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Study: Golfers know practice helps, but they don't do it

Industrial/organizational psychology research

Golfers buy new clubs, but they don't practice, psychology prof says.

By Chad Courrier, Free Press Staff Writer [published in The Free Press, Mankato, MN, 7/17/2011]

You’re a 20-handicapper with $1,000 to spend on your golf game.

You know that a series of lessons would probably be the best way to take strokes off your score, but a new driver and a shiny set of irons would look pretty sweet as you discuss the upcoming round with your buddies on the first tee.

“Golfers know that it’s better to take lessons, but they don’t do it,” said Dr. Dan Sachau, the director of the graduate program in industrial/organizational psychology at Minnesota State. “They know they should have custom-fitted clubs, but most of us don’t do that, either.”

In 2010, Sachau and former grad student Luke Simmering did a study on how golfers thought they could improve their game, then compared that to data that suggested that golfers rarely follow up with that plan, generally purchasing new, better technology to overcome swing flaws.

“Everyone knows if you want to improve your scores, you should practice your short game,” he said. “But if you look out at the practice range, what’s everyone hitting? Drivers. It just looks better.”

Sachau and Simmering, who’s now working on his Ph.D. at Louisiana Tech, surveyed 1,700 golfers throughout the United States to see how they could save strokes for every 18-hole round. The average person responding to the survey was a male, 54 years old, with a 14-handicap who plays 53 rounds per year.

The data suggests that golfers know that lessons from a club pro are the best way to cut strokes, 3.1 for 18 holes, and they also feel that custom-fitted clubs would save 3.0 strokes. But additional practice ranked behind new clubs.

“People try to find the perfect driver or perfect shafts,” Mankato Golf Club pro Mike Zinni said. “They try to improve their games through technology instead of working on a better swing.”

For the complete Free Press story, see Sunday's print edition, or read The Free Press e-edition at

For more information about Minnesota State Mankato's master's degree in industrial/organizational psychology, go to

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