The game of golf has been an intriguing one for me. As a child and a teenager, I was never exposed to this game the way I was when my family migrated to this country over two and half decades ago. Once I started playing, I was almost instantly hooked. I was fascinated by the skill and concentration it required to improve your handicap. I began to appreciate the game even more after I graduated from optometry school as I was able to understand how and why having proper vision at all distances to facilitate precision eye hand coordination was so critical to the game. The right eyewear, especially for individuals who need prescription eyeglasses, was also equally important when playing golf.
First, what is presbyopia? Presbyopia is a naturally occurring phenomenon whereby we lose the elasticity of the crystalline lens in our eyes which usually begins in the 40’s. This lens is what helps us focus on close objects. When people lose this ability to see things up close, many will have to resort to reading glasses, bifocal or invisible bifocals i.e. progressives.
Until recently, progressive lenses were the only option for individuals who need prescription glasses to see at far, intermediate and at near with one pair. Many golf experts recommend against wearing progressive lenses while playing golf. The reason behind this is that the design of progressive lens is such that it limits the central vision and restricts the peripheral vision at distance, intermediate and at near. That being said, all golfers know how peripheral vision is critical when lining up to swing the club on the fairway, while putting, while chipping out of a bunker etc. Especially while putting, golfers need to move their eyes while maintaining their head position from the ball to the hole and vice versa. Progressive wearers can catch the distortion areas of their lenses while moving their eyes giving them a disadvantage while putting.
With the recent advent of anti-fatigue lenses, especially progressive wearers can now benefit from these lenses when playing golf. So how can these lenses benefit a progressive wearer on the golf course? An anti-fatigue lens is a type of a single vision lens with a boost in optical power on the lower bottom part of the lens. They are mainly marketed to relieve digital eye strain and for those in their early 40’s (pre-presbyopic age). The biggest advantage to this technology is that it does not have peripheral distortions like progressive lenses do. Instead of the lens having three focal points (like a progressive lens), an anti-fatigue lens has two focal points: the top part for the distance viewing and the lower bottom area for near objects. This power boost towards the bottom lower part of the lens can be tucked away without interfering with your distance vision while allowing to see near objects by simply tilting their head up. The boost in power can also be vertically adjusted as desired. With higher power boost now available, this opens up doors for many more golfers even above 50 years of age.
Illustration showing the power boost in the lower bottom area for focusing on close up objects.
The off label use of anti-fatigue lenses in certain sports is promising. Any sport including golf that requires excellent distance vision as well as good intermediate and near vision poses unique challenges for individuals in their 40’s and 50’s who can greatly benefit from these lenses. In golf, clean crisp vision is essential in spotting the flag far down the fairway. Good intermediate vision is required while putting a 6 footer, and good close up vision is helpful when reading the map of the golf course, recording the score on the card or even just using your smart device while on the course. Anti-fatigue lenses can potentially allow golfers who wear full time progressive eyeglasses to shave off couple of strokes and therefore help improve their handicap and make the game even more fun.
Anti-fatigue lenses can come polarized to cut the glare from reflective surfaces for crystal clear vision, although there is some anecdotal evidence that this can affect depth perception. They can also be tinted in amber, brown or rose colour to enhance contract sensitivity which can be helpful in spotting the ball down the fairway. Equipped with properly fitted frames and anti-fatigue lenses, golfers can now confidently hit their stride anyway the winds blow.