A current study by UK-based Sport Psychology Ltd (SPL) sheds an interesting light on the classic personality typology in golfers and the way it impacts their choice of equipment brand.
The study is still collecting data, but SPL has released an early set of findings, which seems to indicate that golfers, as a group, make up a specific subset of humanity, and tend to be introverted, visionary and value-driven idealists; an eyebrow-raising result which is far from the stereotypical personality type as previously thought.
SPL Chief Psychologist, Stephen Smith, stated:
“I had assumed that the spread of these famous personality factors was identical in golfers to the years of data that has been collected about the general population; that simply is not the case. I had anticipated, minimal differences but some were eye-wateringly huge. This study has significant implications for all golf bodies that are working to increase the popularity of the game in non-golfers. Not only are there clear differences in values and perceptions this data lends credence to the evidence that the issue is not attracting people to golf but keeping them when they come up against the typical long-standing player”
In the study’s survey, SPL asked golfers to indicate which was their favourite brand. They also were asked to self-classify their preferred personality type against classic Jungian factors*:
- Introvert vs Extravert
- Pragmatic vs Visionary
- Logical Vs Idealist
(*The 4th Pairing (structured versus spontaneous) was not used in this study.)
Typically, in the general population, Introversion and Extraversion are evenly split with a tiny leaning towards introverts at between 50% and 51% of people (data has been collected globally for 80+ years and little variation has been noted). In the golfers in this study, however, a whopping 74.8% identified as Introverts. Introverts prefer their own company or to be in very small groups of people they know well – they do not generally enjoy meeting new people.
This could explain why many non-golfers believe that golf is an “elitist” and “non-welcoming” sport. It could also explain the results of the MSc dissertation of J. Walker – University of Birmingham & PGA Professional; who demonstrated that many new golfers loved the ‘Academy’ experience but were put off the game forever by their contact with existing golf club members. Walker is continuing to investigate this area in an ongoing doctorate.
Similarly, it may explain why many believe it can be challenging to break into the ‘inner circle’ in a new club, and why ‘Buddies’ tend to play with each other and no one else.
“All this behaviour is what any psychologist would expect of an introvert-dominated society or culture and there are no judgements here – it’s not right or wrong. It is, however, extremely difficult for any overseeing body to create a successful attraction formula to grow the game- it must take into account that the way golfers behave and communicate ans a group may be different to the best way to influence and attract new players who may be from a different behavioural sector, with different values and needs in the way they take on board information,” Smith says.
If the results of the study are proven correct and valid, then it highlights the fact that even if a club has a successful program of attracting new members, it will thus need to address the experience that new members get.
“First impressions count and golf can utilise Behavioural Insight science and psychology to gently change behaviours in golf to ensure it is a good one for all aspiring golfers”, Smith notes. “As Walker showed, the psychological experience and ‘Joy’ of the attraction programme will be quickly undermined by the next step in a new golfer’s journey and that is the area that golf has to concentrate on if it truly wants to see a return on investment in any attraction programmes.”
In the category of “Pragmatics, Visionaries, Logicals & Idealists”, the differences were clear but not nearly as profound as the Introvert/Extravert differences. However, it was noted that golfers were more visionary than seen in the general population and there were far more value-driven idealists than there were Logicals. This would suggest that the way that golf equipment manufacturers are marketing to golfers may not actually be hitting their customers’ sweet spots. The majority of golfers may actually make their final decision based on their values and ideals and be much more subjective in the way they evaluate golf equipment and brands.
The survey is still live at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1DRJEus-dBx6FCFB6tyzB9samdB7svC9G7kkTo6cpXpc