Back in the late 90s and early in the twenty-first century, when I started getting really interested in golf psychology, it seemed that the question everyone was asking was, "Who is Jos Vanstiphout?" At the 2002 Open at Muirfield, he was sharing his talents with both players in the play-off, Ernie Els and Thomas Levet. He was reported as having other irons in the fire that week, with clients including Retief Goosen, Soren Hansen, Sergio Garcia, Michael Campbell and Darren Clarke and quite a few others. As a betting man, he had good odds of backing a winner.
So, what exactly did Jos do for his clients? Well, they gave him lots of credit for their success - Retief Goosen handing him much of the credit for his US Open Win at Southern Hills in 2001. But what was he actually doing with his clients to help them? I'm scouring the web for answers to that question and finding absolutely nothing, apart from his having no apparent training or qualification as a golf psychologist. Neither are there any clues in his background and despite his 50+ years, his career history only seems to mention his leaving school at 14, becoming a Belgian pop singer and working as an advertising salesman.
I have found references to his being inspired by Edward de Bono, best known for his ideas on Lateral Thinking, and Timothy Gallwey, the man behind the Inner Game books. Jos seems to have had a very direct approach to life and apparently spent a lot of money getting to spend time with Gallwey. He continued this approach by following the European Tour for 3 years touting for business before becoming an overnight sensation.
Although I'm finding very few examples demonstrating his methods, he does appear to have based his approach on the Inner Game idea of changing your thinking to change your golf performance. The only quote I've found from hours of searching suggests that he may be a fan of visualisation and unconscious golf.
"Even if you don't believe that you can change a particular feeling, pretend that you believe it. If you pretend, then you can fool your subconscious. The good thing is that your subconscious doesn't know the difference between truth and pretending "
Although he appeared to have a strong following among the top professionals for a few years, he dropped off the radar almost instantly and I'm finding nothing to say what happened to him.
So where am I going with all this? Well, for a short time each of these professionals seemed eager to attribute some of their success to Jos Vanstiphout and clearly believed in him. However, I'm finding nothing to say what he actually did for them or the golf psychology techniques he was teaching them. Maybe that's why the effect wore off so quickly.
The lesson for me is that before you commit to working with a golf psychologist, you should know as much as possible about what techniques they are likely to use to help you and how qualified they are to use those techniques.
By the way, if anyone out there knows what happened to Jos, please let us all know.