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Opinion & Analysis

The Yips: “Once you’ve had em, you’ve got em…”

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Many viewers of Tiger’s return (including his former coach, Hank Haney) observed his difficulty with a few “sticky” chips around the greens at the 2017 Hero World Challenge — it should be noted that other players did also have a similar problem dealing with the tight lies around the Albany greens, most notably Hideki Matsuyama. But Woods, who has had more consistent issues in the last few years, stubbed the ground behind the golf ball on a number of shots this week, and half-skulled a few others while trying to avoid the same result. We can pass it off as “rust,” but we have seen it from him before. So let’s talk about it for a bit.

The “yips,” as they are known, are one of the most frustrating problems that plague golfers, particularly professional golfers. The physical causes of the yips are well known; this is not some esoteric information known only to great players and coaches. We all know the physical reasons, but the yips are not simply a physical problem. In fact, the physical might be a small part of the problem. The biggest part is the mental.

Everyone reading this has yipped a chip, and we all know that the very next time that shot presents itself we are thinking about the yip. It’s difficult (if not impossible) to dismiss that last shot from the mind. And if it happens more than once, or more than few times, it might be permanently on one’s mind. That’s a huge problem if you play the game for a living. Brandel Chamblee, with whom I have publicly disagreed in the past, has a theory on this. He believes no great player has ever really gotten over the condition. I can’t say if that’s true or not, but it may be.

It’s been said, (I have read that Sam Snead might have said it first, but who knows where these things ever really come from) about the yips: “Once you’ve had ’em, you’ve got ’em.” How’s that for a scary thought? Who knows if it’s true, but one thing I do know is this; golf always seems to go for the jugular!

It seems as though every time I have ever stubbed a chip shot, very soon, if not the very next hole, I have to hit another chip from a tight lie. If I’ve just missed a short putt, very soon, if not the next hole, it also seems like I’ll knock it 5 feet past the hole. And what am I thinking about? You guessed it, the last missed short putt. So no amount of mental discipline seems to overcome these evil thoughts.

Hitting the ground behind the ball on a short shot is caused by one or any combinations of the following:

  • The leading edge of the wedge sticking in the ground
  • An early release with a closing face
  • Swaying off the ball
  • A path that is too inside-out (too far from the inside)

But as I noted, every tour player and coach KNOWS this all too well. The same player who once chipped in from behind the 16th green at Augusta with a Green Jacket on the line yipped some sticky chips last week. To me, that is not rust or a mechanical problem; it’s a mental one. I would like some professional psychologist or mind-discipline expert to chime in to advise all of us on how to overcome this problem. It’s easy enough to say: “Forget about it, stay present, play the shot at hand only.” But that seems almost impossible, or at the very least, difficult to do. “Don’t think about yipping this shot” is almost a sure fire way to do just that. It’s a vicious cycle.

If it’s on Tiger’s mind, the rest of us are in big trouble. Let’s hope Chamblee is wrong, but I have to wonder. Remember the down time in golf far exceeds any other game.  We are on the golf course 4+ hours, and in the act of swinging a club a total of only about two minutes. The rest of the time is thinking about swinging the club, and the outcomes. And unfortunately what we usually think about is the WORST shot we have hit in a situation, not the best. And when that shot is a short, chip from a tight-lie, well, that’s when the yips resurface.

The mechanical is correctable, but the mental is long-lasting.

Editor’s Note: “Once you’ve had em, you’ve got em” is attributed to Henry Longhurst (h/t @peterkessler)

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions: -- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA -- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal -- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine -- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest -- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf -- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members) -- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf -- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA -- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors. Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. He now directs his own school, The Dennis Clark Golf Academy at the JW Marriott Marco Island in Naples, Fla.. He can be reached at dennisclarkgolf@gmail.com

15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Happy Golfer

    Dec 11, 2017 at 11:16 am

    One way to cure the Yips is the practice more! And this is the BEST way to improve your short game right here – PerfectShotGolfLoft.com . Anyone who practices with the Golf Loft will see short game improvement after only a couple days, worked for me and it can work for you too!

