How To Cure The Putting Yips

Learn how to cure the putting yips with these simple and practical pointers from PGA Professional Gareth Shaw

How to cure the putting yips
(Image credit: Kevin Murray)

We hear the word “yips” bandied 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 - whether that's putting or even the chipping yips. 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. 

How to cure the 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' six-putt at the 2016 Masters and Bernhard Langer at the 1991 Ryder Cup.

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. The fact that these players are on Tour and competing successful shows that you can overcome the problem but it requires a smart approach.

If you are experiencing symptoms of the yips in your game here are some mental game golf tips that will help you overcome them.

Putting yips

The putting yips can take the enjoyment out the game 

(Image credit: Kevin Murray)

  • Get to the route of the problem: Is the issue something technical that can be supported by your local PGA pro 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-handers putt 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 three putts each time.

The above techniques can help combat the yips but if the problem persists source further support from your PGA pro or a sports psychologist. The answer is not to go out and buy a new club.

Break The Status Quo

Wherever the putting yips stem from and however they started, it is important that you take a proactive approach to breaking the problem. Ignoring them because sometimes you are fine (ie. you don't always experience them), is unlikely to work in the long run. Tackling the problem head-on with a new grip or some of the mental game processes above will set you onto a new path that could remove the feeling of the yips and allow you to swing the putter freely again.  

Gareth Shaw
PGA Professional

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.