Stop Watching TV Long Enough To Take This Golf Survey

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Debbie Crews is the sports-psychology consultant for the women’s golf team at Arizona State University and the chair of the World Scientific Conference of Golf. Her laboratory, in Tempe, Arizona, is carpeted with artificial turf and has two golf holes cut in the floor. She has long white-blond hair and the lean build of a runner. She co-founded the women’s golf team at the University of Wisconsin when she was an undergraduate there, in the early 1970s, and later she earned a Masters in exercise physiology and a PhD in psychophysiology. She has conducted several studies of the yips, including two funded by the Mayo Clinic. I described some of her work in an article about the yips that I wrote for The New Yorker last year. That’s Crews in her office in the photo above.
Crews is part of a group that is trying to “better understand how golfers think about their game.” Answering the questions in the survey they’ve created takes about 15 minutes. “Ultimately,” she says, “it may help golfers at all levels improve their scores.” You can get to the survey by clicking here. Crews’s research study has been approved by the Institutional Review Board of Arizona State University, so you can be almost certain that answering the questions won’t give you the yips.

Scientists, Psychologists, and the Mayo Clinic Take on the Yips

SAM report

I had an article in the May 26 New Yorker about the yips. The term  was coined around the middle of the last century by the Scottish golfer Tommy Armour, a sufferer, who defined it as “a brain spasm that impairs the short game.” (Stephen Potter, in his book Golfmanship, published in 1968, quoted Armour and added, “‘Impairs’ is a euphemism.”) Yipping typically involves an involuntary twitch of a golfer’s hands, wrists, or forearms. The late British golf writer and television commentator Henry Longhurst once said that he didn’t have the yips but was a “carrier.”

Henry Longhurst, cocktail in hand.

Henry Longhurst. In the olden days, some forms of the yips were called “whiskey fingers.”

During the BBC’s broadcast of the final round of the 1970 British Open, at St. Andrews, he agonized vicariously when Doug Sanders left himself a three-foot putt on the final hole to win the tournament. “Oh, Lord,” Longhurst said on the air. “Well, that’s not one that I would like to have.” Sanders hesitated over his ball for what seemed like minutes; noticed something on the ground and bent to remove it (“Oh, Lord,” Longhurst said again); froze once more; and shoved the ball to the right of the hole. “Missed it!” Longhurst said as the ball went past. “Yes, a certainty. That’s the side you’re bound to miss it.” In the video below, skip to 21:23 to hear Longhurst’s full commentary and watch the gruesome outcome:

Among the people I interviewed but didn’t quote is Dick Hyland, who is the head professional at the Country Club at DC Ranch, in North Scottsdale, Arizona, and a longtime yips sufferer. Before I went to see him, he wrote down some of his thoughts about his own experience with the yips on a yellow legal pad, and gave me the sheet (clicking on the image below will enlarge it to a more legible size):

dickhyland

Another person I talked to is Debbie Crews, a sports psychologist and a consultant to the women’s golf team at Arizona State. She has participated in three studies of the yips sponsored by the Mayo Clinic, and she’s about to participate in a fourth. Even for golfers who don’t have the yips, Crews is a good person to know. Here’s one thing I learned from her: most of us would putt better if we had someone tend the flag even on medium-length putts, because our brains are better at judging the distance to targets that protrude above the ground.

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