Why You Have the Yips and What You Can Do to Stop Them
The missed short putt. We’ve all done it and it hurts, especially when it matters. Most of
us get over it but some can’t. Why? Because it happens all the time. And it happens when
your putting stroke is replaced by a spastic twitch-a twitch that is impossible to duplicate
under normal circumstances.
The yips—along with the shanks—are golf’s black death. You know when you’ve
got’em. It’s not your stroke. You know how to stroke a putt. It’s your twitch. You
can’t control it. You feel it coming as you ready yourself over the ball. Then you can’t
pry the club away from the ball to begin your backstroke. When you finally do get the
club moving, the stroke becomes a convulsive jab you can’t control. That’s the ugly truth.
That’s the yips.
The good news is that there is both a cause and a cure for the yips. Maxwell Maltz, M.D.,
author of Psycho–Cybernetics (1960) termed the condition “purpose
tremors.” He found two causes. First, trying too hard. Second, involuntary muscular
reaction. The cure? Change your mindset, habits and self-image.
Where do the yips come from? Our past failures. Our brain lives in the present. It can
relive the past. But it cannot see into the future, and this is where things break down.
All too often we think we’re bad putters. Why? Because we’ve drawn on our past
experience. What experience? Missing putts. Not making putts! When good putters
miss a putt—no matter how short—they just say to themselves, “I missed that putt.” Poor
putters miss a putt and say, “I’m a bad putter.” That becomes their mindset and selfimage.
Now they know they’re bad putters, and they act like it.
So how do you change your expectation from missing putts to making putts? There’s
only one way: change your self-image, mindset and habits. The brain can’t tell the
difference between an actual experience and one imagined vividly. So use your creative
imagination. See yourself making putts. In every detail and under the most intense
pressure. Vividly see yourself making every putt.
How long will it take to change your self-image, habits and mindset? Twenty-one
days. Then you’ll no longer draw on the image of missed putts. You’ll draw only on
the image of made putts—those imagined and those real.
To do this, you must change your practice habits. Begin with a one-foot putt. Make it.
Then make it again. Then make it again and again and again. Make ten in a row. Make
fifty in a row. Your one goal? Make putts.
Now you might ask, “Why do this? Why make so many short putts in a row?” It’s simple:
you’re going to make these putts— you won’t miss one so short—and your subconscious
doesn’t know whether the putt is one foot or 50 feet. All it knows is that you make putts!
And that’s when your subconscious mind gets into high gear. It now understands
its one-and-only job—make putts! Your subconscious now knows the truth,
and it pulls your self-image up with it. You come to believe you’re a good putter. And
in fact you are. At least from one foot. Soon, from longer distances too. There are all
kinds of practice drills to help here, and we’ll discuss them next time.
You also need to practice lag putting- putts of 20 feet and longer. Studies show
that amateurs 3-putt 267 percent more than tour pros. What to do? First, know the
odds. Shotlink statistics tell us that from 20 feet PGA Tour players miss 5 out of 6 putts.
Worse yet, they 3-putt 2 percent of the time from that distance. Why should you
expect to do any better?
So, ease up . . . .at all distances. See your putt going into the hole. Trust yourself and
your ability. Don’t pressure yourself to make the clutch putt. Just make your stroke. See
the putt going into the hole. See it vividly. Develop a don’t care attitude. The putt will
either go in or it won’t.
Who cares if you miss? Everybody misses, It’s called golf!
By Wayne Watts
PGA Certified Instructor
Lynn Blake Golf Master Instructor
Wayne Watts Golf at Golf Club of South Carolina at Crickentree