Which Music Helps You Putt Better?
By Torleif Sorenson on 11/13/14
This classically-trained musician (cello, double-bass, six-string "contrabass" guitar) can tell you that the effect that music can have on individuals is pretty well beyond any other form of fine art — both good and bad. But according to five researchers led by Timothy Baghurst, PhD at Oklahoma State University, your choice of music can make a big difference, should you choose to practice putting to music.

Explaining things here (a little bit, anyway) is Ali Boolani, an assistant professor at Clarkson University:



Dr. Baghurst and his team test 22 golfers (eight men and 14 women) from two NCAA Division I golf programs in the midwestern United States. The available styles of music in the test included classical, country, jazz, rock, and hip-hop / rap, as well as without music. The results might surprise you:



Participants listening to jazz scored higher than any other genre. Hilariously, practicing with no music produced better results than listening to rock music. Not surprisingly, the men fared worse when listening to hip-hop and rap. Also noteworthy (no pun intended) is that the researchers decided not to learn the preferences of each participant.

But this musician and writer wishes to point out the specific music or artists the researcher chose within each genre:

  • Classical: Beethoven Symphony No. 5

  • Country: Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town, Jason Aldean

  • Jazz: Louis Armstrong, Sade, Norah Jones

  • Rock: Shinedown, 3 Doors Down, Paramore

  • Hip-hop / Rap: Usher, Eminem, Lil' Wayne
The report summary (PDF) makes for some interesting reading, but leaves out several critical details:

Classical music

The report does not explain whether or not Beethoven's fifth symphony was the only classical selection used — or even which movements! The famous opening movement is particularly powerful, but it is in a minor key — and with particular angst. How would the golfers have done with the opening movement of Beethoven 6?

How well would the golfers have putted while listening to something less weighty, such as Mozart's Flute Concerto No. 1, which is in a major key? Or Mozart's otherworldly Ave verum corpus? For good measure, the "putting music" should also include some piano music by Frédéric Chopin and some of the Nocturnes by the Irish composer John Field.

And just for really good measure, I would love to see how they would do with Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring!"

Jazz

First off, Norah Jones is considered a bit more pop than jazz, no matter how organic her records may be. And Sade??!! Seriously? She fits squarely into pop and "smooth jazz" — not traditional or modern jazz! As far as Louis Armstrong goes, the styles and sub-genres within his discography vary rather markedly. If the researchers chose just "What a Wonderful World," then they blew it because that's pop — not real jazz.

How would the participants have putted to "So What" from the seminal Miles Davis album Kind of Blue? For that matter, how would they have putted to Larry Carlton's double-time reading of "So What"?

How much worse would the participants have putted while listening to "YYZ" by Rush, or even some brain-bending fusion by the pioneering group Weather Report?

Would the participants have stormed off the putting green in a rage if they were subjected to "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" by Poison? Would they putt better while listening to a smooth jazz version of "Enter Sandman" by Metallica?

Dr. Baghurst did said that the sample of 22 golfers was a bit small and that their conclusion was that further research would be nice. This writer agrees — but next time, include some experienced musicians (like this writer) who can "drill down" further into the musical genres that actually work?


Study summary (PDF)

Have you seen an interesting golf story? Tell us about it!


[ comments ]
joe jones says:
I was playing with a Grandpa and his teen age Grandson.The boy was having trouble with any kind of rhythm and asked me if I would help him. I suggested a nice waltz beat like 1-2-3. 1-2-3.The boy looked at me like I was completely off my gourd,the old man doubled over with laughter and said "he has no bleeping idea what a waltz is". My question. How can a tempo from a rap song possibly help someone putt better?
11/13/14
 
Torleif Sorenson says:
Good question. IMHO, most rap barely even qualifies as "music" now that Kurtis Blow is off the radar. As for the teenage kid who had never heard of a waltz, that serves as a scathing indictment of music education in some public school districts.
11/13/14
 
legitimatebeef says:
I agree with Joe--a 3/4 or 6/8 time-signature seems to jive better with the rhythm of a golf stroke. During a round I like to sing "Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want" by the Smiths. "Good swings, for a change/See the rounds I've had/can make a good man turn bad..."
11/13/14
 
Jattruia says:
Just curious...what was the last 'rap' album you listened to?
11/13/14
 
legitimatebeef says:
What's an "album"?
11/13/14
 
Jattruia says:
Just trying to speak Tor's and Joe's language here.
11/13/14
 
jasonfish11 says:
Maybe rap makes some people put better because they want to get off the green quicker so they can shut it off?

I can't say much for the newer rap but the older stuff might be somewhat helpful.

Children's Story by Slick Rick is essentially a bed time story. Those can be relaxing.

Regulate by Warren G reminds you that you need to be handy with the steal (if you know what I mean) to earn your keep.

Break Ya Neck by Busta Rhymes could remind you that your biggest problem while putting is head movement.
11/13/14
 
homermania says:
Listening to Elton John's Tumbleweed Connection album before a round usually puts me in just the right mindset for a good rhythm.
11/13/14
 
jasonfish11 says:
Also there are some major sample concerns, given that the data gathered is from 22 people all division 1 golfers, who are located in 2 midwest school. Trying to sample something from those people and extrapolate it to all golfers is next to impossible.
11/13/14
 
Torleif Sorenson says:
Jason makes a good point. Dr. Baghurst already admitted in the report that the player pool was limited, so we don't know how men and women from SoCal would fare against players from Seattle, versus a bunch of Boston Brahmins, versus Floridians, versus some Scandinavians from my neck of the woods.
11/13/14
 
Torleif Sorenson says:
Beef: "What's an album?" Ouch. Good one - 1,000 points.
11/13/14
 
joe jones says:
Tor. By yumpin yimminy. My name is Jones but the maternal side was Iversen. You betcha!
11/13/14
 
brianmk24 says:
There isn't a place by the putting green to plug in a turntable and put on an LP or a 45.
Jazz is the clear winner in this study, but is it because of the rhythm or because the subjects prefer it? I feel like I could putt fine with hiphop/rap because it relaxes me/gets me in a positive mood, even if it would be a terrible tempo for putting.

Disclaimer: Yes, I'm white and 34, but I do know what an album/record is and had a turntable on my stereo in college.
11/13/14
 
falcon50driver says:
Too many unmentioned variables. What were the music preferences of the subjects? Some music puts me in a great mood, some would only be useful in a torture chamber.
11/14/14
 
SpaceMaNy0 says:
First world problems....
11/14/14
 
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