How JB Holmes survived brain surgery to contend at The Open

How JB Holmes survived brain surgery to contend at The Open

The American keeps a chunk of his skull at home as a reminder... This is how JB Holmes survived brain surgery to contend at The Open

As anyone who plays the game well knows, golf can be an all-consuming sport. A bad day on the course can feel more draining than the longest day in the office. This is why perspective is a powerful asset for any player at The Open. This is the story of how JB Holmes survived brain surgery to contend at The Open

Enter JB Holmes. During the 2011 season, the American began to suffer with vertigo-like symptoms. Spells of dizziness beginning at The Players Championship continued to take their toll as he tried to compete.

“For the rest of the year it really bothered me,” Holmes explained. “I hadn't missed the cut all year and then I missed three in a row. It was mainly because of that, being dizzy. I'd catch a shot really fat, and make one or two swings a round and it cost me three or four shots.”

After missing the cut at the Open at Royal St George’s and the Greenbrier Classic, Holmes pulled out of the PGA Championship after an opening round 80. This was his last appearance of the year.

JB Holmes missing dog but topping leaderboards at Portrush

During this period, he was working with doctors to reveal the underlying problem.

“The last doctor, the sixth doctor I've seen said you probably need to have surgery,” he explained. “He said there are no guarantees, but that will probably help and cure you of your symptoms.”

In September of 2011, JB Holmes underwent brain surgery, a procedure that involved removing a chunk of his skull and replacing it with a titanium plate. Initially the operation was a success but complications soon followed and Holmes was airlifted back to hospital.

“The surgery went well. Then about a month later I started getting fluid around the scar and then got real sick that night. Sunday I don't even really remember. I was in the hospital for about a week, and ended up having to go back in. It ended up being allergic to the glue, and a stitch came loose back there.

Open Championship TV Coverage 2019

“The second surgery when I was sick and went to the E.R. and things, that scared everybody pretty good. Like I said, I don't even remember that day, so it wasn't as bad for me as it was for them.”

These deeply worrying health issues might thankfully be in the distant past but their effects were surely profound. The Holmes we see serenely overcoming the brutal, and for many terrifying, challenge of Royal Portrush is a man who has overcome something far more daunting. That he still keeps a chunk of his skull at home as a reminder of the brain surgery is evidence of the perspective that could yet prove to be his most important asset.

Neil Tappin
Digital Editor

In his current role, Neil is responsible for testing drivers and golf balls. Having been a part of the Golf Monthly team for over 15 years and playing off a handicap of 3, he has the experience to compare performance between models, brands and generations. For 2022 he thinks the main trend in drivers is: "In a word, consistency. Whilst all the brands are talking about ball speed (and the new drivers are certainly long), my biggest finding has been how much more consistent the ball flights are. Mishits don't seem to be causing the same level of drop-off or increase in the spin numbers. This means that more shots seem to be flying the way you want them to!" As far as golf balls are concerned the biggest development is in the, "three piece, non-Tour, urethane-covered section. For regular golfers, these models offer superb performance at both ends of the bag without denting your wallet quite as much as the premium Tour-played options."


Originally working with the best coaches in the UK to produce instruction content, he is now the brand's Digital Editor and covers everything from Tour player interviews to gear reviews. In his time at Golf Monthly, he has covered equipment launches that date back well over a decade. He clearly remembers the launch of the Callaway and Nike square drivers as well as the white TaylorMade driver families, such as the RocketBallz! If you take a look at the Golf Monthly YouTube channel, you'll see his equipment videos dating back over a decade! He has also conducted 'What's In The Bag' interviews with many of the game's best players like Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm. Over the years, Neil has tested a vast array of products in each category and at drastically different price-points. 

Neil is currently playing: Driver: TaylorMade Stealth Plus Fairway Wood: Titleist TSi2 Hybrid: Titleist TS3 Irons (4-9): Mizuno JPX 919 Forged Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM7 46˚, 50˚, 54˚, 60˚ Putter: Odyssey Triple Track Ten Ball: Titleist Pro V1X