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Explore the 'Science of Golf' in New Online Video Series

Guest post by Bryan Toporek. Cross-posted from the Schooled in Sports blog.

"Angry Birds" isn't the only game with a bevy of underlying mathematical and scientific principles.

A new 10-part online series from NBC Learn (the educational arm of NBC News), the United States Golf Association (USGA), and Chevron Corp. explores the science behind the game of golf.

The videos, available for free online, were made "to provide teachers and students with high-quality engaging stories that demonstrate that STEM is everywhere in the world around us, including our favorite sports," said Mark Miano, senior producer for NBC Learn, via email. Each video tackles a different scientific or mathematical concept, such as friction and spin, the physics of the golf swing, and how to calculate a golfer's handicap.

The National Science Teachers' Association will be releasing lesson plans to go along with all 10 videos within the next week, Miano said. After beginning to watch one of the videos, teachers can access the lessons by clicking the "Lessons" tab on that particular video. All the lesson plans will be aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards, according to Miano.

"The stories can help supplement a lesson, illustrate a science concept, or serve as a simple 'bell-ringer' to engage students," Miano said. "Some teachers use just parts of the stories—often the amazing graphics or slow-motion footage—to review a particular concept or present a problem for the class to work on together."

With the help of the USGA, NBC Learn enlisted a handful of amateur and professional golfers to help demonstrate the concepts discussed in each video. NBC's high-speed "Phantom" camera, which can capture movement at up to 10,000 frames per second, allows for a slow-motion view of the scientific principles at play in golf.

Longtime readers of this blog may remember an interview I conducted with professional golfer Phil Mickelson last summer, in which he also touted the benefits of STEM knowledge in regard to his golfing career.

"Putting has an exponential falloff as you go away from the hole," he explained. "I'll make 100 percent of my shots from 3 feet away from the hole, 90 percent from 4 feet, 70 percent from 5 feet, 63 percent from 6 feet. Every foot away from the hole is critical."

That knowledge inspires Mickelson to spend most of his practice time within 150 feet of the hole, aiming to land his approach shots within a 12-15 foot radius from the hole.

The "Science of Golf" is the fifth series in NBC Learn's "Science of Sports" series. Previous "Science of" series have covered NFL football, NHL hockey, the Summer Olympics (tied the London 2012 Games), and the Winter Olympics. NBC Learn has already started production on "Science of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games," Miano said, in partnership with the National Science Foundation. It's planned to launch in mid-January, right before the Sochi Games begin.

For those who can't get enough of the "Science of Golf" series, 10 more videos will be launched next year, right before the start of the 2014 U.S. Open.

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