  2. DrRob1963

    Dec 8, 2017 at 4:10 am

    My wife really helped her chipping with one of those Callaway Xact 37* Chipper clubs. Maybe Tiger needs one of them. The Missus will let him borrow hers if he wants to try it out!

  3. Ken Parker

    Dec 6, 2017 at 5:38 pm

    Hi,

    I’ve had the FULL SWING YIPS for over 4 years, every club in the bag, every takeaway was a yip including putter.

    I’m not cured, but I worked out a pre-shot routine that now enables me to hit the ball yip-free and have been able to get my handicap to between 1.9 to 4.9, best I ever did before was 4-7 hcp.

    EVERY SWING NOW FEELS LIKE MY PRACTICE SWING.

    I have an explanation of how I created a pre-shot routine that works but as it’s detailed, will elaborate further if requested.

  4. Billy Bondaruk

    Dec 6, 2017 at 1:39 pm

    I was once involved with the study on the ups and the doctor told us all about how much information our eyes pick up or take in to our brain Yep’s can be directly related to a car accident in fact there was a woman once came out of a coma she was broadsided going through a red light and when she came out of the coma she told the doctors that she could describe the gentleman that hit her she gave a direct description all the way down to his beard on rim glasses yellow polkadot tie she could perhaps one and a half seconds to see him because he had her going 45 to 50 miles an hour The Siri is the Bentley having missed show it to a 3 foot pod or flub the chip out of the nest egg Or tight lie…. your eyes see the movement of the club coming towards the ball and the mind jumps in and sends messages thru proprioceptor‘s to your forearms and hands ….The yips are real and I agree with you that they are 99% mental having been a teaching Pro for many years and played at tour levels…. 2006 PGA teacher of the year northern California I have discovered some ways to free your golf game of the yips…. What I’ve come up with is you have to find a way to use your bigger muscles your body and body rotation to hit these delicate shots but I don’t think that type of movement will ever create the fantastic shots we have experienced Tiger woods hit with the feel of his hands and arms… the technique I speak of will only get you through a round of golf without feeling completely terrible about yourself

  5. Ian Harris

    Dec 6, 2017 at 11:43 am

    Disagree 100%. The yips are not mental they are physical. Focal dystonia.

  6. Christopher Smith

    Dec 6, 2017 at 11:34 am

    Dennis,

    Nice piece, thank you for bringing this important (and highly misunderstood issue) to readers’ view. To your point, vital – like with all in this day and age of info overload by ‘supposed’ experts (let us all “consider the sources,” please) – to better educate ourselves on the topic:

    – Important to note that in fact there are different TYPES of yips. Some more physical, some more psychological; but then again – the mind/body are ONE, after all. Indeed, eventually they have a taste of both. Peruse this re Andre Drummond, and his foul-shooting yips – and how he addressed them: http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/21332122/nba-andre-drummond-dramatic-free-throw-improvement-driven-back-basics-approach?ex_cid=espnapi_public

    – YES – ask a TRUE expert. I have had the privilege of working and learning from both Dr. Debbie Crews (multiple studies on the yips at the Mayo Clinic) and Dr. Christian Marquardt (creator of the SAM PuttLab – and the individual who helped Hank Haney with his driver yips back in the day…). You want legit info on the realities, causes and ‘treatments’ of the yips, as opposed to the wandering guesses of the talking heads on the broadcasts? Ask these two, among others.

    – Pure technique-wise, thank you for bringing up the dangers of the leading edge of the club contacting the ground first. It’s why there is an inverted sole on wedges (bounce), to facilitate the trailing edge striking the ground first. If that trailing edge strikes the grass or ground first, it continues to move forward – instead of sticking/stubbing or digging. Ball back, hands ahead/shaft leaning forward (especially on an uphill lie, like we saw with most gross miss-hits in Albany) and handle-dragging thru impact is a fantastic recipe for miss-hits and yes, eventual yips. Suggestion? practice your short shots off an actual putting green, without taking a divot, while still getting the ball up in the air. It’s what Seve and many of his modern-day disciples did/do.

