Golfers May Sink More Putts by Visualizing Hole as Bigger Says Purdue Scientist

Posted on April 25, 2012

Jessica K Witt Putting Study


Golfers looking to improve their putting may find an advantage in visualizing the hole as bigger, according to a new study from Purdue University.

In this golf study, 36 participants putted to two different-sized holes while a projector displayed a ring of smaller and larger circles around each hole to create an optical illusion. The smaller circles around the hole made it look bigger. Before putting, the person's perception of each hole was measured by having them draw the estimated size of the hole. Their perception was correlated with their scores. The participants who saw the smaller hole (which was 5.08 centimeters in diameter) as bigger putted about 10% more successfully.

Jessica K. Witt, an assistant professor of psychological science who studies perception in sports (pictured above), says, "People in our study made more successful putts in a smaller hole when a visual illusion helped them perceive it as large. We know that how people perceive the environment affects their ability to act in it, such as scoring as basket or hitting a baseball, and now we know that seeing a target as larger leads to improved performance."

Witt's previous work has shown that perception and performance also work together in softball, tennis and football. For example, softball players who hit the ball better saw it as bigger, and people successfully kicking a football through the goal posts saw the target as larger.

Photo: Purdue University photo/Andrew Hancock

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