THE EFFECT OF BODY MARKERS ON GOLF DRIVING PERFORMANCE
Ian C. Kenny and Ross Anderson
Biomechanics Research Unit, University of Limerick, Ireland
KEY WORDS: accuracy, body markers, golf, launch characteristics, performance.
INTRODUCTION: No study to date has reported if and how the use of body markers used in
three dimensional optical tracking methods to study swing kinematics in golf affect movement
performance. Egret et al. (2004) studied the use of electromyographic equipment during the
golf swing and concluded that the equipment significantly influenced the kinematic pattern of
the golf swing. Researchers have previously concentrated their methodological analyses on
such factors as the type of marker used, either wand or skin marker (Kirtley, 2002) or skin
movement artefact during movement (Holden et al., 2007). The golf swing is a movement
that is closed-chain, non-impact and does not cause excessive unwanted movement of skin
and wand markers. It is therefore concluded that the golf swing lends itself well to kinematic
analysis using body markers. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the effect of body
markers on golf driving performance for tests carried out in a laboratory setting.
METHOD: Seven category 1 (<5 handicap) golfers (22.1 ± 2.3 yrs, 77.4 ± 9.7 kg, 1.80 ± 0.09
m and 0.2 ± 2.4 handicap) took part. All golfers were male and right-handed. Performance for
each shot was determined through analysis of club head and ball impact characteristics
measured using a commercially available launch monitor (GolfTekTM Pro V). Subjects were
positioned on an artificial grass surface wearing golf spikes as they normally would on a golf
course and selected their own tee height. Thirty four body markers were attached to the
subject: acromion, lateral epicondyle of the elbow, wrist centre, C4, anterior superior iliac
spine, sacrum, greater trochanter, lateral epicondyle of the knee, anterior epicondyle of the
knee, medial malleolus, lateral malleolus, 2nd metatarsal head, heel, and the geometric
centre of mass (COM) of the upper and lower arms, and upper and lower legs. Humeral and
radial markers were positioned on 63.5 mm (2½″) wands and femoral and tibial markers were
positioned on 101.6 mm (4″) wands. Additional club markers were placed on the golf club
shaft 254 mm (10″) from the club butt and on the toe of the club head.
A 240 Hz 5-camera Motion Analysis Corporation™ Falcon Analogue system tracked all body
and club markers during the subjects’ swings when body markers were attached, and only
the club markers for shots performed without body markers. Subjects warmed up as they
normally would before playing golf. Using their own driver subjects were instructed to hit the
golf ball eight shots for each randomly assigned set-up along a target line marked on the
floor into netting 4.5m away.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION: Significant differences (z = -2.521, p < 0.05) were noted for
ball velocity when shots were hit with and without markers (Table 1).
Table 1: Launch monitor data for the golf swing with and without body markers
Club Head Velocity (ms-1)
Ball Velocity (ms-1)*
Club Head Orientation (˚)
Ball launch angle (˚)
With Body Markers Without Body Markers
49.96 ± 0.67
69.62 ± 0.85
1.25 ± 3.24
0.82 ± 0.01
2676.5 ± 312.2
-493.1 ± 423.1
11.13 ± 2.12
49.40 ± 1.07
66.70 ± 0.93
3.00 ± 0.93
0.81 ± 0.02
3263.6 ± 672.1
189.0 ± 701.5
10.63 ± 1.88
Figure 1. Club head velocity with and without markers Download full-text
Shots taken without body markers averaged 2.92 ms-1 reduced ball velocity (-4.19%). Club
head velocity did not prove significant with only 0.56 ms-1 difference (Figure 1). Both ball
backspin and sidespin component showed significant differences (z = -2.38, p < 0.05). Swing
tempo did not show differences between the two conditions.
The present study illustrates that attachment of body markers that would normally be used to
study the kinematics of the golf swing via passive marker based optical three dimensional
systems, induces minor changes in the swing as inferred by a change in ball launch velocity
and spin rates. Ball velocity normally indirectly correlates with carry distance, and sidespin
component of flight normally directly correlates with shot accuracy. Sidespin, or non-
horizontal component of the ball was shown to orientate left, or anti-clockwise for shots
performed with markers attached. This would indicate that those shots performed with
markers attached may have been less accurate, producing a more excessive right-to-left
‘hook’ shape. Thus, important components of club head – ball impact which affect ball launch
characteristics were altered.
CONCLUSION: Body markers significantly affect key shot performance measures, and field
testing is required to ascertain accuracy and carry in a future study to support these findings.
A number of the measures recorded, including club head velocity at impact, club head
orientation, swing tempo, and ball launch angle, were relatively unaffected by the presence
of body markers. Ecological validity is a concern during lab based experimentation and
further investigation of the effect of experimental testing equipment on outcome performance,
and shot accuracy on the golf course, is warranted.
Egret, C., Weber, J., Dujardin, F. & Chollet, D. (2004). The effect of electromyographic equipment on
golf swing kinematics. Isokinetics and Exercise Science, 12 (3), 199-202.
Holden, J.P., Orsini, J.A., Siegel, K.L., Kepple, T.M., Gerber, L.H. and Stanhope, S.J. (1997). Surface
movement errors in shanks kinematics and knee kinematics during gait. Gait and Posture, 5, 217-227.
Kirtley, C. (2002). Sensitivity of the modified Helen Hayes model to marker placement errors. 7th
International Symposium on the 3D Analysis of Human Movement, Newcastle, UK.