Once upon a time I knew a professional who, despite being a prodigious ball-striker, never became well known beyond our little neck of the woods. He hit the ball long and straight, nearly every time. These were towering shots, the kind that made you stop on the range and just watch, and they came with almost Moe Norman-like repetitive ease. Despite his near generational talent, his name never became household, but a breakdown in his machine-like ball-striking wasn’t to blame. It was the smallest, simplest of golf shots that kept that professional from the annals of golfing legends. Short putts, and the affliction known as the yips.
Aaaah, those maddening short putts, and that scourge upon humanity known as the yips. The yips affect golfers of every ability, professional or amateur, in situations ranging from PGA Tour Events to $2 Nassaus at the local muni. And they’re not just a golfer’s affliction, as the term has become ubiquitous with struggles in baseball, basketball, football, tennis, cricket, and even darts. Don’t know what the yips are? Well, then I advise you, no I implore you, to click back to that “What’s in the Bag” article you skipped over or something similarly innocuous until the word, thought, and curiosity passes like a lingering black cloud. If you insist on reading on, however, let me just say up front that, remember, I warned you.
The term “yips” was first coined by Tommy Armour to describe a mental block that resulted in his inexplicable ability to make extremely short putts. We’re talking kick-ins here, the type even your most cutthroat opponent would say, “Pick it up.” Since that time, the term’s notoriety has moved beyond just struggles with short putts to describe mental blocks in nearly any aspect of the game, as well as mental blocks athletes experience in many other sports. The unifying theme when it comes to the yips, across disciplines, has come to be recognized as the sudden inability to execute any athletic act that an athlete has already seemingly mastered; an act that would be considered mostly a formality under normal circumstances, yet which suddenly isn’t when confronted with even the slightest bit of pressure.
Now when it comes to professional golf, Tommy Armour was by no means the first, or an anomaly. The yips have either stunted or de-railed the competitive careers of men like Vardon, Hogan, Snead, Watson, Langer, Baker-Finch, O’Meara, Duval, Els, Garcia and innumerable others, like that professional I once knew, whose names never rose to the public awareness specifically because of them. Even the once-perceived untouchable iron-clad psyche of a certain Mr. Woods is now apparently affected, and whispers that they, not a balking back, are keeping him from competing, have become too loud to ignore.
At the amateur level, the picture may be even bleaker. A quick scan of Mr. Google for yips will give you more than 22 million results, highlighted with potential fixes advertised by everyone from the biggest names in the industry to those who range from the obscure to the bizarre. The yips have become such a deep emotional scar among many average golfers that just using the term in an article’s title could, in web terminology, be fairly described as click-bait (gotcha, didn’t I?). One recent study even claims that more than 25 percent of the people who give up golf each year do so because of some form or another of the yips. If this is true, finding a cure might be the most effective thing the PGA and all our allied associations could do to stem the tide of players leaving the game. But is it possible? With all our combined resources, the advances of modern instruction methods, as well as breakthroughs in both science and psychology, can we not discover a means, a mantra, a method, or an indefatigable set of mechanics to defeat this scourge? There must be a yip-proof grip. Well, just maybe, and this is where I come in.
I’ve studied this creature (what it’s often called in baseball), for a long, long, time. I’ve read everything from the Mayo Clinic studies to the studies of Dr. Debbie Crews of the University of Arizona. I’ve talked to PGA Tour Putting Gurus Dave Stockton and Marius Filmalter, Dr. Tom Hanson (a former New York Yankees mental game coach), and countless others who profess to know more than a bit about the condition than the average bear. I’ve investigated the obscure, the bizarre, and the holistic, as well as cutting-edge therapies that have come about as a result of work being done to help the men and women of our armed forces to combat the demons of PTSD. I’ve talked with hypnotists, scientists, therapists, psychologists, and at least a few other ists that I’m sure I can’t remember what their actual practice was. I’ve listened to Shambhala Warriors, EFT practitioners, NLP experts, and other individuals who might most politely be described as eccentric. I’ve read the stories of those who’ve bested the beast, lived to fight another day, and those unfortunate souls who remain lost in the morass. I’ve heard theories, both scientific and sensationalistic, watched transformations, and seen many come back from the precipice, while seeing others driven right to the brink. I’ve rescued badly abused equipment, that which had only recently been hailed a savior, swiftly and suddenly broken or abandoned like a scorned lover. And I’ve seen equipment talked to, cajoled, reasoned with, and whispered to in ways that would best be reserved for an actual lover.
