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Golfers can improve putting game with their mind

Study suggests just imagining larger target helps

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – A new study by Purdue University found golfers hoping to improve their putting may benefit from imagining the hole is larger than it is.

"People in our study made more successful putts in a smaller hole when a visual illusion helped them perceive it as larger," said Jessica Witt, an assistant professor of psychological science.  "Seeing a target as larger leads to improved performance."

In the study, 36 participants putted to two different-sized holes while a projector displayed a ring of smaller and larger circles around each hole to create an optical illusion making the hole appear larger or smaller.  When the hole appeared larger, the golfers putted about 10 percent more successfully.

Previous research has found softball players who hit the ball better saw it as bigger, and people who successfully kicked a football through the goal posts perceived the target as larger.

"A future goal is to develop techniques to help athletes see their target differently," Witt said. "Effects of these visual illusions will then lead to improvements in performance."