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PSygns Reduce Pitchmarks by 80%
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)

Green

Unrepaired Pitchmarks

A- control green

1.00

B- study green

0.97

 

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

Green

Ratios compared to original control green

% change compared to 0riginal count

A- control green

1.27

+27%

B- study green

0.47

-51%

Difference

NA

78%

 

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



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