Bold Prediction for 2017: The Yips Will Be Exterminated Forever

December 15, 2016

Ed. note: Over seven days is rolling out seven bold takes for 2017. Here’s Josh Sens on the dreaded yips and if they can be cured.

Peace on earth, good will towards men. That would be nice.

Meantime, though, here’s something we’ll actually see next year. In a facility in Vienna, Austria, a team of researchers is working on a weapon designed to rid humanity of a grave affliction, a plague that eats away at minds and bodies, and clouds the souls of good men and women around the globe (children appear to have escaped the scourge).

Dementia? Arthritis? Reality TV?

Nope. The yips.

In 2017, we’ll be free of them at last. One of the forward-thinkers we’ll have to thank is René Maehr, co-founder of Tyche, a bio-mechanics company operating at the forefront of the fight against — call them what you want — the yips, the quakes, the shakes, the heebie-jeebies.

Maehr has a background in bio-cybernetics and cell biology, which is a fancy way of saying that he has a nuanced understanding of how living things and machines move and behave. He also comes from a family of golf fanatics that includes a father who suffers from the yips. A few years ago, driven by professional curiosity and concern for his poor dad, Maehr started poring over studies on the yips. What he found were myriad theories as to the causes and potential cures.

Many keen observers regard the yips as a tangle of physical, psychological and neurological phenomena that manifest themselves in an unhappy movement. It’s all well and good to know that. But that general understanding hasn’t been much help to the untold numbers of golfers of all levels who’ve been undone by the yips. An antidote has proved elusive.

In their search for relief, yippers have turned to all sorts of experts: swing gurus, head shrinks, hypnotists and on.

(My own desperate struggles once prompted me to purchase a potion from a voodoo doctor in New Orleans who claimed that the elixir was a salve for everything. The mixture smelled like Meyer lemons. It seemed to work for a while, and then, one day, it didn’t.)

At Tyche, Maehr has teamed with experts in computer science, robotics, engineering, kinesiology and, yes, golf, to concoct a different sort of home-remedy, one that takes the shape of a scientifically tested, portable device.

Like a Woody Allen movie, or a Tiger Woods swing change, some details about the product are being kept under wraps (it is, after all, a competitive marketplace). But I can tell you its name — the Tyche T1 — and that it consists of two components. The first is a swing sensor that not only determines whether you have the yips but also measures just how bad you’ve got them. The second is a mechanism that interferes with the ball and your putting stroke in accordance with the severity of your problem. You can use it almost anywhere: your backyard, your basement, your office, the putting green.

Through repetition, the device retrains your body and mind. Maehr and Co. can take quantitative measure of the results, which have been impressive: in extensive field tests on yips-afflicted golfers, the typical jerky-yips motion has decreased by a factor of four, while the “repeatability” of a smooth putting stroke has increased three-fold.

The Tyche T1 is set to go on sale in Europe in the spring. Maehr plans to introduce it to the United States shortly after. Call me a pie-eyed optimist, but in golf, and in life, it helps to have a rosy outlook, so that’s my bold prediction for 2017: a time of healing for me and countless other addled golfers.

As for peace on earth and all that other good stuff, I’m hoping for that, too.