It is called the potato-chip test. Place a potato chip in your mouth and attempt to hit a shot without breaking the chip.
"The purpose of these exercises goes to the heart of the technology and why this works," said Bob Molhoek, president of Bite Tech Inc., which has partnered with Under Armour in the production of ArmourBite performance mouthwear. "How we respond to stress is by clenching our teeth," Molhoek said, citing how people will clench their teeth when angry. "When they're stressed out or nervous, kids bit their nails or chew on a pencil. It's a little glitch in the human body."
Hunter Mahan has trained with ArmourBite mouthwear. The LPGA's Vicky Hurst has used it. Champions Tour player Bruce Fleisher is an outspoken advocate of its benefits.
Molhoek cited this Golf Digest tip from renowned instructor David Leadbetter, entitled, "Open mouth, lose tension," "about trying to relax your jaw on the teebox," he said.
"The concept of affecting performance by adjusting the jaws is centuries old. Viking and Roman warriors often bit on leather straps before going to battle. [Olympic sprinter] Usain Bolt used to bite on a neckless when he'd run."
What the ArmourBite does is adjusts the placement of the jaw. "The wedge changes the physiology of what's happening," Molhoek said. "It interrupts the signal to the brain and as a result of that leads to the benefits -- increased strength, endurance, reduction of lactic acid, reduction of cortisol. Cortisol has been linked to the yips. It's really a bad thing, the antithesis of testosterone. It saps your ability to perform."
Hurst said that it did not make her a better golfer, but it helped her play her best, according to Molhoek. The first time Fleisher used it, Molhoek said, he reported no fatigue for the first time in years. "Fleisher said that this product made him feel exactly the same on hole one and hole 18," Molhoek said.
"As you know, as you get later in life, it's not whether you can play, but whether you can play two days in a row. The benefit for the recreational player is having the endurance to play more golf than they used to play. We're also seeing improvement in range of motion and flexibility."
The ArmourBite is available in either a custom-fit mouthpiece for $495 through an authorized dental provider or a self-fitting mouthpiece for $60 at underarmour.com or sporting goods stores.
-- John Strege