What are the scariest words to a golfer? Out of bounds, hazard, provisional, thick fescue, and shank can all make a player lose sleep, but they aren’t the worst.
The one thing golfers want to avoid more than anything else is the golf yips!
What makes the golf yips scary?
It is the unknown.
Why do they start?
Golf yips often come out of nowhere to ruin your round, your tournament, or even your love of the game.
PGA tour players have retired from competitive golf due to their inability to recover from a case of the golf yips.
Ian Baker Finch won the 1991 Open Championship, but after a battle with the golf yips missed 32 consecutive cuts and retired from the game.
We wouldn’t wish the golf yips on anyone. We hope you never deal with them, but if you do, we have some ideas to help!
What Are The Golf Yips?
The simplest definition of the golf yips they are an involuntary flinch or spasm in your wrist that impacts your putting and/or chipping.
The other type of golf yip is the inability to start your swing.
PGA tour player Kevin Na dealt with this several years ago – he would stand over the ball for several minutes before swinging.
Another example of the “inability to start your swing” golf yip is Sergio Garcia. In the 2002 US Open he would make 15-30 waggles before each shot, angering the New York crowd.
We are going to focus on the putting golf yip. It is the most common and the hardest to overcome.
Why is the golf yip so frustrating? It takes away your ability to do the simplest thing in golf.
You have been playing golf for years and all of a sudden you struggle to make a short putt. The involuntary flinch can make it nearly impossible to consistently roll the ball.
It can truly take the fun out of the game for some players. They get so frustrated they simply quit playing.
Would you still enjoy the game if all of a sudden you went from shooting ~85 to not being able to break 100?
How Do You Get The Golf Yips?
This is the scary part of the golf yips. No one really knows why they suddenly start.
HP Lovecraft (supernatural/horror writer) once said “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”
This is the problem with golf yips. If you shank a shot, you know why. If you hook a shot, you know why. The golf yips can just appear in your game.
It is possible that you have an injury in your hands or wrists that causes the golf yip spasm, but this is rare.
99% of the time golf yips are mental.
This is what makes them so hard to banish. Fixing your swing is easier than fixing your brain.
They can start at any time and happen to any player. A scratch golfer can develop the golf yips just as easily as a high handicapper.
The golf yips typically start with you missing a couple short putts or missing a critical putt during your round.
We all miss putts from time to time, so if you want to avoid getting the golf yips maintain your composure. Don’t get frustrated and angry.
There are different opinions, but we believe golf yips start with fear. Fear of missing a short putt or fear of losing.
Fear of failing on the golf course will lead to poor shots and potentially, the golf yips.
5 Techniques To Banish The Golf Yips
First things first, if you suddenly develop the golf yips it isn’t your fault. Many golfers have fought them over the years and recovered.
You can beat the golf yips and get back to focusing on improving your golf handicap.
Technique #1 – Relax & Take A Deep Breath
Maybe it is quite simple. You are tense, grip the putter to tightly, and make a nervous stroke.
Golf is a mental game and putting may be the most mental part. If confidence helps you make putts what does lack of confidence do?
The golf yips are in your head, so take control of how your brain behaves when you have an important shot.
Before you try something crazy or spend more money, try to relax before each putt. Find a way to reduce the tension.
What worked for Happy Gilmore when he lost his composure? He went to his happy place and regained his focus.
Be Happy. When you are feeling the nerves, take a moment to collect your thoughts. Take a deep breath and relax.
Not sure of the routine to try? Experts believe you can reduce your stress level in 3 seconds using a simple 2-to-1 breathing pattern.
Take two quick inhales through your nose and 1 long exhale through your mouth. This is a scientific way to release tension and potentially, fix your golf yips.
Technique #2 – Try A New Putter
We know, we know. A poor craftsman blames his tools, but sometimes you simply need a change.
If you have been fighting the golf yips, you most likely get very negative thoughts when you stand over a putt. Pretty soon at last some of the negativity will get directed at the club you are holding.
A new putter might do the trick. One without all of the emotional baggage and disappointment.
Don’t just pick any new putter. Pick one that is significantly different from the one you are currently using. The goal is find a different feel. Reset what your brain thinks about putting.
If you are currently using a blade putter, try a mallet. Instead of heal-shafted, try a putter that is center-shafted.
The goal is to remove the fear from your stroke. Get rid of the “scar tissue” you have developed with your current putter.
Technique #3 – Go With A Unique Putting Grip Or Style
This is the most common technique used by competitive golfers to fix the golf yips.
Did you know there are many different styles of putting? You can try different putter lengths or different ways to grip the club.
As we discussed above, the cause of the golf yips is a spasm or flinch in your wrist. There are putting grips that have been developed to stabilize the wrist.
These grips even have cool names.
You can putt with “the saw”, “the claw”, or simply go cross-handed.
For “the saw” and “the claw” you grip the putter normally with your left hand, but the right hand is placed on the grip, but not around the grip. If you are left-handed, reverse these instructions.
Cross-handed is simpler. Simply reverse your hands. You may also hear this putting grip referred to as “left hand low”.
The goal is change how your stroke feels and eliminate the golf yips.
The other option is to try a longer putter. The Rules of Golf have changed and you cannot anchor a putter to your belly or chest, but many players have still found success with longer putters.
Do you want to see some of these putting methods in action? Check out the Champions Tour.
As golfers get older many notice that they “lose their hands” and don’t have the same touch on the greens. Players on the Champions Tour have come up with many different ways to grip a putter to reduce the golf yips.
Technique #4 – Switch Hands
Yes, this is a drastic measure, but sometimes the golf yips require a drastic change.
The golf yips are mental. In order to break the pattern you need a different feel. Standing on the opposite side of the ball will feel different. We promise!
Very simple to explain. If you are a right-handed player, try putting left-handed.
Will it feel strange? Yes. Will it eliminate the “scar tissue” that makes you flinch at impact? Yes. Will you putt better? It depends.
The hardest part about switching hands is getting lined up. In some ways, it will feel like when you first started playing the game.
You will have to invest time on the practice green, but if you are looking for a full “putting reset” this might be worth a try.
Technique #5 – Take A Break From The Game
This is the last option, but may make sense if your frustration with the golf yips has boiled over. You may need to give yourself a mental break.
We are not recommending you permanently take up Tennis. We are simply saying you can take a bit of time away from golf.
Take a couple weeks or a couple months off from the game. Don’t touch a club and try not to think about golf.
This type of mental break can help you in a couple different ways.
First, it can renew your love of the game. Second, it can allow you to delete those negative memories.
The problem with the golf yips is that you start to think about all of those putts you have missed.
You may need a mental reset/break to be able to stand over a putt and make a positive stroke!
Great Golf Is Just Around The Corner
Golf yips don’t last forever. You can work your way through them and come out on the other side a better player.
One of our favorite golf quotes was said by Bobby Jones. “Golf is a game that is played on a five-inch course – the distance between your ears”.
The fact that the golf yips are mental is a good thing. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with your swing or stroke.
You simply need to find a way to regain you confidence. Try the techniques mentioned above and good luck.
Don’t worry, you have many more years of playing good golf. One day you will laugh with your buddies – “hey, remember when I had the golf yips?”.