    Best,
    CS

    – “Forget about it, stay present, play the shot at hand only.” But that seems almost impossible, or at the very least, difficult to do.
    Amen, brother! No, it doesn’t work, does it now? At least, not for very long. This is the preferred ‘shtick’ offered by traditional sports psychologists, who deal only with the CONSCIOUS mind. Unfortunately for the yipper – the issue (like with the motor program that is any golf swing) resides primarily in the UNCONSCIOUS part of the mind/brain/body system. So, this advice, in addition to being temporary – does not address the CAUSE of the yipping issue. Yet another golfing band-aid…

  7. Jack Nash

    Dec 6, 2017 at 11:00 am

    Of course he has the Chyps. Watch how Fowler chipped compared to Woods. Woods could easily solve part of the problem by adding a bit more bounce on his wedge.

  8. justin case

    Dec 6, 2017 at 10:58 am

    This article and others are a little off. First, the lies were not *tight*, they were into the grain. Grainy bermuda is no fun to attempt pitches to firm, fast greens.

    Secondly, I played over 15 PGA tour events in 89-93. While an excellent chipper, my weakness was pitching the golf ball and limited my playing success at the higher level. I later developed full-on pitch yips. After working on some various pressure points of my grip, I now have command of even the toughest pitches. It makes golf so much more fun. Tiger, and anybody else, can figure this stuff out and I think he will.

  9. Jarlaxle

    Dec 5, 2017 at 11:38 am

    Matt Kuchar’s caddie had an excellent take on this, called the chipping conditions this week the hardest he has ever seen in over 20 years on tour. Every article I’ve seen starts with the same premise… “Everyone else had trouble… but Tiger had more than most so something is wrong”.

    The guy is coming off of back surgery and has had a golf club in his hands for maybe about 10 weeks. This was his first tournament back, playing in the hardest possible conditions imaginable… of course he’s going to hit some turds.

    Why don’t we give him a few months of pain free practice/playing and a few tournaments under more typical playing conditions before we conclude that he has an incurable case of the yips.

  10. JM

    Dec 5, 2017 at 6:50 am

    Dennis Clark,

    Let me first say that your articles are well done. I have to disagree with this one though. Sure he hit a few poor chips, from what I saw this doen’t qualify as the yips. After all, how many people who have the chipping yips chip it off the green to tap in range? I think chipping it off of the green is the last thought that enters a players mind if they have the chipping yips.
    I feel he fixed the majority of any chipping issues a few years ago. After he had all the issues in Phoenix, he purposely made his appearance around the chipping green at the Masters hitting various chips, pitches, and flops, all while the Golf Channel’s Live From was being filmed. They all marveled how much better it was.
    I’m not saying it was as good as he once was around the greens but I think maybe yips is a little harsh.

  11. RBImGuy

    Dec 5, 2017 at 6:15 am

    This is the Sean Foley failed teachings showing up in Tigers game

  12. Nat

    Dec 5, 2017 at 1:24 am

    Tiger’s skulled chip shots are due to his over-developed arms and popeye forearms from all those muscle building curls. He’s lost his ‘touch’ that he had when he was normal and not all juiced up on hgh and protein shakes.
    All that pumping iron is the root cause of his messed up swing. Now that he’s aging and starting to look like his father with a paunch, he’s going to get fat as his muscles turn to lard, and before our very eyes…. believe it….

  13. Acemandrake

    Dec 4, 2017 at 6:43 pm

    Be decisive & content with your shot choice.

    Don’t decelerate!

