November 10, 2009

The Hole DOES Seem Bigger When You Are Putting Well

Play golf regularly for long and sooner or later, you are going to go through a streak or two. This is especially true with putting. On some days, getting the ball to fall into the cup may seem as though you are trying to find the apocryphal needle in a haystack, while on other days, it may feel so easy to putt that you may as well be standing on the end of a pier trying to tap the ball into a lake. For many of us, and this goes for pros and amateurs, it comes and it goes. That's the nature of the game.

On days when putting is going well, the hole may seem bigger to your mind's eye, and others, it seems a lot smaller than it really is. Of course, we all know that the size of a golf hole doesn't change from it's four-and-a-quarter inches. It's always the same size, but it really can seem to be larger or smaller based on the day's results. Research from Purdue University proves this:
"Golfers have said that when they play well the hole looks as big as a bucket or basketball hoop, and when they do not play well they've been quoted as saying the hole looks like a dime or the inside of a donut," said Jessica K. Witt, an assistant professor of psychological sciences who studies perception in athletes. "What athletes say about how they see the hole and how well they play is true. We found golfers who play better judge the hole to be bigger than golfers who did not play as well."
To prove this, three experiments were conducted and a fairly large sample size of golfers were asked to estimate the size of a golf hole after their rounds using silhouettes of differing sized circles - some larger than the standard 4.25 inches, others smaller. Witt proved that the players who played better would pick the larger size while those who struggled perceived the hole to be smaller than it actually is. That correlated nicely with other research she has done, for example, successful batters in softball perceive the ball to be larger than they may if they are struggling at the plate.


  1. I have heard people SAY that the hole looks bigger or smaller - and I have used all the common phrases - but I have never actually seen the hole as being bigger or smaller.

  2. Maybe the better players who picked the big hole are saying they wouldn't have made the putt if the hole wasn't big, and those who picked the small hole believe that it must be smaller or they wouldn't have missed.

    Maybe the better players just think they're luckier!


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