A Golfing Wolverine

by TJ Tomasi, College of Golf Senior Faculty and Director of Research

Several years ago, I asked my class at Keiser University the question:  “If you could have your arm adjustable in length and shaped into a golf club – like the movie superhero – sort of a ‘Golfing Wolverine,’ would you do it to hit the ball better?” Most said they would. Of course it sounds like a lot of trouble to go through but it might be easier to do than you think because all you need is a new concept and some practice to convince your brain the club is part of you — like a temporary prosthesis. After all if monkeys can do it, so can you.


How do I know about the monkeys? Research at Duke University by Miguel A. L. Nicolles and John K. Chapin shows that monkeys, with brains wired to a computer, could control a robot arm by manipulating a joystick. To do this the monkeys created specialized neural brain networks dedicated to operating the robot arm as if the tool were actually a body part.  This suggests that the monkey’s brain interprets a robot arm as just another part of their body.


Separate research by Alessandro Farnè at the Université Claude Bernard at Lyon shows that human brains can be trained to treat tools [in our world — golf clubs] as if they were actual body parts.  ‘We believe this ability of our body representation to functionally adapt to incorporate tools is the fundamental basis of skillful tool use,’ Farne said “Once the tool is incorporated in the body schema, it can be maneuvered and controlled as if it were a body part itself.”


Additional research provides more confirmation that through training and repetition, the human brain comes to treat prosthetic devices as part of the body. Dr. Mariella Pazzaglia from Sapienza University in Italy says ‘The corporeal awareness of the tool emerges not merely as an extension of the body but as a substitute for, and part of, the functional self.’


Thus, it’s documented that a foreign instrument like a golf club can become a part of your golf body image, a fact which begs the question “How can I ensure that my brain adopts the golf club as its own?”


There are two things you must do: (1) Consciously image your club as part of your body and (2) repeat this image using full intention and full attention every time you take a club in your hand, until it becomes automatic.