And to what do we see this behavior attributed? The simple act of negotiating a small white ball into an awaiting hole nearly three times its size a mere pace from where we are standing? We’re not talking about putting a square peg in a round hole here; it’s actual child’s play, an act a child would likely find boring after a short while due to its relative simplicity. So what is it about an act that is so simple that it can cause grown men and women to behave in ways more common to nursery school playgrounds, soccer hooligans, and Oakland Raider fans?
Now if you’re reading this, I’m willing to bet a large portion of you are doing so because you’re in danger of becoming one of the 25 percent, and you’re just about to the point where you’re getting irritated because you suspect that I’m teasing you with platitudes and ultimately trying to sell you something. So trust me when I say this; I didn’t bring you here to take advantage of your pain. As someone who’s not only deeply invested in growing this great game, but someone whose also been down that dark and dusty third world road before and found a way back from the wilderness, I wanted to leave the porch lights on for my fellow sufferers so that you can find your way home too. This is where it get’s a bit tricky, though, so stick with me just a moment longer and I promise, as a certain politician did a few years back, to at least give you some directions to that place called hope.
For starters, let me just say that the reality of everything we know appears to be this. There is no pill, no vaccine, no medication, and no magic bullet. We’re not talking about arthritis, diabetes, or high blood-pressure here, disorders with heavily studied and clearly defined and proven treatment strategies. Even the famed Mayo Clinic, who did its level best to categorize the yips as something clinical (Focal Dystonia), ultimately threw their hands up by only going so far as to claim that they may be a form. There is no be-all, end-all, cure-all solution that will end this affliction once and for all for all of us, because there is no singular reason for why you, me, or anyone else ends up in this place. And while that may sound a bit disappointing on the surface, it’s one of the most wonderful aspects of our humanity. We are all very different people. Every golfer’s mind is as different as his or her fingerprints, and histories, backgrounds, genetic make-ups, predispositions, personalities, anxieties, and abilities. Since we are all as varied and individual as the stripes on a Zebra, the paths each of us wanders down to end up having one type of yips or another are innumerable. So are the roads home, because in the end what home looks like, feels like, smells like, and tastes like will be very different at every address.
About a decade ago, Hank Haney (a long-time yips sufferer) wrote a book he titled, “Fix the Yips Forever.” In a follow-up article, he claimed that he had reservations about that title, and while he gave his reasons for those reservations, what he didn’t exactly articulate (but what I sensed in his explanation) was that he wasn’t really so sure there was a forever. Forever is a very long time, and despite the fact that your friend, your neighbor, Bernhard Langer, Sergio Garcia, and even Mr. Woods appear at times to have finally beat them, their Yip-Proof grip on that place is often tenuous at best. Those of you who’ve either dealt with this condition, or know someone who has, likely have heard the saying, “once a yipper, always a yipper” to describe those who’ve found a short-term fix through a grip change, equipment change, or something else, but who have at some point gone back to yipping again once the novelty of the new and improved method has worn off because they, quote, “Haven’t addressed the underlying causes of why they yip in the first place.” And while I believe there is much more truth (and much more to be learned) in that second quote that the first, I also believe that our fixation on finding a fix for the yips is somewhat akin to mankind’s never-ending quest for the Holy Grail. And before you let that discourage you, let me say why that’s actually OK.
