On the news this morning they reported that the average adult will only get the actual flu every five years. Most of the time people just have flu like symptoms. It occurred to me how similar this is to golfers saying they or another golfer has the yips. This weekend Padraig Harrington talked in his winners interview about having the yips a couple of years ago but somehow getting rid of it. I myself have been told I have the chipping yips constantly over the past 10 years or so; to be fair I have lost more balls from inside 50 yards than off the tee over that period of time.
It just so happens I was lucky enough to play in a member guest tourney at Succession Golf Club about 18 months ago. I seem to remember (been trying to forget) I had an air shot from the greenside on one of the rounds, it was unlucky really. I sort of buried the club so hard behind the ball it actually bounced over the ball and hit the ground on the other side of it. Remarkable. Anyway the day before we were paired with two very nice, very nerdy blokes. During the usual fairway chit chat my playing partner Mark and I ascertained one was a brain surgeon and the other a top brain professor at some big institute in Jacksonville. For some reason the professor decided to tell me about some research into the yips he had commissioned a few years earlier.
Apparently he got a large cross section of golfers who felt they had the yips. Some of what he said is fuzzy (there were beer coolers on most holes and I was self medicating heavily) but essentially they found that less than 10% of golfers who think they have the yips actually have them. The ones that do are utterly incurable; he tried to put it in simple terms for me. He said that if a golfer truly has the yips they basically have a worn out motor circuit. Where during normal movements the nerves are firing a single time a yipster’s will fire multiple times leading to knifes, duffs, shanks, tops, sculls etc. The only solution for these guys is to start chipping or putting using completely different body parts. Left handed, one handed, long putter, the mouth, snooker style etc.
So while those crazy little shots that lead your playing partners to buy shin pads are great entertainment for all the family, most golfers can apparently be cured easily. In my opinion it’s no coincidence that Paddy and Tiger have experiences some serious issues on or around the greens. Both put themselves into the golfing doldrums by digging into what naturally made them great. For me golfers who are prone to these disasters have started with some fear around what might happen, that builds up and then in reality because they don’t really know how to play the shots they end up in a bit of a dark place.
I know it might sound strange but most great golfers have developed skills naturally and there fore struggle to explain how they play shots. Once they start to think about technique and get the video camera out they experience some paralysis.
The good news is that for the recreational golfer who is having issues on or around the greens some proper instruction around how to locate to the ball and how to use the golf club will solve the problem for most. For the rare few who truly have the yips, god help you because its for life!