“These students play every day, how can they not score in the 70’s?”
I was presented with this question when I was walking around a golf course observing students I worked with and saw regularly compete in a tournament. I’ll give my answer to the question later but for now let us look into this.
It may seem bizarre, but the psychology behind a pricing strategy and the ‘mystery’ of junior golf scores can be related. There is something extremely important we need to understand before jumping to conclusions immediately after a score is posted. My good friend Jonathan Pearson, from Cookridge Hall Golf Club, and I will discuss in a little more depth here.
It’s the final round of a junior tournament, it’s the last hole, (this particular player hasn’t posted a score in the 80’s all season) this player has a 5 ft. putt to make par, and post a 79. If the green is anything like the US Open then we might just see another Dustin Johnson finish. Thankfully the putt is holed and a 79 is posted. The sign of relief that you can see in the player’s eyes are astounding. The big eight zero is marginally missed and it seems, from our perspective, to feel great.
Shooting a 79 and the psychology of pricing, for example, $79.99, go hand in hand. When we see less than 80 bucks i.e. 79, the number 7 at the start of the price influences the way we perceive it. The same holds true for golf, the number 7 at the start of a score influences the way in which the golfer perceives it. Take a look at this psychology of pricing article:
Crazy right! But our brain can find it hard to differentiate at times so a better way could be to recognize that golf is what Daniel Pink, in his book Drive would describe as a ‘heuristic task’. It’s not a formula that that one follows to get a desired result. Rather it is a combination of problem-solving new tasks utilizing different skills to accomplish different goals.
Here’s the book – have a read.
It’s not only the players themselves that have a different perception when scoring 79, parents and coaches do too! If you post an 80 it’s 1 golf shot, big deal. Just like its 1-cent on $79.99. Acknowledge and understand how perception can work then reflect before going any further.
Let’s create an imaginary player and call them Timmy, from Leeds, United Kingdom (our home town). Timmy has a scoring average of 76 around his home golf course that he’s played for the past 2 years. He is now competing in a tournament at a different location and has posted his first round score of 80! Before Timmy or anyone related goes one step further and gets frustrated, we suggest these few things are reflected on first.
Is the golf course an appropriate length for Timmy? How old is he – biologically not chronologically? In this case, Timmy is biologically 9 years old with a chronological age of 13, meaning he’s distance doesn’t quite match the 6900-yard golf course he is competing on! And what does that mean? Driver and long irons all day, ironically the most difficult clubs a junior can hit. If Timmy and all junior golfers out there played an appropriate length course they would fuel their beliefs and abilities to ‘score’. Rather than transition their mindset from making 5,6 and 7’s to making birdies and pars – it will be just something they already know – encouraging the process.
Jonathan has devoted a full article on appropriate length golf courses on his website. Check out his website here to read the full article:
What is the average score for the field? In this case, it is 77 (5 over course par). Player Timmy’s typical scoring of 5 over par is now being reflected in the difficulty of the course, in which case is not necessarily bad but is what he usually shoots.
Has Timmy played this golf course before? If so how many times? In this case Timmy has played twice, 1 practice round and now 1 playing round, not 2 years worth of rounds. Timmy doesn’t have the accessible knowledge and experience of the golf course that others in the field may have.
By taking all this information into account it is much easier for Timmy, and some others, to digest the ’80’. Soon all will see that it’s actually around, if not slightly better than his current skill level and will only improve over time with more training, competition and playing experience.
Jonathan has a very successful way of working with junior golfers considering he does it every day, and he’s creating a hotbed of talented young individuals. He creates size appropriate courses for the junior golfers he works with and matches skill levels accordingly. It makes it more fun, more interesting and is something we should encourage and promote everywhere.