No player, of golf or any other sport, has ever found a method, a mind-set, or some form of mechanics that were so fail-safe, so fool-proof, and so indelibly imprinted that it allowed them to go on and dominate their respective sport indefinitely. Even those in golf who’ve appeared to come close — Hogan, Nicklaus, Woods — have suffered more downs than ups and always ultimately came back down to earth at some point after tasting their moments of success. If Ben Hogan really had a “secret,” don’t you think he would have surely used it before his own yips drove him from competition? And if Tiger’s psyche was truly as iron-clad as always claimed, don’t you think he could have used it to win at least one major in the last 9 years despite all his many injuries?
If we found the answer, you see, that quest would end, and along with it so would the hopes for finding ways to improve the person or golfer that we are in ways and in places that we may have initially never considered looking and the benefits and growth we would reap from that quest would never be realized. They say there is often far more to be learned from failure than success. Success is transient in anything, and in no way ever guaranteed. That’s what makes it taste as sweet as it does when we finally do get to sample a little bit of it, that, and the fact that while we at times can delude ourselves into believing that we’ve got it all figured out and it will never again leave us, deep down, we know we really don’t.
So just in case you’ve missed my point here, and think I’m dashing the last of your hopes on the hard rocks of reality, I guess the question of whether or not I, or anyone else can really help you work through or get over any kind of performance mental block, whether you want to call it the yips or something else, begs to be answered. The answer is yes, absolutely. The road to working through those problems, however, getting past that mental block or finally ditching those yips once and for freaking all, almost certainly won’t look the same for you as it will someone else. And what you perceive getting over them to look like, how you envision it, what your expectations are, and what you’re willing to accept, will definitely play the largest role not only in how you get there, but once you’ve decided that you actually are. I can’t make you not feel nervous. At 80 years old, Frank Sinatra, one of the greatest performers of all time, said he still got nervous when he walked out on stage. He still wondered if he’d forget his lines, was still afraid he might not be able to hit his notes once he got out there, and yet he still took those steps. And whether you’re a singer, a golfer, or in any other kind of situation where you want to perform in a specific way under the spotlight, I can promise you that, like Frank said, even the most seasoned of us can feel those butterflies, those nerves, that anxiety, or whatever else you’d like to call it once it becomes important to us. And that really is okay.
In the end, I contend, if you’re still walking out on that stage, still searching, still experimenting, still fighting, still looking for help, and still counting yourself among the rest of us who are still swinging, then to a certain extent you’re already there. And as long as you continue to do so, you’ll find your game again, your guru, your grail, or your yip-proof grip. And while it likely won’t last forever, nothing ever does. So stay in the game, enjoy those ups and downs, the maddening inconsistency of it all, and love the fact that when it comes to golf it very likely isn’t the kill, but the thrill of the chase. And while I’m here to help, whether it’s the chunks or the chili-dips, the skulls and shanks, the hooks and slices, or even that wicked case of the yips, and I can help you cure them all. Whether it be for a day, a week, a month, or even a lifetime, I will consider it my biggest accomplishment if I’ve helped you resolve to stay in the game and never stop chasing.
So here’s to the quest, and to hoping that maybe, just maybe, it’s ultimately a new-found perspective, and the dogged determination to keep on keeping on, that just might turn out to be your yip-proof grip.
A Letter from the Editor: Big changes are happening at GolfWRX
For those of you who don’t know who I am, my name is Andrew Tursky. I recently went from the right-hand-man of former GolfWRX Editor-in-Chief Zak Kozuchowski, to running the show here at GolfWRX as the Editor-in-Chief myself. In my new role, I’m going to help GolfWRX fulfill its fullest potential as the best golf website in existence, and that means making a number of immediate changes, all of which I’ll highlight below.
