Research by doctoral psychology student featured in Golf Digest

Jul 24, 2011 | Education and Human Sciences, Research and Development

Luke Simmering, an industrial and organizational psychology doctoral student at Louisiana Tech University, and his research into the strokes that avid golfers perceive they would save by purchasing certain types and brands of golf equipment is being featured in the August issue of Golf Digest.
The research is centered around a survey administered to more than 1,700 golfers by Simmering and co-investigator Dr. Dan Sachau, director of the graduate program in industrial and organizational psychology at Minnesota State University.  Subjects were queried about how many strokes they believed various equipment purchases and investments would save them.
“It was interesting to look at the gap between attitudes and behaviors,” said Simmering.  “Though golfers seem to realize the benefits of taking lessons or spending time practicing, golfers spend around $1.4 billion a year on golf equipment and only $205 million on taking lessons.  We suggested that the path of least resistance may be occurring, that is, golfers choose to purchase new equipment because it is easier than committing to taking lessons.”
The average survey respondent reported a 14 handicap and thought lessons from a golf pro, custom-fitted clubs and extra rounds played were of the greatest benefit.  Respondents believed that custom clubs in particular could reduce scores by as many as three strokes per round.  Conversely, subscriptions to a golfing publications and golf shoes rated lowest in the survey.
“What’s funny is that Dr. Sachau and I are both guilty of buying the new shiny clubs, rather than taking lessons, so this project was also partly ‘me-search,’” Simmering said.
According to the article in Golf Digest, when asked to imagine they had $1,000 available to prepare for an important tournament, the average survey respondent said they would spend $525 on lessons, $300 on practice rounds and $175 on new equipment.
The article also states that although the respondents perceived a benefit in the equipment purchases, the overriding view was that instruction as well as practicing and playing are the most effective ways to improve one’s game.
Simmering says that he and Sachau are continuing to work with Max Adler, author of the Golf Digest article, on conducting future research studies to include in the magazine.
“We are currently working on another study for Golf Digest developing a scale to measure golfer integrity.  They seem to enjoy the interface between psychology and golf, probably because golf is such a head game.  Hopefully Dr. Sachau and I will be regular contributors to the magazine.”
Following his doctoral studies, Simmering hopes to work in the field of employee selection, specifically researching personality assessments used for executive selections.  However, he expects to set aside time to do fun studies like the ones for Golf Digest.
“Training in assessment, statistics, and general psychological principles provide a good framework to perform studies across an array of topics.”