MY BATTLE WITH MY PUTTING YIPS
This article is about my 13 month battle with my putting golf Yips that came on slowly from one round to the next and then became so full-blown that it was like a living thing that grew and fed off itself over time to the point where I wanted to putt with my pitching wedge or 3 wood (which I did at times with better results than my putter). I finally told those yips – “yips be gone!”
My hands would sweat, and I would feel uncontrolled twitches in my forearms, wrists, and hands that were unintentional.
The rest of my game was fine, tee to green I was better than most, just to only 3 or 4 putts and
ruin an otherwise good round of golf. My handicap went from 8 to 14 in 11 months, and I would defend my inflated handicap by simply saying “I can’t putt.”
MY DEFINITION OF THE YIPS
OK, so I’m going to first address what I think the “Yips” is. The symptoms and the causes of why I developed them and what the experts say about it.
Then I will reveal what steps I took to completely change my putting stroke, break the cycle of negative thoughts and finally find smoothness and consistency in my putting stroke. After 13 months these steps allowed me to step up to a putt with the confidence that I could indeed put it in the hole.
So let me begin with my take on what the yips really are.
I’ve played a lot of golf, as I started when I was 10 and I’m now 60. You can do the math.
I have always been a decent putter from in close, and a pretty good lag putter and 2 putt most greens.
I played a lot of different sports, such as hockey, baseball, lacrosse, tennis and ping pong and competed better than average in most of them.
Because these are all racket or stick type sports I have over the years become very right hand dominant, the only thing I do with my left hand is cut my food. Everything else I do the left hand is just along for the ride pretty much.
Over time the right hand becomes in my opinion about 80% of the control and accuracy when you are so right hand dominant. It just becomes second nature, you don’t have to think about it.
The problem here is it can result in rolling the right wrist over, which is the desired move in many of the sports I mentioned above, but definitely not putting.
As my putting game progressed through the years I found that on long putts I could roll the putt on line and feel confident that I could get most of my first putts within a 2-foot circle around the hole and have a short tap-in for two putts. I remained pretty good at sinking 8 to 12 footers and would drain a few per round.
So, over time, the right hand and wrist took over, and my brain subconsciously would steer the putter face for me. As the right-hand dominance increased so did regularity of missing putts to the left as the wrist rolled over and closed the face of the club.
I could get away with it on long putts because I would still finish in that 2-foot circle but I started missing all my short putts on the left side and often missing the putt coming back to the left as well. That resulted in a lot of 3 and sometimes 4 putts. Very discouraging!!
WHAT CAUSED ME TO DEVELOP THE YIPS
So let me be clear, this is what caused me to develop the yips, the right-handed pull to the left, but that move in itself was not the yips, it was just the cause that eventually killed my confidence.
Putting became totally mental as I tried relentlessly to square the clubface to my target which now resulted in half pulls to the left and the other half pushes to the right from trying to correct the pull. Some putts actually sneaked in the side or back door eventually.
So I can, without a doubt, say that I truly lived through a severe case of the yips. This began June of 2015 and I have battled it until now July of 2016.
HOW IT FELT
This is how it felt.
When I hit my shot on the green, I truly dreaded taking my putter from my bag and stepping on to the green. Someone would say nice shot Larry and I would say “thanks can you putt for me?”
Rather than hover over my ball waiting for my turn to putt I would wander around the green trying to erase the thoughts and pressure of knowing that it wasn’t going to be pretty and try to talk myself into some positive thoughts or, for that matter, not even think of golf or the task at hand.
When I stepped up to hit my putt it felt as though I had no idea what result I would get. I didn’t know if I should be bent way over the ball or more upright, should I marry my hands in my left-hand low grip or split them a little, spread my stance wider or narrower.
When I figure all that out and feel somewhat “comfortable” then the focus became solely on aiming the putter face and the alignment lines at my target where I wanted to hit the ball.
Ok….small adjustment and ok I’m ready! Now just hit the ball, correct?
So, I would bring the putter head back, I could feel the weight of it and everything, still felt good other than sweaty hands and knocking knees, I was terrified to bring it forward through as I knew that if I kept the putter face on line, or what I felt was on line, just to every time have the ball shoot left of where I felt I was aiming . So many pars and birdies down the tubes because I was pulling every putt.
So a pull should be fairly easy to correct right?
If you are aiming at your target and your body, alignment, and your stroke all seem to be online, straight back and straight through then some of those putts have got to go in. When I tried to correct the pull I would miss everything on the right side of the hole…a push.
Now knowing that something mental was making me flip my right hand over that trying to push the club straight through became increasingly more difficult to the point where I convinced myself that I could not hit the ball straight.
I was missing all the 3 footers, a lot of the 2 footers and some of the 1 footers. In fact, I could even feel little spasms in my forearms that kept my stroke from being at one consistent smooth speed. This wasn’t physical, this was truly a mental thing. I was now hitting 1 and 2 foot puts 6 inches short. It felt like paralysis. My body wouldn’t do what the brain was telling it to.
At this point I should thank all my golf buddies who have put up with me over the past year, all the gasps, all tension when I would step up to the ball on the green and all the tips, analysis and suggestions as to what the hell I was doing and what I needed to do to fix it.