First, a look back. Over a decade ago, GolfWRX started as a small community golf forum for golfers to discuss golf equipment, courses, instruction, rules, bargains, and everything else golf related. The forums continue to grow everyday, and they’re stronger than ever with over 250,000 members who are the most knowledgable and passionate golfers on the planet. They also helped us determine the Best Driver of 2018. Additionally, sometime around 2011, Kozuchowski took GolfWRX.com from simply a community golf forum to a golf media powerhouse by adding a front page section of the website, equipped with ultra-professional editorial. He built a team of Featured Writers — consisting of some of the biggest names in the golf industry — to help produce content that readers love and need. Since 2013, I’ve been helping Zak run the site by writing/producing original content myself, and working with the Featured Writer team. Currently averaging over 1.8 million unique readers per month, GolfWRX has been doing just fine. But I believe so strongly in the GolfWRX brand that I don’t want to settle for “just fine.” I believe we have more to offer, and I want every golfer in the world to garner entertainment or knowledge from our website.
As such, and building upon the foundation that is GolfWRX.com and the forums, I’ve been empowered by the “powers that be” at GolfWRX — you know, the guys who cut paychecks — to grow and shape the best golf website on the Internet.
So what does that mean going forward? Well, that’s what I wanted to discuss.
Here at GolfWRX, we’ve always been great at telling stories through the written word and images, and we will continue to do so with our Featured Writers team and legion of golf writers who love and know the game of golf. But after taking over the editorial direction of the website, I also wanted to help give GolfWRX a voice and a face. There are so many amazing people in the world of golf, and I wanted to provide platforms for us to help them tell their stories… to provide our readers the chance to see how golf clubs are made, how courses are designed, why professionals play certain equipment, and so much more. I wanted to bring readers where they’ve never been and hear from the people they’ve never heard from. Here at GolfWRX, we have the opportunity to speak with amazing people and play golf at amazing courses, and it’s about time the GolfWRX readers got to enjoy those experiences with us.
Therefore, we’re implementing our own original video and radio initiatives.
On the video-end of the spectrum, GolfWRX has recently hired Johnny Wunder full-time to the GolfWRX Staff. He’s a Hollywood producer (check out his new film Josie, starring Sophie Turner from Game of Thrones, that was recently in select theaters across the country!) and is also the new Director of Original Content at GolfWRX. If you’ve enjoyed the Bob Parsons interview, Paige interview, PXG Gen2 Editor’s Journal, or how PXG irons get built, you have Mr. Wunder to thank. Also coming soon are experiences with Mike Taylor at Artisan Golf, David Edel, Bert Lamar of Iliac Golf, the Criquet Golf team in Austin, a short game series with Gabe Hjertstedt, a new fashion series and much more. We’re extremely excited to bring our own original content to the world, and help highlight the people in golf who we think deserve a platform. See the things you’ve never seen, go places you’ve never gone, and meet people you’ve never met; that’s what we want to do with our new GolfWRX original video content. We truly hope you enjoy it, and learn a lot from the content we produce.
We’ve also started three great podcasts — the “19th Hole with host Michael Williams,” “Two Guys Talkin’ Golf,” and “Gear Dive” — with plans to expand in the very near future. Check all of them out here on SoundCloud, or here on iTunes.
The 19th Hole is hosted by Michael Williams, who was the PGA Mediaperson of the Year in 2014 and is a longtime titan in both golf media and radio in general; he has produced and hosted shows on CBS Radio, Fox Sports Radio and Voice of America. Michael is a true professional, knowledgeable golfer, and knows how to conduct one heck of an interview. So far on the show, his guests have included Greg Norman, Bob Vokey, Rees Jones, Robert Trent Jones Jr., Scott Van Pelt, Byron Scott, Michael Breed, Louis Oosthuizen, Jim Nantz, Roger Cleveland, Mike Taylor, and many more.
