Is Boo Courting the Yips?

Boo did a nice job winning the Heritage again in 2008, so we thought we would analyze his swing.

Down the line at address

Here is Boo at address. His Spine Angle is 30°, which is within the tour norms of 25-30°.

What we like about his address position is that he has not dropped his hands very much below the swing plane. Being one of the most relaxed players on tour is evidence that you don't need to drop your hands at address to relax.

Down the line at the top of the backswing

Here is Boo at the top of his backswing. While his hands and club are a tiny bit above his swing plane, his Spine Angle is exactly the same as it was at address.

As you know from our book The Efficient Golfer, alignment of the spine is the key to accuracy in golf. Golfers who ‘stand up' at the top of their backswing (usually because they drop their hands at address) have a difficult time keeping it in the fairway.

Why is that?

Well, if you think about it, when you change your Spine Angle between address and impact, you are creating a lot of work for yourself. You have to really nail the exact amount of change with every swing or else you will hit the ball fat or thin. Since you can't see your Spine Angle during your swing, you are really ‘flying blind'. You have to depend entirely on feel, and we have yet to meet the golfer who can feel a 1° change in Spine Angle.

It's really much easier to keep the same Spine Angle between address and the top of your backswing, as Boo does.

Down the line at impact

Here is Boo at impact.

This is the best we have seen on tour. Boo's Spine Angle is exactly the same at impact that it was at address.

His stats show that his constant Spine Angle does help his accuracy. He is #38 in driving accuracy and #27 in greens in regulation. His 287-yard average driving distance (which shows you don't have to drive short to drive accurately) combined with his accuracy places him at #7 in total driving.

The Grippers

But there is a problem here. Boo achieves his miraculously constant Spine Angle by not letting centrifugal force extend his arms and club at impact. In other words, he reins in his driver with his arm and shoulder muscles, pulling against 100 lbs. of centrifugal force. By returning his club to almost the exact same position it was at address, Boo has no need to ‘stand up' at impact. He can keep his Spine Angle constant and enjoy excellent ballstriking.

Other well-know golfers have adopted this strategy in the past, golfers the caliber of Sam Snead, Ben Hogan and Lee Trevino. Here are their photos at address and impact.

Snead Address                                            Snead Impact

Hogan Address                                       Hogan Impact

Trevino Address                                        Trevino Impact

If you know your golf history, you know that, in addition to being terrific players, these golfers all ended their careers with the yips.

The Ballistics

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

Tiger Woods                                           Jack Nicklaus

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.

Yips—The price you pay for fighting nature

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.

Boo at Address and Impact

Here you can see Boo at address and impact, reining in his driver to achieve the nadir of accuracy—identical Spine Angles at address and impact.

Is Boo already paying the price?

While Boo posts good numbers for accuracy on the fairway, he is only #162 in putts per round. Is his ‘gripper' strategy already affecting his putting?

We can't tell of course, we can only guess. But Vijay Singh and Sergio Garcia are two current players who over-grip their drivers to prevent full extension and both have gone back and forth from the long putter to try to regain some of their former prowess with the flat stick.

Vijay Singh                                                  Sergio Garcia

Can you have the best of both worlds?

You can have your cake and eat it too, despite what your mother told you. You can keep your Spine Angle absolutely constant and never get the yips by adopting a simple change at address.

Bring your hands up to the swing plane.

This simple change allows you to ‘go ballistic' but keep a constant Spine Angle, as you see here.

Address                                                   Impact

Will bringing his hands up to his swing plane improve Boo's putting?

Sadly, no. He has already been playing this way for years, and very likely has forearms full of tension and microfibers. But he can release the microfibers with Microfiber Reduction and get rid of the tension with Tension Reduction.

After that, when he puts his hands on the swing plane at address, he can enjoy a long and prosperous career.