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World's First Psychometric Database of Golf Equipment Confidence
1/24/2017 10:55:36 AM
For years here at SPL we have been testing golf kit to see what it is that makes us go weak at the knees when see something new in the magazines or on the pro shop shelves. All golfers know this feeling and in design psychology it is known as the Anticipated Level of Confidence (ALC).

By collating years of research we have created the first  that enables us to precisely measure how much emotional confidence a new design creates in the minds of golfers. As Dr. Bob Rotella said "Golf is a game of confidence"

The score is based on the scientifically valid concept of normal curve databases and is expressed in percentiles as shown below.
 A club that inspires great confidence might get an ALC of 96%ile. This means that it inspires more confidence in the player than 96% of all other clubs of that type in the data base

An average Club will get an ALC score of 50%ile as 50% of the data base is rated as giving more confidence to the player and 50%  give less

A poor perfroming club might only have an ALC of 30%ile as it only rates better than 30% of the database.

Of course the database is dynamic and the addition of new equipment changes the overall comparison profile. So as time goes on the scores of clubs will change to refelct how they compare to the latest offerings.

Sport Psychology are proud to have developed this, unique tool  and we will be sharing results from the database one club at a time from January 2017.
All Golf Courses Have 8 signature Holes
9/10/2015 6:52:34 PM

Just One Signature Hole?

No- All Golf Courses Have Eight!

In 2011 Sport Psychology Ltd (SPL) delivered a global golf study of all the world’s leading golf course architects and golf course experts. It looked at the psychological principles that make a golf course great. SPL then reviewed a large number of golf venues and the players that used those facilities to verify the accuracy of the expert opinion.

It was not surprising to our psychologists that the golfers studied could not, easily, remember each and every hole on a course (that they had not played previously).  In fact, after playing a new course, the average player could only accurately recall eight of the eighteen holes even when they had just completed play. This finding is completely in line with all the neuroscience on human memory and recall that indicates that 8 chunks is as much new information that the typical person can remember when it has just been presented to them. SPL defines these in our Golf Experience Psychometric Profiler (GEPP) as the ‘Magic 8’ and has developed specific methodologies to enable all golf courses to specifically identify which are the Magic 8 for their course- sometimes they are not always the most obvious ones when you have a very detailed memory of the whole course due to years of learning. In fact staff who are intimately familiar with the course often fail to recognise the holes that have the most impact on the memories of new visitors. However classic psychology does reinforce the importance of primacy and recency effect so the 1st and the 18th are constants in the Magic 8 for all courses.

SPL would advise all venues that these 8 holes are key to the emotional memory that any visiting golfer will take away from that venue. Get these holes right and the clients will always leave with a positive impression no matter what the other 10 were like. In cash strapped times knowing what these holes are and focussing limited resources on them can ensure that the visitor always has a positive feeling. That’s when they will become your ambassadors and communicate that feeling to all that they meet in the future. Never forget that the experience is all about the emotion….. and emotions are contagious.


PSygns Reduce Pitchmarks by 80%
8/7/2015 8:01:59 PM
Blending cutting edge neuroscience with Traditional Signage SPL reduced unrepaired pitchmarks by 80%

Unrepaired pitchmarks are the bane of any greenkeeper’s life and something that always causes apoplexy when a player has to put over one on an otherwise pristine green.  However golf has been slow to take advantage of the advances in psychology and neuroscience to reduce the impact of these horrible pockmarks on the course - and the blood pressure of participants.

Sport Psychology Ltd (SPL) has delivered an independent study into the psychological impact of neuroscience on players in a controlled study carried out at Surrey Downs Golf Club in June and July 2015.

Building on research in other spheres SPL created the PSYgns concept which marries the latest research with traditional signage for the course. Research has shown that the addition of a specific type of eyes onto a sign can have a profound impact on the behaviour of the readers in a way that no other type of sign can. SPL/PSYgns partnered with Wimbledon Signs to research various types of eyes and then manufactured a set of PSYgns to investigate their impact on golfers. The design used is shown in our picture gallery

Before the PSYgns were utilised 2 greens were chosen for the study. Each hole was very similar in length and shape - between 330 and 347 yards long and both with sharp left hand dog legs leaving an approach shot of between 90 and 130 yards into the green. Both greens were 2 tier with a raised back tier across the whole of the green which had a 2-3 foot rise. Both greens were identified as suffering significantly from unrepaired pitchmarks.

Green A was the first of the 2 holes to appear on the card and was chosen as the control green. Green B was 3 holes later and was chosen as the study green. The greens were measured at the beginning of July with the flowing ratios of unrepaired pitch marks (green A is set at 1.00)


Unrepaired Pitchmarks

A- control green


B- study green



Hence the greens had almost identical numbers of such marks on their surfaces as a result of play in June. The signs were then set up on the control green only- which came later in the order of play so no impact from the signs was carried over onto the control green.