Two Guys Talkin’ Golf (TG2), is hosted by equipment expert Brian Knudson and myself, a former Division I golfer and GolfWRX Editor. Together, we discuss all things golf, but mostly focus on golf equipment… and the occasional hot take. TG2 welcomes guests on the show as well, ranging from GolfWRX forum members to club builders to Tour professionals to caddies. If you’re hungry for more equipment knowledge and high-level golf conversation, TG2 is your type of podcast.
The third, and all-new podcast, is called “Gear Dive,” hosted by Johnny Wunder. What you can expect is a weekly podcast where Wunder interviews anyone who’s anyone “in the know” of golf equipment… and he’s going deep. To give you an idea, his first guest was legendary clubmaker Larry Bobka who made Tiger Woods’ old Titleist irons.
Also, as I discussed before, GolfWRX is great with telling stories via the written word. To make sure we continue to do so, we’ve hired Ben Alberstadt who’s been writing for GolfWRX for over 5 years now. He was previously a freelance journalist who worked with a variety of media and news outlets, and he now wears the GolfWRX hat full time. I cannot be more excited to have him aboard the ship because he’s a true, hard-working journalist and he’s great at telling a story in his own unique style. If you’ve read any of his stuff, you know what I mean.
And as for me, I promise to continue providing GolfWRX readers with the content they want and need to read/hear/see on a daily basis. It’s my duty to help our readers be the most knowledgable golfers and golf buyers, and be entertained while learning more about the sport we all love. I simply love GolfWRX and our readers/listeners/viewers, and I want you to have the best website of all time to visit every day… a website to be part of and proud of.
What do I ask from you GolfWRX readers? Your feedback! If we write a bad story, tell us why you think it’s bad. If we publish a video you like, tell us why in the comments or on social media. If you love the new podcast, tell us that you loved it and support by subscribing. (If you want all of our podcasts transcribed, we’re working on it!) We want to have the best website in the world, and we want to provide information to golfers in the way they want to consume it. We care deeply about your opinion. GolfWRX began as a forum community, and we will always be a community. Personally, I was a GolfWRX reader myself before ever writing for the site. So was Alberstadt and Williams and Knudson and Wunder. We love golf and we love GolfWRX. We want to see it thrive, and you, the readers, are a huge part of that success.
Anyway, thanks for taking the time to read this letter, and I hope you continue to be a GolfWRX reader and participant. And if you do, make sure to tell your golfing buddies how much you love the site… in real life or on social media. The more we grow, the better stories and podcasts and videos we can create. I love and appreciate the opportunity to be your GolfWRX Editor, and I won’t let you down!
Hit em between the tree line,
Fantasy Preview: 2018 Zurich Classic of New Orleans
Just as in 2017, the Zurich Classic of New Orleans will once again provide a change in format for the players this week. Players will team up once more at TPC Louisiana for a combination of Best Ball (Rounds 1 and 3) and Alternate Shot (Rounds 2 and 4). Unfortunately, the change in format means that there is no DraftKings this week.
The course is long at over 7,400 yards, but it’s also very generous off the tee. TPC Louisiana offers the opportunity to go low, and players took advantage last year despite the inclement weather conditions. It took a Monday playoff to separate them, but eventually Cameron Smith and Jonas Blixt pipped Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown by making birdie on the fourth playoff hole to take the title after both teams had posted 27-under par in regulation.
Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)
- Justin Rose/Henrik Stenson 7/1
- Patrick Reed/Patrick Cantlay 12/1
- Justin Thomas/Bud Cauley 14/1
- Bubba Watson/Matt Kuchar 14/1
- Jordan Spieth/Ryan Palmer 14/1
- Jon Rahm/Wesley Bryan 16/1
- Rafa Cabrera Bello/Sergio Garcia 22/1
For the first time, Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar (14/1) will team up for this event. Last year, Watson played alongside J.B Holmes. The two performed well, finishing in a tie for fifth place. TPC Louisiana has been a course that has suited Watson’s game over the years, his prodigious length being a significant factor. Along with his T-5 in 2017, Watson has a victory and three other top-20 finishes at the course when the event was an individual stroke-play tournament.