  14. Hawkeye77

    Dec 4, 2017 at 5:42 pm

    Watched quite a bit of the coverage, didn’t see the multiple “half skulled” chips that are being suggested, but maybe there were. Saw a couple sticky ones for sure and wonder about his technique given he doesn’t seem to “release” and be as bounce friendly as some others – is there a technique issue? Foley sure seemed to change his chipping technique to making the leading edge more of an issue.

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Opinion & Analysis

Here’s who should be the four U.S. Ryder Cup captain’s picks based on analytics

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After the PGA Championship, the U.S. Ryder Cup team solidified 8 of its 12 players on the team. Now, captain Jim Furyk will have to decide who the other 4 players will be to join the team. In this day and age of advanced data analytics, it is imperative for the U.S. team to utilize an analytical approach. The European team has used advanced analytics in recent Ryder Cups, and they now field one of the best European squads of all time. Any advantage that the Europeans have that the U.S. team can counter would behoove Furyk and his chances of being a winning Ryder Cup captain.

Normally, captains have sought out players that have played well right before the Ryder Cup. This is a sound strategy. My statistical research on the subject is that most players reach peak performance for about four events in a row. Then their performance inevitably dips to a degree before eventually they hit peak performance, again.

The golden rule is that 80 percent of a player’s earnings in a season come in about 20 percent of the events they play in. Thus, if a player earns $2 million and plays 25 events in a season there’s a good likelihood that he earned $1.6 million of that in just 5 events.

These trends show that picking a hot player is fairly important. However, the issue is that Furyk has to make 3 of the picks by September 3rd and the last pick by September 9th and the Ryder Cup starts on September 28th. Thus, it’s very plausible that a player who is picked because they are playing great golf may cool down a bit by the time the Ryder Cup is being played. Therefore, finding a player with a hot hand is not quite what it is cracked up to be. But, I would recommend staying away from players that are playing miserably. History has shown that a hot player that is selected is more likely to perform better at the Ryder Cup than the cold player that gets selected.

There are some simple statistical rules to follow for optimal picks:

  1. Seek out quality performers around the green as it helps most in the Foursome (alternate shot) and individual match play format.
  2. You want birdie makers and quality performers on each of the holes (par-3’s, par-4’s and par-5’s) for the Fourball (best score) format.
  3. Ryder Cup experience doesn’t mean anything if the player is a poor Ryder Cup performer.
  4. All things being equal, take the younger player.
  5. Lean towards the player who fits into both Fourball and Foursome formats over the slightly better player that only fits well into one format.

A good way to start to determine what picks you need is to understand your current team. Here are the rankings in key metrics for the top-8 players on the U.S. team (rankings based out of 205 players):

The top-8 players compile a good driving team that drives the ball effectively thru hitting the ball a long ways rather than being deadly accurate off the tee. One of the best attributes the top-8 has is that they are a very good Short Game team (median ranking of 40.5). They are also pretty good from the Red Zon (175-225 yards), but are better from the Yellow Zone (125-175 yards).

The top-8 has dominated par-4’s (median ranking of 11.5) and par-5’s (median ranking of 20) while being good on the par-3’s (median ranking of 44.5). They also make a lot of birdies (median ranking 27th).

It should also be noted that Brooks Koepka’s data could probably be thrown out since it was skewed by him coming off an injury and he is clearly a different and much improved player in recent months. Koepka has typically been one of the better putters on Tour and a pretty good Red Zone performer.

The potential issues I see is that they do not hit a lot of fairways and have some players with issues hitting shots from the rough which is a bad combination in the Foursome format. Also, Webb Simpson currently stands as their weakest link on the team as he has not played that well in recent months and they will likely need to figure out a way to work around him if his performance doesn’t improve between now and the Ryder Cup.

