Is There Any Reason Why Golf Hole Liners (the Cups) are White?

scene on putting green showing white hole liner or cup

Picture the cup on the golf green. Inside the hole on the putting green you will find a cup, or liner, usually plastic these days but sometimes metal. Inevitably, it is either manufactured in the color of white, or painted white post-production. Why? Is there any reason at all that the cup liners are white?

Yes! The answer is television.

The first national television broadcasts of professional golf tournaments were in the 1950s, and the period of the 1950s and 1960s was full of innovations in how to show golf on TV. The greatest innovator in televised golf was Frank Chirkinian, who for decades was the producer of golf telecasts for the American network CBS.

Chirkinian realized that on the black-and-white broadcasts of the late 1950s/early 1960s, usually shown on quite small television screens of the era, it was difficult for TV viewers to make out the golf hole. Many times, golfers appeared to be putting at ... nothing. Nothing that was easily discernible on the TV screens of the time, anyway.

In the early 1960s, Chirkinian came up with a solution. When CBS visited a golf course to set up its production, he began asking the golf course superintendents to paint all the cups (hole liners) white. The bright, white paint would make the golf hole stand out on television screens. The hole now popped when a camera panned the putting green or when a golfer set up to make a putting stroke.

Painting the hole liners white, it was soon discovered, also helped the golfers themselves see the hole better. And so, very quickly, the practice of painting cup liners white spread throughout golf. Soon, the manufacturers of the cups just started making them white from the start.

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