What do our eyes look at in the subsequent putt after a miss?

It’s a Saturday afternoon, the sun is out, little wind, a perfect afternoon for golf. But on the first hole, you miss a 6 foot down-hill putt and it finishes 4 feet past the hole. You’re a little tentative approaching the next putt, as starting with 3 putts is a recipe for a poor round.

Rosanna Walters-Symons, Mark Wilson and Sam Vine set out to discover where our eyes look on the subsequent putt following a miss.

Research consistently shows that successful golf putting is associated with longer fixations to a location on the ground (i.e., where the ball is) following execution of the stroke. In other words, better golfers tend to keep their head down for longer when putting. The duration of the final fixation prior to executing the skill is referred to as “quiet eye”.

Most of the quiet eye research has focused on comparing experts with less skilled athletes, or comparing successful with unsuccessful performances. The Water-Symons et al study differed as they specifically assessed quiet eye in the subsequent putt following a miss.

The study

18 golfers with single figure handicaps and 21 novice golfers participated in the study. All participants were required to achieve 5 successful and 5 unsuccessful putts from 10 feet.

Key finding

Consistent with previous studies, the skilled golfers displayed a longer quiet eye than the novices.

Following a miss, participants either displayed a longer quiet eye, which was associated with successful putts, or a shorter quiet eye, which was associated with another miss.

Quiet eye error recovery

Extracted from Walters-Symons et al. (2017)

Recommendation

Next Saturday afternoon when you’re making that 4 foot putt back up the hill, try your best to maintain the “quiet eye”!

Reference

Walters-Symons, R. M., Wilson, M. R., & Vine, S. J. (2017). The quiet eye supports error recovery in golf putting. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 31, 21-27.

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