Every golfer searches for an edge, some tip, trick or technique to shave a few strokes off our Sunday scorecards. The pros hire swing coaches and sports psychologists; the rest of us fumble with laser-guided putting aids and stroke analyzer apps. Now we have a new tool: aromatherapy.
Chad Van Den Top, a Chicago-area lawyer and former golf pro, developed Swing Trust Oil in 2011. A potent blend of “essential oils derived from natural plant materials” with exotic names like bergamot, ylang-ylang and clary sage, Swing Trust Oil promises to help you “play better golf by driving up your confidence.”
“I’ve always been very interested in the mental aspect of the game,” said Van Den Top, who played a few Florida mini-tours before heading to law school. “You hit a couple of bad shots, and you can get anxious. Believe it or not, there are some essential oils out there that will reduce that tension.”
Swing Trust Oil comes in a small, easy-to-sniff flask that clips to your golf bag. Struggling to find the fairway? Stuck in the sand? Problems with the putter? Whenever golf gets you down, Van Den Top prescribes a whiff of Swing Trust Oil to help you play through the pressure.
“I know people who smell it almost every shot,” he said.
Mark Wilson, a PGA Tour veteran with nine professional wins, is a believer. After meeting Van Den Top through his manager and researching aromatherapy, Wilson agreed to endorse the product in December 2012, effectively becoming the face of the franchise.
“To be honest, I was a little leery at first,” said Wilson. “It seemed a little odd, but I was intrigued. I started thinking about when my wife has spices brewing or candles going. … It’s relaxing. You have to learn how to handle frustration in this game, and a couple sniffs before shots keeps me in the right state of mind to play golf.
You won’t catch Wilson using Swing Trust Oil on camera. He doesn’t want the extra questions, he says, so he keeps it “somewhat secret” from the other pros. Wilson stores his flask in his locker, so he sneaks a snort right before he laces up his shoes and heads to the tee, one of many things he does to calm his nerves ahead of a competitive round.
He’s not the only one. Van Den Top estimates he’s sold over 15,000 flasks at $29.95 apiece, a good haul in the business of occupying the nostrils of anxious golfers, especially when the benefits of using Swing Trust Oil are, uh, unproven.
SwingTrustOil.com touts the “art and science” of aromatherapy, but according to the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy, its practice (and the manufacturing of related products) is unregulated and unlicensed. Van Den Top himself freely admits that there’s no evidence to back up his claims, a fact he blames on the desire of drug companies to “keep essential oils in the shadows.”
“There’s no testing that can really be done,” he said. “You just have to go on your personal experience.”
Following a banner year in which he won the 2012 Humana Challenge, Wilson has made only nine cuts, finishing in the top 10 three times, since he started sniffing; with about a month-and-a-half of 2013 Tour play remaining, he has earned less than half of his previous year’s $2.1 million total.
“You can’t exactly measure it. It’s not like, ‘I sniffed that, so I’m gonna shoot a 64,’” said Wilson. “I love the smell, so whether you believe it works or not, why not do it?”
Sure, it smells desperate, but aren’t we all? (Photo courtesy of SwingTrustOil.com)