Article Date: 9/1/2010

How to Become a Driving Force in Treating Golfers

How to Become a Driving Force in Treating Golfers

Eyeglasses that increase performance can also provide a financial boost to new practices.

By Scott Reins, OD

Sports and technology have always had a strong bond. Even athletes with enviable natural talent look to technology to help them tap into their full potential. And many multimillion-dollar businesses help them do just that with the latest athletic equipment, clothes, shoes and even food and drinks. From serious amateur athletes to casual players, millions of people are looking for and are willing to invest in ways to help them improve their games.

You don't have to explain to an athlete in your chair that vision correction is a key part of performance. Athletes know they need reliably clear, crisp vision in all situations. For athletes who play outdoors, that means getting quality vision correction and sun protection to help them successfully drive a racecar at 200 mph, swing a bat, watch a football spiral through the air, cast a line into the river or make a critical 15-foot putt.

Although the needs of all outdoor athletes are similar, golfers, as you probably know, are very willing to try anything that may help lower their scores, and they often think of cost as a minor consideration. They know equipment can be the difference between success and failure. You can offer them a strong advantage with the best vision correction. And because golf is such a popular sport, this presents a practice-building opportunity for new ODs, whether players are existing patients, players from local courses, or colleagues who tee off alongside you.

Golfers' Visual Performance

I've been golfing for 25 years, and although I may not be on the PGA Tour, I do know the vision challenges that golfers face on the course. When you're determining the best eyewear for patients who are golfers, consider several performance factors that are unique to the game of golf:

Distances: Visual tasks during a game of golf ranges from near to far. Fairways can reach more than 300 yards long, while putting greens are just feet from the pin. Golfers should be able to follow a small white ball against a sky of varying colors and, moments later, visually readjust to see the lay of the grass on a green with the cup so close they could reach out and touch it.

Changing light: A typical game of golf can last 4 hours or longer, which means golfers can play through a variety of lighting and weather conditions. During the game, they might encounter anything from bright sun to dark clouds. The changing lighting conditions can greatly impact the ability to see contrast well.

Sun exposure: Golfers know the importance of UV protection, but although they often take pains to protect their skin with sunscreen and protective clothing, many forget that their eyes are exposed to hours of sunshine, too. Choosing a lens that offers full UV protection is critical, especially when considering the length of sun exposure for a game of golf.

Age: Golf is truly a sport for all ages. Unlike some other more physically demanding sports, golfers can start young (Tiger Woods famously first swung a golf club at age 2) and continue to golf well into their senior years. A golfer's vision and eye health can change dramatically over the years, and so can his needs for dealing with the challenges of golf.

If you understand and can readily converse about a golfer's specific needs, then you'll have an easier time getting him into the best possible correction for the sport. What's more, keep in mind that as in all sports, golf is affected by factors such as good eye-hand coordination. The determination of a person's dominant eye can also help improve the visual system, which can, in turn, boost golf performance.

Advantages of Photochromic Eyeglasses

Fortunately for golfers, eyewear technology offers many options to help them see clearly and play the game at their best. The biggest change I've seen in the last 5 to 10 years is the changing technology of photochromic lenses. Anyone who has used photochromic eyeglasses knows the inherent benefits of a lens that adapts with the changing light. For golfers playing from dawn to 10 a.m. or through changing weather, there's a marked advantage.

With older technology, golfers were often forced to bring along two pairs of glasses, use interchangeable lenses, or limit themselves to a small choice of lens-tint options (often the same old brown, green or gray color choices). This means they were either switching glasses or stuck in a single pair of sunglasses in both bright and dim light. Now, not only do we have photochromic lenses that adjust to the light, we also have some new customizable, state-of-the-art lenses for golfers.

I'm a strong advocate of photochromics for golf. I've prescribed and recommended photochromics for my patients who golf, and I use them myself. Patients are wowed by the difference between a photochromic and a fixed-tint sun lens, and once they've tried them, they don't want to switch back. I can't tell you the number of golfers I see on the course who are struggling with their fixedtint sunglasses. The sunglasses may work well for a very bright sunny day, but as soon as the light changes, they're reaching into their bags for a second pair or moving them up and down off the top of their heads. Photochromics are the answer.

Transitions offers a wide range of lenses including the Oakley Transitions SOLFX (top left), Definity Fairway Transitions SOLFX (top right), Neox Transitions SOLFX golf lenses (bottom left) and Callaway (bottom right), all of which are ideal for the athletes in your practice.