Each green was then re-measured one month later with the following results


Ratios compared to original control green

% change compared to 0riginal count

A- control green



B- study green







The results were analysed statistically which indicated that there was less than a 1 in a 1000 chance that this approach was not having an impact (or the results were achieved by chance).

It can be seen that the control green had a rise in pitchmarks (associated with a rise in summer golf traffic) of 27% whilst, in the same period, the study green saw a reduction of 51%.  Combined this is a difference of nearly 80% and has  produced a minimum 60% plus reduction on what would be anticipated if the study green had risen in direct proportion to the control green.

The Science Bit

The key difference between a normal “Please repair your pitchmarks” sign and the PSYgns is the introduction of a forward facing pair of eyes. Such eyes create binocular vision and are the standard format for any animal that has evolved to hunt and needs to evaluate the distance to its prey in absolute detail if it is to survive.

In contrast any animal that does not hunt for prey (e.g. cows/sheep) tends to have eyes on the side of their heads for better all-round vision (to see hunters coming) but at the expense of binocularity. The nerves running from their eyes link directly to primaeval warning systems in the brain that focus their attention on anything that might eat them.

Humans have evolved as BOTH the hunter and the hunted. Hence we have the forward facing binocular eyes but we also have the link to the warning systems that have evolved to ensure that we do not get eaten and live long enough to pass our genes to the next generation. One key element of this warning system is that it is especially primed to spot forwards facing eyes staring at us- as that could be the sabre tooth lion in the foliage that is getting ready to pounce.

These systems ensured that your ancestors lived long enough to pass their genes on and this warning system is still locked deep in our brains and switches us into full alert and focus mode whenever we notice we are under observation by such eyes- think how uncomfortable we feel when we notice someone we don’t know staring at us in a crowd.

PSYgns has developed a range of eyes that specifically evoke this feeling- not all eyes are equal and there was significant research behind the final choice of eyes used in this design- and it is this that drives the player to focus on the sign and the associated message. Because the eyes have such a powerful emotional impact studies have shown that it then drives the individual to react much more powerfully to the message on the sign. This study has clearly shown that this methodology can have a major impact on the golf course and reduce the level of pitchmark damage on the greens. SPL/Psygns could not find any precise evaluation of the cost to a club of unrepaired pitchmarks but it must have a significant impact on the perception that visitors have and the therefore a long term impact on green fees conversions to membership and loss of existing members.

As well as suggesting that clubs need to look at the PSYgns concept for the issue of pitchmarks SPL are convinced that the science is robust enough to indicate that they will also work well in other areas such as warning signs ( do not tee off until the green ahead is clear etc.).

SPL believe that this concept will appear on a course near you soon so don’t be surprised when you notice a pair of eyes staring at you as you walk to the green

Tired Golfers Cannot tell Left from Right
5/2/2015 5:09:50 PM
Study Shows that Tired Golfers Cannot Tell Left from Right

We have all had that feeling on the course that we do not have the energy and things just dont seem to work at all. Now research has shown that it might just be because the right hand of your brain stopps working as well as the left.
The RHS of the brain pays attention to the LEFT hand side of the world and vice versa. However when you are tired things that would normally appear on the left start to be perceived as being on the right.

This has important consequemnces for aiming especuially when you are lining up putts on the green. Breaks that might be on the left will be seen on the right so your chances of nailing that key putt are reduced significantly with tiredness.

There is nio magic solution but getting enough sleep before a big match is extrmely important.

Its noyt just sight but sounds that can also switch to the wrong side- so if someone shouts FORE lets hope they are not on your left.

TaylorMade Study
5/10/2014 8:13:08 PM

Some clubs just seem to reach out to you from the rack. What is that hidden alchemy that signals to you you that you just feel that this is the club to transform your game? All golfers have experienced that moment and it is so powerful that it must be a deep rooted psychological phenomenon. SPL is unlocking these hidden mysteries.

Stephen Smith is Chief psychologist for Sport Psychology Ltd and has worked with many leading sports people from winners of the Masters to Formula 1 racing teams. He explained “I was always more interested in what makes the average golfer tick than the superstar with talent that the rest of us can only dream of. I have taken the techniques  of equipment psychology from my other field as a business psychologist and looked to employ them to work out what is it that drives us to choose one piece of equipment over another”.

Stephen explained that the science of equipment design has been very advanced in the military and in high risk roles but not in sport. “I was rather shocked to find out that most sport psychologists have no knowledge of this science and that the major equipment manufacturers do not seem to use it either. When I was the chief Psychologist for a global oil organisation we would never use a piece of kit until we have thoroughly evaluated its psychological impact on users”.

