Here’s how Brendon Todd’s coach solved his driver ‘yips’
Editor’s Note: Baden Schaff has been a PGA teaching professional for 17 years and is the co-founder of Skillest, a digital platform that connects golf students with golf coaches across the world for online lessons. To learn more about Skillest and to book a lesson of your own with Baden, head over to Skillest.com or download the app in the app store.
Last year at the Bermuda Open, there was a comeback story the likes of which are rarely seen at golf’s highest levels. Brendon Todd holed his final putt to shoot a 62, win by four and take home his first PGA Tour win since 2014.
For Todd, the years leading to that point had been torturous. He had the self-proclaimed driver yips, had missed 37 of 41 cuts and was on the verge of purchasing a fast food franchise and moving on to a very different career. It’s the kind of story that could be a movie. But to understand how he turned it all around, you have to go back decades to a third-rate golf course on the southern tip of Australia’s famed Sandbelt. That’s where promising Aussie junior Brad Hughes cut his teeth, hoping to follow in the footsteps of Greg Norman.
After turning pro in 1988, Hughes went on to decades of success. He won two Australian Masters, represented the Internationals in the Presidents Cup, and put in time globetrotting on the Australasian, Japanese, European, Nationwide and PGA tours over the course of his career. In addition to his playing career, he devoted himself to the game in another way: helping fellow golfers. When Brendon Todd came to Hughes to solve his 40-yard miss, he was calling on a wealth of knowledge that had been accumulated through decades of toil, joy and pain. Sure, Hughes never quite lived up to the Shark’s sky-high benchmarks for an Aussie player.
But Todd can be thankful that he didn’t.
Elite players can go two ways when their career doesn’t quite go according to plan. They can become bitter and twisted, walking away from the game and never picking up a club again, or they can accept the results and try to understand them — and ask the question “why?” The latter approach is obviously more productive; it means looking for answers, exploring ideas and studying what the best have done. It’s a relatively rare breed, those who have played the game at the absolute elite level and then also have the ability and desire to teach. After all, the saying goes that those who can’t do, teach. But Brad Hughes not only could, he’s now considered one of the world’s hottest coaches. It’s a deadly combination.
The relationship between Brad and Brendon started online. For anyone who has ever visited Brad’s website you will know that there is a lot of information. It can seem like a stream of consciousness at times. Fortunately you can purchase a consolidated version of Brad’s thoughts in his e-book. It was this resource that was recommended to Brendon, who at this stage had already been on the coach merry-go-round and was searching for anything that that may help. It did. Many of Brad’s ideas resonated with Brendon and he began working on drills before he even reached out to Brad personally. After some progress, it was time to go and see Brad in the flesh and get hands on.
So what what caused his driver yips, and how did Hughes solve them?
1. Managing information flow
What had been holding Brendon back over the past few years? There were two major components. One was mental and the other was technical. The mental component was the result of Todd spending too much time in fancy teaching facilities. He had spent years on Trackman trying to hit all of the right parameters, but this led to a big problem. As Todd said himself, he had begun to “paint with numbers”. He intellectually understood what coaches were telling him and what numbers he was supposed to be hitting, but he couldn’t intrinsically feel it. His golf swing was beginning to feel external. So Hughes stopped talking about numbers and began talking about “feels.”
Hughes loves terms like “pressures” rather than telling Brendon specific positions in which to put the club. They were not only building a swing that would get Brendon contending again but building something that would stand up under pressure. If you are playing a numbers game or placing the club in “perfect” positions it is unlikely to work when under the pump. Getting in your body and feeling your “feels” will.
2. Controlling the clubface
Technically speaking, what Hughes and Todd worked on was controlling the club face. You can imagine that the fear of missing 40 yards right with driver out of nowhere would haunt any Tour pro. The way Todd had tried to fix the mega-block was by keeping the face more square or shut, which is actually how many amateurs try to fix their slice. They believe if they shut the club they can stop it from going over to the right. Unfortunately this had the opposite effect. The more it shut the more it had to open on the downswing sending the ball over to the right. So Brad fixed the block/slice by opening the club on the backswing. As a result, he could open his clubface on the backswing and then close as it came through impact. This liberated Todd to go harder and harder at the ball rather than guiding it as he had been in the past. This completely eliminated the miss to the right and the rest is history.
Not all stories like this have such a simple happy ending. One of the reasons Todd’s comeback was so remarkable is that most players who truly develop the yips disappear, never to be seen again. In this case, it was the right combination of player, coach, time and place. At Skillest, that’s the question we’re looking to answer all the time: Is there a coach with the knowledge and experience that can help your game? Not all coaches are the same and students have very different swing patterns and swing concepts. In this case, the proper combo resurrected a player’s game and simultaneously launched a coaching career 40 years in the making.
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