Photochromic Options

Several companies offer quality choices in photochromic lenses that start clear for indoor use and darken in outdoor light (and are great for golf). SunSensors (Corning) are a plastic option, and the same company makes glass photochromic lens options as well. SunSensors come "in-mass," consisting of casting a material that already incorporates the photochromic molecules, and a coating technology involving surface treatment of the lens (known as SunSensor HPC).

Transitions lenses (Transitions Optical) are prescribed most often, both in my practice and industry-wide. In addition to original Transitions lenses, the company has developed the Transitions SOLFX sunwear line with lenses designed for specific outdoor activities. There are lenses for golf, cycling, driving, riding motorcycles, running and hiking, hunting and shooting, and water activities. Each product has features and options designed to enhance the wearer's visual performance overall, but particularly while performing a specific sport or outdoor activity.

Several of the company's photochromic choices for golf are fully customizable to fit golfers' needs and help improve visual performance. NEOX Transitions SOLFX lenses combine photochromic properties with NEOX prescription or plano lenses, designed to eliminate the vision compromises of non-prescription sunglasses. NEOX is the only lens used in eyewear with the Callaway golf club brand. DEFINITY FAIRWAY Transitions SOLFX are made specifically for golfers who wear multifocals. According to Transitions, golfers reported that they prefer the lenses 7:1 during course play because the intermediate zone is wider, there's less peripheral distortion, and transitions between prescriptions are smooth. Oakley Transitions SOLFX, in prescription and plano, have six light-to-dark tint options with balanced light filtering to boost visual contrast, even in low light. This can help improve depth perception.

More Considerations for Golf Eyewear

The right photochromic lenses can help you build your practice, catering to the needs of the avid golfers in your chair (and all the other players they tell). Again, your familiarity with their needs is key. In addition to the right lenses, a few additional factors can influence visual performance during a game of golf. These can be highly individual and a matter of personal preference, so review these issues with your patients before making a recommendation about golf eyewear.

Frame fit: Make sure patients test out new frames while they go through the motions that they'll perform during a golf game. Of course, the frames should be comfortable. One key factor is that the frames must fit the face well and not move, from when a player stands face down over a drive through the entire swing. Many people find that when they move into their swing, the bottom of a frame can block their line of sight, but others aren't bothered by frames with a bottom.

Polarization: Polarization is a matter of personal choice for golfers. Some prefer the reduced glare, but polarization can make it harder to read the greens and make surfaces look flatter.

Scratch-resistant coating: Many lenses today have built-in scratch-resistant coatings to help with durability. This is good for golfers because although the game isn't as intense as rugby, it's not as relaxed as sitting behind a desk for 4 hours. There's a chance of scratching. And if a patient pays for premium lenses, then those lenses should be durable.

Lens color: Particular lens tints or colors can be helpful on the golf course. An amber or brown tint can help increase the contrast between the ball, the green and the sky. Lenses that absorb blue light can be helpful in reading greens and watching the ball in flight. Gray or green-gray tints can help with true color perception. Talk to your patients about where their specific needs lie. They'll probably be able to identify the things that give them trouble in their regular eyeglasses or in single-tint sunglasses.

With all of these options, you can assure the golfers in your chair that you'll prescribe eyeglasses that fulfill all of their needs on the course. Near or far, in bright light or deep shade, in a quick round or a long tournament, they can have the best possible vision correction and enhance their game — and all so comfortably and conveniently that they'll never need to remove or swap their glasses on the course. nOD

What's Best for Golfers in Contact Lenses?
Golfers who wear contact lenses are in the same boat as those who don't have any vision correction at all — they just need to wear non-prescription sunglasses. But contact lens wearers have one major advantage over their 20/20 friends: you.
While the 20/20 crowd may not be seeing an OD, contact lens wearers are. Be sure to make them aware of the advantages and availability of plano photochromic lenses over fixed-tint sunglasses. They need UV protection, clear lenses without the distortion of inexpensive sunglasses, and enhanced vision in all kinds of light. Contact lens wearers may enjoy the frugality of buying any old sunglasses, but they'll buy glasses specifically for golf if they understand that doing so can help them improve their game.

Dr. Reins has been a partner with EyeCare Specialties in Lincoln and Beatrice, Neb., since 1998 and serves as the practice's optical liaison. He serves on the Board of Directors for the Nebraska Optometric Association (NOA) and has been named the NOA Young OD of the year. E-mail him at sreins@eyecarespecialties.com


Optometric Management, Issue: September 2010