Here are the picks I would recommend making at this point:

Tiger Woods

This is clearly the easiest pick to make even though Tiger’s Ryder Cup record has not been exactly stellar. Forget about Tiger being arguably the greatest player of all time, his performance has clearly indicated that he deserves to be on this Ryder Cup team. Furthermore, he’s statistically a quality fit in either the Fourball or Foursome format. The only issue I see is that given his age and his back issues, it would be wise to use him in no more than 3 matches in the first two days and even that may be too much for him. But, I would love to see him paired in the Foursome format with a player who hits fairways and can play well from the rough for those drives that Tiger struggles with.

Tony Finau

Finau has had 8 top-10 finishes and 2 second place finishes this season. He’s a nice looking fit at the Ryder Cup because he’s a great fit in the Fourball format and a pretty good fit in the Foursome format. In fact, my simulations find that he and Tiger would be a good fit together in either format.

Bryson DeChambeau

Again, versatility and youth play a key role in his selection. You never quite know who is going to show up at the Ryder Cup and who may get injured. Thus, there’s always a need for a player that fits both formats and can play in ever match if needed. The simulations I’ve ran really like a Justin Thomas and Bryson DeChambeau pairing.

Patrick Cantlay

This was a difficult choice between Cantlay, Mickelson and Zach Johnson. The pros for Mickelson is that he has played well in recent Ryder Cups and certainly has the experience. He’s also not a bad fit in the Foursome format and a really good fit in the Fourball format if paired with another birdie making machine that avoids bogeys and plays well on par-3’s (i.e. Koepka, Fowler and Tiger). Zach has been a quality Ryder Cup performer as well and is best suited for the Foursome format. However, he’s not such a bad fit in the Fourball format. He doesn’t hit it long, but he does make birdies (43rd in Adjusted Birdie Percentage).

From a pure numbers point of view, my simulations favor Cantlay. I wish he was better from the Red Zone and from the rough, but he’s still a quality candidate in both formats and has youth on his side. For sentimental reasons, I would pick Mickelson because the simulations such as him and Tiger in the Fourball format, and this will likely be the last time that the two can ever be paired together. The numbers don’t care about emotions, though. And that’s why Cantlay is the pick for now. It would just be wise to wait until September 9th to make the final pick.

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Opinion & Analysis

Prospective NCAA Golfers, are you ready for September 1? Here’s what you should be doing

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In June, I reported changes to the NCAA rules, including new legislation that prevented college coaches from contacting a prospective student athlete before September 1 of their Junior Year. With September 1 just around the corner, the question is: are you ready?

If not, don’t worry. As always, I am here to help you understand the college landscape and find the best opportunity to pursue your passion in college! Here’s what you need to know:

Be Prepared

Over time, you are going to hear from some coaches. It is important that students are prepared to talk to coaches. Before speaking to a coach, it is important to do research about their institution; what are the grades required for admissions? How many players are on the team? How much of the student population lives on campus? Know the basics before your conversation.

It is also important that you are ready to answer a couple questions. Coaches are very likely to ask, why are you interested in my school? Tell me about your grades or academic interests? Or, tell me about your golf game? Be honest and remember a passion for the game goes a long way.

Coaches are also likely to ask if you have any questions. Having a couple questions written down is important. If you are not sure what to ask, here are some questions I recommend:

  • What is your coaching philosophy?
  • What is your favourite part of coaching?
  • What type of student best fits in at your university?
  • What type of athlete best fits in?
  • What are the goals for the golf program?
  • How do you determine who play play in your top 5 at tournaments?
  • Do you ever take more than 5 players to a tournament?
  • What access does the team have to golf courses?
  • Is it expected to have your own vehicle?
  • Do you do any technical swing work with the players?
  • What is your greatest strength as a coach?
  • Do you offer academic support, such as tutors for students?
  • What percent of teachers have terminal degrees?
  • How does my major (X) impact golf? Can I do it and golf?
  • Do you support graduates in getting jobs?
  • What success do people have getting jobs?
  • What success do people have getting into grad schools?

