Clubs and Genders in the Golf Swing.” Sanford orthopedic research fellow Luke Adams gave a presentation based on research done at SSSI on the amount of torque the lead knee undergoes in the golf swing, focusing on how knee injury risk or rehab considerations should differ between male and female golfers, as well as how knee loads change based on what club a golfer is swinging.
- “Multidisciplinary Approach to Golf Instruction,” a panel discussion by the Sanford Power Golf Academy team involving Sanford Sports Academies manager Sam Vosler, senior physical therapist Matt Rollag and Trunt. They addressed the integration of biomechanics, strength and conditioning, and movement quality in the development of golfers.
- With putting in mind, Langer returns to Sanford Golf Academy
- Lisa MacFadden makes research look like a game
- College golfing champion works on skills based on science