Does the way you perceive a putter's looks impact its performance?

The majority of you believe it does. A putter has to look good, to perform well. Am I right?

If a golfer doesn't like the way his putter looks, he's going to miss a comparatively higher number of putts. For many of you, that's the undisputed gospel truth.

In a recent survey we posted on Twitter, 78% of respondents told us that a putter's looks absolutely impact how the putter performs.

looks-poll

Seventy freakin' eight percent. That's massive. It's a huge number to overcome, but hopefully, we can convince some of you that this particular perception might not be reality. Accepting as much could open your eyes to an abundance of putters you may not have considered. Who knows, your game might end up better for it.

About Our Data

ketsch-looks-perf

At the beginning of this year's putter tests, we asked each participating golfer to rate the looks of each putter in the test on a scale of 1 to 10.  At the conclusion of testing, we compared the aesthetic ranking to the actual performance of each putter. The goal was to better understand what, if any, impact Looks (or the perceptions thereof) have on performance.

Do golfers really putt better with putters they believe are better-looking? Here's what we found out.

Group Average: Looks vs. Performance

The chart below compares the five top-rated putters for Looks to the actual performance rank for those selections. Rankings include all golfers who participated in this season's Most Wanted Putter tests. It should be noted that these rankings include both blades and mallets.

Observations:

  • Only two of the Top 5 ranked putters for Looks finished in the Top 10 for Performance.
  • The average performance rank for the putters ranked in the Top 5 for Looks is 18.8.
  • Although mallets were included in the survey, the Top 5 is comprised exclusively of blades.

GROUP AVERAGES: PERFORMANCE vs. LOOKS

In the chart below we examine the average Looks rankings for our Top 5 performing putters of 2016.

Observations:

  • The average Looks rating for the Top 5 performing putters in this year's test was 31.8.
  • None of the Top 5 performing putters was ranked higher than 10 for Looks.
  • While no mallets were listed among the Top 5 rated putters for Looks, 3 of the Top 5 performing putters were mallets.
  • The Odyssey White Hot RX  (ranked 10th) was the most highly-rated putter, on average, for looks among the Top 5 performers.

INDIVIDUAL Top-Rated for Looks vs. Actual Performance

The chart below lists the putters selected as the best-looking by each tester. The bar graph reflects the actual performance rank for that preferred putter. For example, Tester #1 felt the PING Ketsch Heavy was the best-looking putter in this test, however; with regards to actual performance, it ranked 11th overall for Tester #1.

Observations:

  • For five testers, the top rated putter for looks actually performed the best.
  • For 15 testers, the top rated putter for looks was not the best performing.
  • The average performance rank for the individual top-rated putters for looks is 12.35
  • Of 20 testers, only two ranked a mallet #1 for Looks.

INDIVIDUAL TOP-Performing vs. Looks Rank

The chart below lists the Top-Performing putter for each of the 20 testers in this season's test. The bars reflect the Looks ranking each tester assigned to his best performing putter. For example, The Odyssey White Hot RX 2-Ball was the best performing putter for Tester #1. However, he ranked the putter 22nd overall for Looks.

Observations:

  • Five testers felt their top-performing putter was also the best looking.
  • 10 testers listed their top-performing putter among their 10 top choices for Looks.
  • A given individual's top-performing putter was, on average, ranked 15.35 for Looks.

Do looks actually influence putter performance?

When we look at the averages across all testers and all putters, the answer is a definitive no.

4 of the Top 5 performing putters of 2016 were rated in the bottom half of the field for looks. As a group, our testers ranked the #1 performing putter from the 2016 test 38th for looks. Furthermore, three of the Top 5 rated putters for Looks finished outside the top 20 for performance.

While it's true that five testers did putt best with their top choices for Looks, in the majority of those cases, the putter chosen as best-looking on an individual basis was one that performed well across the entire test pool. Simply put, the putters performed well for testers who loved the way they looked as well as the testers who didn't.

In fact, where there is some suggestion of correlation, the individually top-rated putter for Looks finished inside the Top 10 for Performance across all testers.

As the chart shows, it was not uncommon for an individual's top-performing putter to be ranked well below the average for Looks.

In those cases where performance and the perception of good looks appear to align, it's almost certainly a coincidence, not causation. Those putters didn't perform well because individual testers found them visually appealing; more accurately, some testers happened to like the looks of what were proven, by the larger group, to be very good putters. It's also true that many testers gave low aesthetic marks to the mallets that proved to be among the very best performers this season.

But Have You Considered...

We know. Nothing we've shown you today has changed your mind. You remain convinced that looks absolutely matter. You believe that you can't play well if the putter doesn't look good. And despite the fact that year after year we find no significant correlation between the perception of good looks and the reality of good performance, some of you will continue to insist otherwise.

Golfers believe plenty of things that have little basis in reality. That's fine. It's your game.

But have you, even for a moment, considered that you might be wrong? Maybe the best putter isn't the one whose looks you love. Instead of a perfect 10, why not consider an 8, or even a 7. With an open mind and some quantitative data, the results may very well surprise you.