The effects of avoidant instructions on golf putting proficiency and kinematics

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Abstract

Objectives:

Although the effects of avoidant or negative instructions on skilled performance in sport has received little research attention, de la Pena, Murray, and Janelle (2008) reported recently that novice golfers who were instructed not to leave a putt short of a circle, overcompensated by leaving their putts significantly longer than at baseline, and vice versa. It is unclear, however, whether athletes' propensity to engage in over-compensatory behaviour is affected by their level of expertise.

Design:

To address this unresolved issue, the present study investigated the influence of avoidant instructions on golfers' putting stroke proficiency (i.e., as measured by an index of putting performance and the direction in which putts are missed) and on their putting stroke performance (as measured by motion analysis).

Methods:

14 high-skilled and 14 low-skilled golfers were required to putt from a distance of 2.5 m on a sloped surface which caused the ball to move left-to-right as it approached the hole. All participants performed in a condition in which they were given no instructions and in a condition in which they were instructed not to miss a putt in a specific direction (i.e., left or right of the hole).

Results:

High-skilled golfers' overall putting proficiency was unaffected by avoidant instructions. In contrast, low-skilled golfers' performance was significantly degraded due to disruption of certain kinematic features of their putting stroke (e.g., putter path and forward-swing times).

Conclusions:

Over-compensatory behaviour was more prevalent amongst low-skilled than high-skilled golfers. Theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed.

Highlights

▸ We examined the influence of avoidant instructions on golfers' putting performance. ▸ Over-compensatory behaviour was more prevalent amongst low-skilled golfers. ▸ This was accompanied by disruption to kinematic features of their putting strokes. ▸ Skilled performers should avoid the use of negative self-instructions.

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