What You See is What You Putt

Players who have a good golf day might also have judged the hole to be bigger in size, new research says.

According to a study from researchers at Purdue University and the University of Virginia, performance affects the perceived size of an action’s target.

Golf players who perceived the hole to be bigger received lower scores than golf players who perceived the hole to be smaller, the study says. Players who saw the hole as bigger actually took fewer putts to get the ball in the 18th hole. The researchers didn’t see any correlation in driving or hitting—just putting.

But that doesn’t mean Tiger Woods owes it all to his perception of the size of the hole; it just means that on any given day a golf player might see the hole as bigger when he is playing well, the researchers say. In fact, there was no correlation to the overall skill of the player and the perception. (The study looked at “limited to relatively unskilled’ golfers, anyway.) The perceived hole size could have something to do with their confidence or attitude about themselves, the report suggests.

The results were similar to a previous study that found significant correlation between batting average and the judged ball size. The golf study reinforces the idea that perception and performance have something to do with the other.

Yet the question remains: Do golfers put better because they see the hole as bigger or do they see the hole as bigger and therefore putt better? Something to ponder before your next swing.