Tiger Woods sees a golf course differently than you do

PsyBlog writes about an interesting perceptual difference in how good golfers and bad golfers see the course.

Jessica K. Witt, an assistant professor at Purdue University, found that golfers who play well are more likely to actually see a bigger hole.

Witt’s research team conducted three experiments. In the first, 46 golfers were asked to estimate the size of the hole after they played a round of golf. The diameter of a golf hole is 10.8 centimeters. The golfers selected one of nine black holes from a poster that ranged in size from 9-13 centimeters. Those who selected larger holes were the same players who had better scores on the course that day.

Economists have spent years trying to show that the “hot hand” is a myth in sports, basketball in particular. “Hot” shooters often say the basket just looked bigger to them that night. After scoring 55 against the Hornets in 2003, Allen Iverson invoked the pelagic metaphor, always a popular one:

“I just caught a rhythm,” Iverson said. “I got in one of those rhythms where the basket looks like an ocean and I was just throwing rocks in it.”

Witt’s research suggests he probably wasn’t kidding. Who knew an athlete’s cliché could tell us so much?

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