Why are so many professional golfers still wearing wrist bands that have been deemed a scam?
At the British Open in July, it was suggested that around 25% of all players (and caddies) were wearing some form or another of the power balance wristbands. Just watching recent golf tournaments on TV, I’d be inclined to say the number is probably much higher. More like 50% of the field.
Power Balance admitted their wristbands have no scientific basis at all and the Australian website of the charade has now been shut down. The tricks used to show their magic has been shown to be nothing more than applied kinesiology in a number of online videos; the most famous and succinct by Richard Saunders. In short, any enhanced performance from these pieces of plastic is only due to the placebo effect.
So what is going on? With access to the best technology, physiotherapists and psychologists, why are so many professional golfers still wearing them?
Any professional golfers who are wearing the wristbands expecting some magical process to help their balance, increase their power or help their ball striking, are simply delusional. But some golfers may actually be well aware that the rubber bands do nothing more than induce the placebo effect, and are simply wearing them for that very reason.
But you don’t need a $50 power band to get the placebo effect.
Fuzzy Zoeller got the placebo effect from a coin, Tiger Woods used to get it via a red shirt on Sunday’s, and Jesper Parnevik gets it from just about anything, having more superstitions than a Stevie Wonder song.
Golf equipment will also induce the placebo effect too of course. We all know how great it is to have new clubs in the bag and the feeling that your golf game will be better for it. And sometimes it is, which for the most part is due to the new equipment itself, but you also get the added placebo effect, free of charge.
But at least there is some element of physical truth to new golf equipment. Longer shafts, more dimples, softer cores. There is possibly even some truth to the new white driver’s giving better performance due to better contrast and depth perception as you look down at the ball.
Like Tiger’s red shirt, the placebo effect can be very real if you just go out in a new pair of pants or a nice looking shirt. But at least these things don’t pretend to be anything other than what they are. Apart from only one instance I can remember, no golf brands have tried to sell shirts, clubs or balls based on holographic, ionic or natural frequency nonsense.
But in addition to Power Balance admitting their wristbands do not work in the way they were promoted, they have also admitted to paying athletes to endorse and wear the products. This works as a clever marketing ploy, enticing non-professional athletes and their kids to fork out for the $50 wristbands.
I don’t have a problem with promoting aesthetically pleasing pants, golf bags or bracelets for that matter. But when they are paid to knowingly promote products which do not work in the way they are promoted, this is irresponsible.
What’s the harm?
The harm is predominantly in a golfer’s pocket. Weekend and junior golfers are forking out $50 for what is nothing more than a rubber band.
It astounds me that professional golfers, with access to limitless resources and the best psychologists in the business would resort to such superficial nostra. Whether professional athletes like it or not, they are looked up to and emulated by kids who watch their every move. And while a $50 plastic wristband is small change to these guys, it’s the price of a golf lesson for your weekend hacker.
There is another, potentially more harmful problem which leads to a very slippery slope. Once one form of quackery is acceptable for elite athletes to sell to the unknowing, much poorer masses, where will it end?
Take back responsibility
Like it or not, Tour golfers are in a position of influence. Take for example the charity work some of these guys do. Some of them play charity events or take time out to help raise money for some truly great causes. The time and money invested for medical research and assistance to those suffering, is truly understated.
The first thing many of them should do right now is ditch the plastic and show that golf success is not something you can buy based on quackery.
Golf fans can then save the money for something that can actually help their game. A golf lesson, new shoes, or a brand new red shirt perhaps. On second thought, maybe red isn’t the best choice right now.