I wonder how many golfers who are struggling with yips are nodding their heads and can relate to the frustration and helplessness that you go through.
THE EXPERTS ON YIPS.
As you can imagine I have visited many websites looking for some kind of a solution.
What I have read is that the yips are not a physical deformity in your putting stroke and usually has nothing to do with technique. What the experts say is that the yips whether it be in golf, tennis, bowling or baseball is a neurological problem where the brain is not sending the proper signals to the small muscles and tendons that are used to execute the necessary action needed for the desired result, and that causes a deformity in your swing, your stroke or shot depending on what sport you are playing.
This problem can increase with age but no one is immune. There is no real fix and a remedy that works for one may not work for all. Some say there is no fix and once you have the yips it lurks….in a dark place in your mind…when you think it’s gone, there it is back again, and usually worse.
MY TAKE ON THE YIPS
I don’t completely buy into all that philosophy though and believe that where there is hope, there is a cure… which may not be the same for each individual golfer, but I do not think that once fixed it will never return.
In fact, I feel that once you find your fix you will need to apply it in your practice and golf putting drills. I also think that you may be able to go back to your regular putting stroke after you have applied your fix, whatever that may be, and you will need to practice it relentlessly as I have, with the goal of finding a true, smooth pendulum stroke once again that doesn’t break down under pressure of short pivotal putts.
Once you have found it you will need to continue the routine in your practice and warm-up, kind of like taking a blood pressure pill, it’s maintenance.
So now that we understand a bit better of what we are up against and why it happens, we can now start to fix the problem of “The Dreaded Yips.”
THIS IS HOW I FIXED MY YIPS!
First of all, I didn’t take a lesson from my pro, I wish I had, I’m sure he would have easily fixed the dominant right-hand pull that led to all this frustration.
However, being a chronic procrastinator I didn’t, so enough about that.
I knew that my stroke had lost all its fluidity and that the smoothness needed and that I used to have was gone. I was hesitant to hit the ball, my stroke speed was inconsistent and I was jabbing at the ball to try to send it on the proper path to the hole.
Something very drastic needed to change.
First I changed putters from a 36″ to 33″ shaft, I went from a regular grip to a reverse taper grip, skinny at the top and fatter at the bottom. Not that I suggest these changes, but just because I needed to get very very far away from what I was used to. Even if it felt weird and unorthodox that’s what I wanted.
I also went from being down and low leaning over the ball to being more upright with a straighter back and a bit less flex in my knees. This really helped me regain a pendulum feel and stopped the jabbing at the ball. It felt way better.
Next, I closed my eyes and practiced just being smooth with my stroke back and forth back and forth, tick tock. tick tock.
I really needed to groove that feeling. I realized here by accident because the thought never crossed my mind that putting had become all hands to me, now suddenly, I was putting with my shoulders and did it ever feel right.
I practiced the above thoughts daily for about a week, It felt great and was sinking everything in practice. However on the course was different and I would revert back to old habits and get wristy and start pulling again.
I NEEDED MORE…SOMETHING EVEN MORE DRASTIC
The next thing I did was I started putting not looking at the ball but looking at the hole or where I wanted to aim my putt. This seemed really weird, but in hockey if you want to shoot the puck to the top right-hand corner of the net, that’s where you look, not at the puck, so this wasn’t totally foreign to me and I found myself getting really comfortable in practice and it really smoothed my stroke out, especially the pendulum..
Before I give you my final game changer move…The one I give most of the credit too…let me recap the moves that we’ve I learned so far that worked for me.
- I changed my putter length and went to a different grip for a different feel.
- I changed to a more upright stance and putted with a shoulder action back and forth rather than with my hands and wrists.
- I practiced putts with my eyes closed so I could “feel” the pendulum happening rather than a stab at the ball.
Then I practiced looking at the hole or the line rather than staring at my putter face striking the ball, which really made me trust the pendulum and stop flipping my wrists over to “steer” my putts. I found that when I focused on the putter face I was always trying to manipulate the putter face to be on line
THE FINAL YIP FIX!
Ok, you’ve waited for it and I I know you want it so here it is.
The most drastic and unorthodox move of all that I give most of the credit to.
My grip has been for the last 30 years a conventional left-hand low style grip. This type of grip even if you lock your hands together still leaves the ability to roll your right wrist over or lay the left hand down to the left resulting in the dreaded pull that started all my putting woes, it took a few years for it to really take over but it did and it does, and it’s not I want to go through again, but who knows.
My #1 Drastic Move?
A left-hand low claw putting grip. Not just the claw grip that you see players on the tour use but I mean the first 2 fingers wrapped around the grip so that the back of my left-hand faces the target. I like to wrap 3 fingers on the shaft for shorter putts and 2 fingers on long putts.
This has really eliminated my sub-conscious trying to roll my right wrist and lay my left wrist down. My wrists are locked in one position now, it feels very comfortable and I now have a very smooth pendulum putting stroke, my confidence has returned and I’m scoring again the way I did at my best.
Stay Tuned for my next Post.