Know the Numbers

With only a couple weeks before September 1, I would recommend you take time and see where you (or your son and daughter) stands on websites such as Junior Golf Scoreboard or Rolex AJGA Rankings. Now that you know the number, consider in several previous articles I have presented how rankings related to college signings. My analysis of the numbers demonstrates that, for boys, the average Division I player is ranked approximately 300 in Junior Golf Scoreboard in their class with a scoring differential of about .5. The average Division II player is ranked about 550 in their class. For girls, it appears that ranking is less important, but there is a strong relationship between scoring differential and college signings. Girls that sign at schools within the top 50 have scoring differentials of at least -3 or better, while the average for any Division I player is approximately 5.

Keep in mind that when you search on Junior Golf Scoreboard for yourself, it will show your ranking overall. This number is going to be much lower for your ranking in your class. Without a subscription, you will not be able to find your exact rank, but I would generally say you can cut the number by about 50 percent to give yourself a fair gauge. So if you are 3750 overall, you are likely close to 1875 in your class.

For many members of the junior class reading this article, they may see that their ranking might be significantly higher than these numbers. Don’t panic; the rankings are over a 1-year period. After a year, old scores drop off and new scores can be counted. Also, on Junior Golf Scoreboard, your worst 25 percent of rounds are not counted. So, you have time to continue to work on your game, improve your ranking and get the attention of coaches!

Do your research

Now that you have an idea about your ranking, start researching. Where did players of similar rank sign last year? What is the rank of that school? What schools are ranked about the same? Answering these questions will require some time and two resources; Junior Golf Scoreboard and Golfstat.com. To find out where similar players signed from last year, go to njgs.com, then under the tab “rankings & honors,” the bottom option is college signees. Click there, and then you can order the signees based on class rank by clicking on “scoreboard class ranking as of signing date.” You will notice that last year, players ranked about 1800 in their class signed at such schools as Kenyon, Glenville, Southern Nazarene, Central Alabama Community college and Allegany college. Pretty good considering these schools have produced a president of the United States (Hayes, Kenyon), and a 5-time Major Championship participant (Nathan Smith, Allegany).

Now that you have a list of schools where similar students have signed, look up the golf rankings of these schools on golfstat.com. The rankings of schools are under the “rankings” tab on the home page and segmented by NCAA, NAIA and NJCAA.

First find out where the school is ranked and then consider schools ranked 5-10 spots ahead and behind that school. Are any of these of interest? Any where you think might sound interesting? Take time and build a list, then send an email to those schools introducing yourself, along with a swing video.

Have a Plan

Regardless if you are a Junior in High School or a Senior in High School, come September 1, remember that there is still time and regardless of what people say, coaches are always looking. For High School Juniors, it is likely that next summer will have a critical impact on your opportunities in college golf, so what can you do over the next 9 months? Where are you missing out on the most shots? Take time, talk to people and develop a plan to give yourself the best chance to succeed in the future. And then, put in the time!

For Seniors, although many might be in your ear saying it’s too late, don’t listen to them. You still have some time. Take a careful look at how you can use the next 2-3 months to improve and prepare for events such as the AJGA Senior Showcase in Las Vegas. Remember that data suggests that up to one-third of players sign in the late period (for all levels) and up to 60 percent of players who compete in the AJGA Senior Showcase in December in Las Vegas, go on to get offers.

As always, if you have any feedback on this article or a story idea, please feel free to reach out to me! I always love hearing from people and helping them connect with schools that meet their academic, athletic, social and financial needs! Best of luck to you, or your son/daughter.

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TG2: Would you rather have Brooks or DJ’s career? 30+ more AMA-style Instagram questions

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Brooks Koepka vs. Dustin Johnson? All-time favorite driver? Poker chips as ball markers? Editor Andrew Tursky and Equipment Expert Brian Knudson answer 30+ questions from the @tg2wrx Instagram. They also discuss Joe LaCava (Tiger’s caddie) paying off a heckler to go away.

Enjoy the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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