Beating the Yips
There may be no more painful affliction in our game than the "yips" – those uncontrollable and maddening little nervous twitches that prevent you from making a decent stroke on short putts. If you've never had them, consider yourself very fortunate (or possibly just very young). But I can assure you that when your most treacherous and feared golf shot is not the 195 yard approach over water with a quartering headwind...not the extra tight fairway with water left and sand right...not the soft bunker shot to a downhill pin with water on the other side...no, when your most feared shot is the remaining 2-4 foot putt after hitting a great approach or scramble shot, it makes the game almost painful.
And I've been fighting the yips (again) for a while now. It's a recurring nightmare that has haunted me most of my adult life. I even had the yips when I was in my 20s, but I've beat them into submission off and on most of my adult life. But just recently, that nasty virus came to life once again. My lag putting has been very good, but when I get over one of those "you should make this" length putts, the entire nervous system seems to go haywire. I make great practice strokes, and then the most pitiful right-handed jab at the ball you can imagine. Sheesh.
But I'm a traditionalist, and do not look toward the long putter, belly putter, cross-hand, claw or other oddball thing as the solution. My approach is to beat those damn yips into submission some other way. So here's what I'm doing that is working pretty well, and I offer that to all of you who might have a similar affliction on the greens.
When you are over a short putt, take a few practice strokes to get the pace and feel you feel is required. Address your putt and take two looks at the hole and back to the putter to ensure good alignment. Lighten your right hand and make sure that only the fingertips are in contact with the grip, to prevent you from getting to tight.
Then, take a long, long, long look at the hole. Fill your entire mind and senses with the target. When you bring your head/eyes back to the ball, try to make a smooth immediate move right into your backstroke, and then let your putter track right back to where you were looking – the HOLE! And focus on seeing the putter make contact with the ball, preferably even the forward edge of the ball – the side near the hole.
For me, this is working, but I am asking all of you to chime in with your own "home remedies" for the most aggravating and senseless of all golf maladies. It never hurts to have more to fall back on.
Chime in, guys!
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I went to the claw this year and will not go back. I take 2 practice swings looking only at the hole letting my eyes tell my club face and path where to go. One last long look at the hole then boom. I have been able to putt pretty well only looking at the hole but 1 out of 5 I would scuff the grass or not hit it on the sweet spot so I look at the ball now but its the practice swings looking at the hole that get me to where I want to be.
TWG - I think that is a good routine but a shorter routine may help as well. That still seems long to me. Two practice strokes, look at the hole, hit it. The less time, the less chance for a yip. Kevin Na is the perfect example. Positive mental talk also helps. Saying to yourself "I am going to make this putt" before you putt seems to work well for me. Positive reinforcement.
Matt McGee says:
I've been having the sand yips lately. The solution for me seems to be to concentrate on the result I'm trying to achieve, rather than the shot I'm trying to hit. I think the distraction from the mechanics of the shot is the important part.
I was waiting for him to say he practiced putting with his wedge.
Never had a big problem with the yips. When putting, I stick to my routine and that really helps. There are two parts of my routine that I think helps as anti-yip. First, I put a stripe on my ball and line it up where I want my putt to go. When I'm over the ball, I make sure the line looks and feels right and them I'm committed. I only care about speed from there on. Second, I look not just at the hole when I putt, I look up and down my projected line. I'm looking at the ground I'm going to have to cover to get it to the hole. Then it's down, press (I use the forward press), and go as smoothly as I can.
Aaron - I agree with the forward press as a trigger. Read a lengthy interview with Dave Stockton about it, and put it into practice and it really helps ease up the tension for me. I no longer find myself worrying about yanking the putter back to the inside or outside or too quickly, the small forward press makes everything just happen naturally.
Lead (left) hand low has helped me not only with an overactive right side, but also with alignment. I took me two weeks of putting at least one hour every other day on my mat at home to make the transition. I'm not to the point where a normal grip feels awkward to me. It has improved my alignment dramatically but I'm still a little inconsistent with the pace. I've recently added a little forward press and this seems to be helping. We'll see. Audi quattro Cup National final coming up this weekend. That will be the ultimate test.
Vern Callison, the USGA Public Links Champion in 1960 and 1967, had a surefire way to get rid of yips. Take your practice strokes and then before you step up to putt, stick your front foot forward and make two swings against your instep. This deadens the nerves in your hands and you will not yip!!
When I'm in the right mindset, my focus is solely on hitting the putter on the sweet spot. I get my line and pace set in my mind through my routine, then only think about hitting the ball on the center of the club without thinking about whether or not it is going in. I'm using a putter where I find the sweet spot is easy to see. When I concentrate properly, it works. I hit 8 out of 10 money putts (3-10 feet) my last round. The 10th putt, one of the misses, I started thinking about making the putt instead of making the right impact.
