Lionel Allorge's photo showing the Golf National, a golf course in Guyancourt, France, via Wikimedia Commons.
Lionel Allorge's photo showing the Golf National, a golf course in Guyancourt, France, via Wikimedia Commons.

Golf’s 2018 Ryder Cup: Physics & Psychology at the Albatros

Shown: View of Le Golf National, where the 2018 Ryder Cup will take place. Credit: By Lionel Allorge [GFDL, CC BY-SA 3.0 or FAL], from Wikimedia Commons.

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About This Episode

Every two years the golfing world turns its attention to three days at the end of September/early October to witness a clash of the best American and European players the sport has to offer – it’s Ryder Cup time. On this episode of Playing with Science, hosts Gary O’Reilly and Chuck Nice preview the 2018 Ryder Cup which takes place at the Albatros course at Le Golf National, just southwest of Paris. After an emphatic win at the 2016 Ryder Cup, the American team will be looking to defend their title while a young and hungry European side will be looking to write their place in history. Sports physicist and returning guest John Eric Goff joins Gary and Chuck to help us understand what the players will face at the Albatros course. Given that the location of the Ryder Cup alternates between Europe and the United States, one thing we investigate is how the grass on the Albatros course differentiates from the grass stateside. You’ll hear why John thinks that driving off the tee might be the most difficult part of the tournament. We also debate whether this course is better suited for a power player or a finesse player. Discover more about the wind factor and how it will impact the flight patterns of approach shots into the green. We also break down the mechanics of hitting the golf ball straight. You’ll learn the science behind the “smash effect” or “smash factor,” and how the materials for making golf clubs have become much more aerodynamic over the years. We also discuss how dimples reduce the air drag on a golf ball, how humidity impacts play, and which holes John thinks might be the most difficult from a physics point of view. Turning to the player’s eye view, performance psychologist Gregg Steinberg stops by to put us inside the mind of a Ryder Cup golfer. Gregg tells us how the pressure and intensity of the Ryder Cup differs from a regular tournament or a major. Explore the importance of “emotional toughness” and Gregg explains some of the work he does with players to help them improve their performance. You’ll also find out how a pre-shot routine can positively impact performance. All that, plus, you’ll hear why Phil Mickelson was Gregg’s favorite player at the 2016 Ryder Cup, and, Gregg tells us how Tiger Woods raised his game above everyone else during his prime. 

NOTE: All-Access subscribers can watch or listen to this entire episode commercial-free here: Golf’s 2018 Ryder Cup: Physics & Psychology at the Albatros.

In This Episode

  • Host

    Gary O'Reilly

    Gary O'Reilly
    Broadcaster, Sports Analyst, former Professional Soccer Player
  • Host

    Chuck Nice

    Chuck Nice
    Comedian
  • Guest

    John Eric Goff

    John Eric Goff
    Physicist & Author of “Gold Medal Physics: The Science of Sports”
  • Guest

    Gregg Steinberg

    Dr. Gregg Steinberg
    Performance Psychologist, author of “Mental Rules for Golf”

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