Study Confirms Importance of Confidence in Putting Success

Many experiments over the years have been done to test the psychology of putting and, specifically, whether confidence in one's putting has a quantifiably positive effect on a golfer's putting success. One of our favorites was done back in 2011 and reported on by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The experiment involved the psychology of putting: If a golfer believes he is using a "special" putter, will his putting improve?

In this case, the putter was one the researchers purchased — an expensive, top-of-the-line putter. But some of the golfers in the study were told nothing about the putter, while others were told that it was a putter that belonged to Ben Curtis. Curtis, at the time, was much better known than he is today. But he won the 2003 British Open and for many years was one of the best putters on the PGA Tour.

So half the golfers stepped up to take 10 putts thinking they were just using a nice putter. The other half took 10 putts believing they were using Ben Curtis' putter.

The results? The golfers who thought they were using a tour pro's putter made more putts. On average, those who were told they were putting with Ben Curtis' flatstick were 15-percent better than the other group.

The moral? Get your hands on a putter that once belonged to a tour pro! Or, more realistically, convince yourself you are using such a putter. Yes, both of those objectives are difficult to pull off. But it's just a little quantitative proof of what golfers have always known: Confidence plays a huge role in putting success.

The AAAS, in a blog post that once appeared on its website, added this:

"The experiment doesn't show why (the improvement in putting results) happens. It could be a placebo effect, whereby something works because you think it's going to, or the golfers might have done well because they were thinking about Curtis and his excellent putting skills.

"In sports, confidence is a big deal, says Mark Beauchamp, a sport and exercise psychologist at the University of British Columbia in Canada. Generally, when people are more confident in their ability to perform a skill, they do better. 'If someone has confidence in this putter's ability to help them perform,' he says, 'that might bolster their own confidence'."

Or, as Chi Chi Rodriguez once said, "I've heard people say putting is 50 percent technique and 50 percent mental. I really believe it is 50 percent technique and 90 percent positive thinking. See, but that adds up to 140 percent, which is why nobody is 100 percent sure how to putt."

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