I don't really have the yips but I have missed my fair share of putts inside 3'. The last fews years, I have been looking at the target side of the ball for my iron shots. This year, I decided to incorporate that into my putting, with the only exception that the shaft tracks down the target line. Make sure you have the right tempo and your putts should either go in or you have an easy tap-in.
Definitely forward press for me on all putts. Never break wrists on any putt, before or after stroke. For short putts, about 4 ft or under, at address, I see the hole out the corner of my left eye while standing over and looking at the ball. Then I make my short stroke through the ball and continue to follow the ball to the hole with the face of the club square to the hole. I think the pre-thought to follow the ball into the hole (while being able to see the hole during my stroke) helps me to stroke the ball on the proper line because I am already predisposed to continue the clubhead at the hole rather than just tapping the ball lightly, quickly stopping the stroke after the strike and then hoping I tapped it straight. It's hard to explain, but it works very well. You end up with a very smooth, short roll directly into the hole. Basically, the main thought before the stroke is to "follow the ball with the clubhead into the hole." (Just don't get so close to it that you touch it a second time!)
I suspect the act of reading this article may give me the yips, because now I'm thinking about it.
wow... this article came at the perfect time... I've been putting extremely poorly lately and it has really held back my scoring to the "next" level... unfortunately not only the yips for the 2-3 footers... i end up 3 putting too many times from just 15 ft... and the hard part is that it's in my head every time i set up to putt... I need to get that confidence back... and right now is far far away... been trying different grip, different approach to putt, different stance... nothing seems to get me somewhat consistent
joe jones says:
Terry. This article brings back bad memories for me. As some of you oober's may know I suffered one of the worst cases of the yips in the late 60s. I was an excellent putter for years and got so bad that one of two things would happen. Either I couldn't draw the putter away from the ball or when I did I would freeze before I could pull the trigger. My true friends wouldn't watch me because they thought the yips were catching. My solution was going to a long putter and putting side saddle. Not a solution for everyone but it saved me from either blowing my brains out or quitting golf. My dear wife said I was a miserable S O B during that time. If you have been fighting and winning your battles with this infliction, Bravo. My tip to anyone. Don't bow down to tradition. Do anything to escape regardless of how weird or stupid it looks. I have enjoyed the game since 1970 because I did what I did.
Tim Horan says:
I take my practice swings back and forth looking only at the hole to get the feel for the pace. Then I align behind the ball take one look at the hole and imagine that the putter is in the forward position moving back (as it was during my practice swings) and the simply pick up the imaginary swing in the back swing and execute. It smooths out the take away. I find you need to control your breathing and time your inhale with your last look at the hole.
For me, the thing that prevents me from getting that twitch has been to adopt a kind of poppy feeling stroke. It doesn't look like it feels; it looks normal. But having that little poppy feel leaves me much less susceptible to yips that trying to make a smooth feeling stroke. Unusual, but it works for me.
What a powerful entry by joe jones! He's clearly describing abnormal psychology - like a phobia. He could not in control the problem. I got to know this intimately after suffering through panic attack for about 1 year after a home invasion situation. I took that long to find a name for it, talk about it, and then very easily treat it and move on. Nobody seems to believe this kind of psychological impairment until it happens to them.
If you're dreading these putts long before you take them, or on your way to the course then this is serious. There is a good chance that facing these putts literally transports you to an experience of shame, embarrassment, or loss (not the game necessarily, but to a bygone era, loved one, past trauma,etc.) If this is the case, then you need to either erase those associations (the long putter, say), or fight the "transportation." You can do this by clenching fists, or performing a physical act that proves to you and your body that you are in the present and not somewhere else.
I certainly do not underestimate the psychological and emotional content of a round of golf. I mainly have to fight my emotions on the course especially when I have a great round going. Once you can hit the ball well and have the ability to par any course, it's amazing how purely mental the game becomes, and how is screws with your physical acts! How could my wife imagine out there in the late fall, playing on my own, off in the wilderness - and playing well - under so much stress over misreading a 12-foot putt and having a 5-foot slider coming back?
I do not dread playing the game, but the game remains a tough teacher. Golf can be forgiving, and at times rewards luck over skill. It still teaches humility above all else. The hard work we put in comes back by the buckets if you stick with it!
As for short putts: "It is a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt over so small a thing." ... Gandalf
joe jones says:
I have written articles and done speaking engagements where I am asked my opinion about who are the best putters of all time. While I am rapidly approaching ancient status in golf it is difficult if not impossible to name one individual. The name that is always on my list is...Get ready...Bernhard Langer. Anyone that can fight his way through at least four bouts of the putting yips deserves consideration. He has said it took a lot of ribbing and teasing for him to use the various methods he developed to overcome the problem Many nights of prayer and religious counseling were required. I'm sure a strong Germanic mind set also helped. Any problem that requires these extreme cures must be admired.The term Phobia is right on. The old story of "not understanding why my feet hurt until you have walked a mile in my shoes" certainly applies here.The fear of failing is a horrible thing.
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