Carin Koch—Another Gripper with the Yips?

As part of our research for our new golf book The Efficient Golfer, we found a group of notable golfers who fought centrifugal force—and lost.

By fighting centrifugal force, we mean that they did not let their arms and driver extend at impact. Instead, they tried to return the driver to the same position it was at address, as most golfers do with their irons.

It looks like this.

Snead@Address Snead@Impact

Hogan@Address Hogan@Impact

Trevino@Address Trevino@Impact

Most golfers, however, ‘go ballistic' with their driver, letting centrifugal force extend their club and arms at impact. It looks like this.

Tiger Woods@Impact Jack Nicklaus@Impact

Nicklaus, of course, played for decades without the yips, and Tiger played well ‘going ballistic' (letting the arms and club extend), winning majors by 12 and 15 strokes.

Golfers (such as Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, Lee Trevino, Nick Faldo and Johnny Miller) who over-gripped their drivers to prevent any extension all had their careers ended by the yips.

What is the connection between a 'death grip' on the driver to keep the arms and club from extending at impact and the yips?

Anytime you overuse your muscles, you tear hundreds of the tens of thousands of small individual muscle fibers that make up each one of your muscles. This tearing is responsible for the soreness you feel the next day after working out or ‘doing too much'.

Certainly gripping the driver so hard as to prevent extension at impact constitutes overuse. After all, the driver is going about 100 miles an hour and is pulling away from the golfer with 100 lbs. of force, the same amount of force exerted on the arms when trying to lift a 100 lb. sack of cement. Even though this pull only lasts for a fraction of a second, it is repeated over and over again at the driving range and on the course. The small muscles of the forearms were never designed to repeatedly resist a 100 lb. pull, and thus are overused.

To aid in the repair of the damaged muscles, your body creates microfibers, a mild form of scar tissue, both within the muscles and in the connective tissue around them. Here is a drawing showing the red muscles and white connective tissue.

Normally, the connective tissue membranes (white) between the muscles (red) are smooth. They allow the muscles to slide past each other, which they have to do in order to stretch.

But when you have even a mild injury (falls on court), overuse (lifting weights, running) or stress , microfibers form as part of the healing process to immobilize the area. Microfibers are nature's internal cast.

Unfortunately, once the area has healed, the microfibers not only do not go away, they tend to accumulate over time, making athletes stiffer with age.

‘Grippers' build up so much tension and so many microfibers in their forearms that when they have to lightly grip the putter with the same muscles that they use for their driver, their muscles spasm and they yip their putts.

But golfers can also get the driver yips. Carin Koch is a good example.

Here is Carin at address and impact at the 2008 Ginn Open.

Carin Koch@Address Carin Koch@Impact

Notice that Carin returns her driver and hands at impact to almost exactly the same position at impact as they were at address. Now imagine how hard she has to grip her driver in order to do this.

Carin admitted in a couple of interviews at the Ginn Open that she has suffered from the yips with her driver. Her stats bear this out. In 2007, she was 95th in accuracy while only 136th in distance off the tee.

Two current pros that have adopted the ‘gripper' strategy to improve their ball striking off the tee are Vijay Singh and Sergio Garcia. Both have suffered putting woes, going back and forth from the long to the conventional length putters to regain some of their former prowess around the greens.

Vijay Singh@Impact Sergio Garcia@Impact

Tiger Woods@Address Tiger Woods@Impact

We think that there is enough evidence that fighting centrifugal force, while it might seem like a good strategy to improve ballstriking, carries too much risk for developing either the putting or driver yips.

There is a good, sensible alternative in The Efficient Golfer: bring your hands up to the swing plane at address.

It looks like this.

Address                                                                Impact

By bringing the hands up to the swing plane at address, golfers can easily gain the benefit of returning the driver to the same position at impact that it was at address, and yet still ‘go ballistic', gripping the driver with only enough tension to prevent it from leaving their hands. Golfers who do this don't have to fight the laws of physics — a losing battle if there ever was one.

Golfers who have adopted this simple strategy have found that they hit their drivers much straighter. One golfer combined his hands on the swing plane at address with working out on the Power Hip Trainer to increase his hip speed and dropped his handicap from 5 to 1 in just a few weeks.

If you already have the yips, will placing your hands on the swing plane get rid of them?

Sadly, no. You will also have to get rid of the microfibers and tension that have accumulated in your forearms, which can be done with Microfiber Reduction and Tension Reduction, which are part of the Somax program to improve flexibility in golfers far beyond what stretching alone can do.

So, beware of any stranger that approaches you in a dark alley and whispers in your ear “Hey, buddy, I can teach you the secret of Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, Lee Trevino, Nick Faldo and Johnny Miller.”

It's a secret you don't want to know.