How To Cure The Putting Yips
We hear the word “yips” banded about in the golf world. A yip manifests in a number of ways such as freezing, an involuntary movement that you can’t control or a jerk. Research has shown that 33-to-48% of all serious golfers have experienced the yips of some kind. What's more, golfers who have played for more than 25 years appear most prone to the condition. Perhaps their knowledge and experience in the sport is making them overly analytical of their game, trying to fix a problem that may not be there.
What causes putting yips?
Despite extensive discussion and research around the yips in golf, the exact cause is yet to be determined. One possibility is biochemical changes in the brain that accompany ageing. Excessive use of the involved muscles and intense demands of coordination and concentration may exacerbate the problem. Focal dystonia which involves involuntary spasms in small muscles in the body has also been mentioned as a possible cause for the yips – just take a look at Ernie Els at the 2016 Masters and Bernard Langer at the Ryder Cup in 1991.
On Tour we have seen players adopt different methods like the claw grip for putting to help them fix the problem with a different feeling. For some it may be worth experimenting with a different putting grip.
But what else can you do? If you are experiencing symptoms of the yips in your game here are some mental game golf tips that will help you overcome them:
- Get to the route of the problem: is the issue something technical that can be supported by your local PGA Professional or is it a mental response to a certain shot or in a certain situation (e.g. using a certain club in your bag or during a tournament)?
- Game of opposites: a more extreme method of combating the yips is to putt the opposite way to your usual stroke (i.e. right-handed putts left-handed), the aim being to get you back to basics and concentrate on the process rather than the action of yipping.
- Take a breath: A pre-shot routine can be vital for combating the yips – the key part of this being to take a breath either before approaching the shot or executing it.
- Trigger: One symptom of the yips is “freezing” so having a physical trigger can help you execute the shot. For example, you may tighten and then relax your grip or take a deep breath in and out before taking the shot.
- Many of the best short putting tips focus on using pressure in your practice. Try to practice with a purpose on the putting green or at home - set yourself targets, compete against playing partners or play for incentives. This can induce pressure and place yourself in nervous “yip” territory providing you an opportunity to try to overcome it.
- Process over outcome: when practicing, aim to a point on the green, like a marker or alignment stick, to focus your attention on the execution of the skill rather than the outcome.
- Creative practice: switch up your club selection during practice. Try out a hybrid, 3 wood or wedge to change your to focus on the action of the shot rather than the shot itself.
- Drills: most “yips” happen at close range so a great drills to try is the 2ft, 4ft, 6ft drill: place a golf ball at each of these distances from the hole in a straight line, start with the 2ft putt and work your way back to the 4ft and then the 6ft. Repeat this process at 90° angles around the hole trying to hole 3 putts each time.
The above techniques can help combat the yips but if the problem persists source further support from your PGA Professional or a sports psychologist. The answer is not to go out and buy a new club, it’s in your mind!
Gareth is an Accredited PGA Professional with an MSc in Applied Sports Psychology & BSc in Sport & Exercise Science who specialises in Mental Skills Training. Within this field, he has worked with international athletes and DP World Tour Players. Gareth has also developed a series of golf products (including Mental Markers & Golf Training Diary) and has been published in the Psychology of Sport and Exercise journal with a study exploring 'choking' in Sport. Gareth has worked in the golf industry for over 20 years.
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