Taylor Made Clubs – Up to18% More Confidence

Sport Psychology Ltd (SPL) has delivered  an independent study into the psychological confidence for TaylorMade Adidas Golf (TMAG) looking at  its  newest clubs for 2014. The results show that Taylor Made clubs reach the parts of golfer’s brains* that others do not.


Dr Bob Rotella said that “ Golf is a game of Confidence” so SPL have set out to examine what it is about specific club designs that gives golfers this level of innate confidence. In golf just 1% more confidence can be the difference between a great shot and disaster. SPL looked at the Anticipated Level of Confidence  (ALC) that The Jetspeed and SLDR designs gave to players compared to all other makes tested. The study looked at Drivers and Fairway Metals/Woods.

After rigorous research using the SPL PSY-kit protocol Taylor Made clubs were up to 18% higher in ALC ratings compared to the combined (average) scores for all other makes tested. There were significantly higher ratings for the Fairway Metals/woods (compared to other brands) than the drivers (when compared to other brands) though all were rated higher than combined scores for all other makes tested.

In previous studies by SPL, the fairway wood was perceived by 37.8% of golfers as the club that filled them with most fear. Whilst other manufacturers have been focussed on the driver, TaylorMade have invested in R&D that has helped to overcome this challenge. The Psychologists at SPL are convinced that this reflects the higher differential between the fairway woods/metals than the drivers when compared to other makes.

*How many brains does a golfer have?

*the study design was predicated on Triune Brain Theory and looked at the emotional impact of design on how a golfer truly felt about a club design. See below

The 3 Brain Model- Triune Brain Theory & Golf

If asked, most people will say they only have one brain- in reality this brain is split into 3 separate evolutionary elements, each of which could operate as a single entity, from the neck up we are:


1.       Reptilian/Lizard

2.      Mammalian

3.      Primate/human

The problem is that nature does not upgrade in the same way as a computer does. Nature leaves the old hardware and programming in place when it develops a new set and that leads to conflict between them.

Brain 1 ( reptile) is very basic but controls some very vital areas such as breathing, heart rate and how alert we are- which is why James Bond always knocks the bad guys out by hitting them on the back of the head and switching off the alertness areas under that part of the skull. It is also the area that will respond to visual danger cues such as large stretches of water- which can hide all sorts of dangers in terms of predators as well as the prospect of drowning.  A lot of these brains were very active at the 17th at Sawgrass.  On the upside when a player completely enters “The Zone” it is this brain that is dominant compared to the other two

However, in terms of club preferences this brain has little impact – it is the interaction between the upper 2 brains that is most important.

In all aspects of human life brain 2 (mammalian) and brain 3 (human/ primate) seem to be in constant conflict. In many ways these are analogous to the Self 1 and Self 2 voices that Timothy Galwey identified in his book “The Inner Game of Golf”.

Humans only consciously think with brain 3 and that is all about logic (which is why so many manufacturers concentrate on stats from Trackman and Flightscope). However, human decisions are emotional and driven by how we feel- which is owned by the sub conscious brain 2. This brain gets all the feeds from the key senses through cranial nerves (12 pairs of nerves that emerge directly from the brain and do not pass through the spinal cord) before the message reaches our conscious brain 3. Brain 2 acts as an emotional filter and it can have a huge impact on the way we feel about an object, a place or a person. This part of the brain holds the key neurological structures that drive our memory and our emotion. It is why we sometimes get a strong feeling about a place a person or an object that we cannot put into words using our logical brain 3- but we know that feeling is there.  The nerves from this part of the brain are directly linked to our heart and our gut which is why we have such strong “Gut feelings”.

This study shows that TaylorMade have gone someway to move their club design to a level that is driving a higher level of ALC in golfers – particularly around their fairway metal/wood offering.

At SPL we are convinced that manufacturers now have to build this important element into all their designs building on the science that exists in this area for other types of equipment design- particularly in the military and in high safety critical environments Acknowledgements

SPL would like to thank Surrey Downs Golf club for access to members and facilities and to also thank Stewart Golf for provision of a high quality neutral branding tour bag to present the clubs.


SPL was founded in 2000 (having operated since 1990 as Aspire). Its experts have worked with Major winning golfers, Leading amateur golf teams, Formula 1 teams, International rugby teams,Premier league football teams and Olympic athletes.

This leading UK Sport Psychology organisation now specialises in the design of sports equipment and sports venues. SPL is the psychology leader at combining sport psychology with equipment design and evaluation techniques first developed by the military and used in safety critical environments


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