While Watson can be feast or famine at times, Kuchar is Mr. Consistent. He hasn’t missed a cut in over a year, and he has been a top-10 machine over the past few years on the PGA Tour. Despite this, Kuchar hasn’t been able to convert many of his top-10 finishes into wins, but playing alongside Watson this week — who has already notched two victories in 2018 — may help his cause. Over their last 24 rounds, Watson ranks third for Strokes Gained-Off the Tee and eighth in Strokes Gained Total. Over the same period, Kuchar has been predictably consistent, ranking in the top third in the field in every major Strokes Gained category. It’s an intriguing partnership, with Watson’s explosiveness combined with Kuchar’s consistency, and it’s a cocktail that should prove to be a formidable force at TPC Louisiana.
Two men with the hot hand coming into this event are fellow Americans, Jimmy Walker and Sean O’Hair (25/1). Last week at the Valero Texas Open both men excelled, posting the highest finishes of their year thus far. Walker finished solo 4th, while O’Hair grabbed a T-2. It’s the pairs first time playing TPC Louisiana together, but Walker has some good course form to lean on. Back in 2012 and 2013, he posted back-to-back top-20 finishes, which shows that TPC Louisiana is a course that fits his game. Accuracy off the tee has never been Walker’s strength, but the generous fairways may be one of the reasons that he has performed well at this course.
O’Hair has been in good form as of late. The Texan has three top-15 finishes in his last six events, and last week he recorded his highest Strokes Gained Total at an event in years. Walker also seems to have turned a corner with his game. Along with his excellent performance last week, he managed a top-20 finish at the Masters, and his Strokes Gained-Total at the Valero was his highest since his 2016 PGA Championship victory. With both men coming off their best performances in a long time, they should be confident. The duo looks to be a decent value to mount a challenge this week.
Last year’s runners-up Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown (40/1) are hard to ignore at their price this week. Brown has struggled mightily for form in 2018, missing six cuts out of 11 events played so far this year, but the prospect of playing alongside Kisner may be the boost that Brown’s 2018 is needing.
Kisner’s form has been strong as of late. He backed up his runner-up finish at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play with a T-28 at Augusta before grabbing a T-7 at the RBC Heritage. At Harbour Town, Kisner’s iron play was especially sharp, with his Strokes Gained-Approaching the Greens total being the highest since the Memorial last year. Despite Brown’s slump, in a highly tricky format to predict, the pair showed enough chemistry last year and an ability to excel in the format, which is enough for me to consider their price a little undervalued this week.
- Bubba Watson/Matt Kuchar 14/1
- Jimmy Walker/Sean O’Hair 25/1
- Kevin Kisner/Scott Brown 40/1
Gear Dive: Legendary club builder Larry Bobka speaks on Tiger’s old Titleist irons
Legendary club builder Larry Bobka joins us in the first episode of our new podcast called “Gear Dive,” hosted by Johnny Wunder, GolfWRX’s Director of Original Content. Gear Dive is a deep look into the world of golf equipment, and Wunder will be interviewing the craftsman, the reps and the players behind the tools that make up the bags of the best golfers in the world.
Bobka, our first guest, is a former Tour rep and club builder involved in some of the most important clubs of the past 25 years. From his days at Wilson Golf working with legends such as Payne Stewart, Hale Irwin and Bernhard Langer, he transitioned into the Golden Age of Titleist/Acushnet building clubs for Tiger Woods, Davis Love, David Duval and Brad Faxon. He currently runs Argolf where he builds and fits handmade putters for Tour players and amateurs alike. He’s one of the Godfather’s of modern golf equipment.
Skip to 45:30 for the discussion about Tiger’s Titleist irons.
Check out our podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!
What do you think of the new podcast? Leave your feedback in the comments below!
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