A Birdie in the Hand: Asymmetry in Golf Risk Preferences

Document Type


Publication Date



This study tested whether recreational golfers would prefer to take greater risk when faced with likely losses than with likely gains. Over 2100 avid golfers made choices where gains and losses were framed in reference to par. Based on Prospect Theory, it was predicted that golfers would choose to take more risk when faced with likely losses (bogeys) than likely gains (birdies). The study also tested whether player deliberation, trait risk-taking, and player ability would moderate the bias. Consistent with prediction, players were willing to take greater risk with bogeys than pars or birdies. When players were asked to identify the “smart” course of action, they chose the less risky option. Golfers scoring high on trait risk-taking were generally willing to accept more golf risk than players scoring low on the scale for birdies, pars and bogeys. Low handicap (high ability) players were willing to accept more risk playing for a likely bogey than were high handicap (low ability) players.



Publication Title

International Journal of Golf Science