Sport Psychology
Psychology By Design
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Its the Neanderthal in the Golfer that Courses Need to Please

The importance of evolution and its impact on neurological structures and design is key to the way that humans make choices. We all like to think that we are incredibly advanced and intelligent but the reality is that there are primaeval elements of the human brain that are still present and drive our behaviour with incedible potency. It's these ancient parts of the brain that need to be  need to be activated to ensure a client feels comfortable and secure in any venue. So exactly what parts of the brain does a venue need to light up? This leads to the question “How many brains does a golfer have?” You may think that you have only one brain but psychologists know that you actually have three! Each one representing a critical stage in human evolution.

1.    Reptile/Amphibian Brain

2.    Mammalian Brain

3.    Human/Primate Brain

Psychologists know this as triune brain theory.

You can think of this as 3 new computers each new one a lot more advanced than the one that existed before. 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 version and that leads to conflict between them. Each brain wants to take control and this has a major impact on why we choose to love or loathe certain locations.

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, switching off the alertness areas under that part of the skull. You can be sure that this is the part of the brain that lights up whenever you have a difficult shot over water- think of the 17th at Sawgrass. This part of the brain recognises danger and “There be monsters in that pond”. When a customer does not get a positive experience this brain begins to light up and switches the others to ‘Warning’ mode. However, this is all reliant on the signals it gets from brains 2 and 3 and they are key to the golfer ’Experience’.

In all aspects of human life brain 2 (mammalian) and brain 3 (human/ primate) seem to be in constant conflict. Humans only consciously think with brain 3 and that is all about logic and rules- great for engineers and mathematical wizards but not so useful when trying to design something that plugs into the emotional aspects of human thinking.  Emotions and feelings are critical to human decisions and this aspect of our mind is completely owned by the sub conscious brain 2.  We talk about winning ‘Hearts and Minds’ when we really mean winning the battle between brain 2 (the heart) and brain 3 (the mind). Brain 2 is unique in that this brain gets all the feeds from the key senses through the cranial nerves. These are 12 pairs of nerves that emerge directly from the brain (and do not pass through the spinal cord) and process the data before the message reaches our conscious brain 3. Importantly all the nerves from our senses run through this emotional junction box. Brain 2 acts as an emotional filter and it can have a huge impact on the way we feel about an object, a person and (vitally) a place. 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 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”. Importantly it is vital in creating habits- including the ‘habit’ of going back to one golf venue rather than another.

For any golf venue to be successful it must be designed (and run) to ensure that it illuminates the key parts of brain 2 that drive our emotions and habit forming memories. In essence these locations need to make brain 2 ‘Fall in love’ as the parts of the brain that drive our decisions about a place also drive our decisions about people. At SPL we have been building this into our scientific protocols to ensure we get a detailed measurement of the impact a golf venue makes on brain 2. 

For over 12 years we have measured the emotional experience created by golf courses  across the globe. We have used psychometric techniques to create the Golf Experience Psychometric -The GxP-. This enables us to give any course a precised measurement of where it stands against the wide reange of psychological factors that impact golfers when they come to that venue.
wnat to get yoir course evaluated?
Contact our Chief Psychologist on
or call +00 (0)7806794527 (UK)

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