golf yips – 1

GOLF  YIPS TIPS                        Dr. Tom Kubistant, CSP

I dont understand it.  Although I work year around with yipsters at the start of every season I receive an influx of requests from those poor souls afflicted with the putting, chipping and pitching, and full swing yips.  The last few Augusts I was contacted by yipsters who lived in Australia,
New Zealand, South Africa, and even Tasmania who were commencing their seasons.  And every March I am almost inundated with correspondence from yipsters across North America and Europe.  It is almost as if golfers vow that in the upcoming season they will better cope with and even conquer their yipping.  I donít understand the motivation for this timing, but there it is.
I have been researching and working with the putting yips since 1986.  My first article on it was way back in 1990.  This work expanded to the chipping/pitching and full swing yips.  I have written series of articles on each of these three distinct types of yipping.
As this general affliction became more recognized, other athletes, performing artists, and professionals have contacted me for help with their yipping of fine motor skills.  To date, I have helped pianists, dentists, baseball infielders, surgeons, drag racers, pool players, painters and sculptors, basketball players, jugglers, shooters, and even barbers.  Erase those images (for example, of your dentist yipping!) from your head!
Along the way, I have almost become a clearinghouse for yips tips.  Now, many of the tips I receive are fads, off-the-wall flukes, ìprofessionalsî trying to market some kind of snake oil, or help only limited types of people.  But some of the advice has lasting and more generalized benefits.
Over the years in these pages, I have probably presented well over a hundred proven yips tips.  I want to share some of the more recent putting tips which have helped golfers.  Some of these are broad perspectives, others are physiological and neurological, still others are mechanical and procedural, and some of them are tactical.  Please remember, all tips are isolated techniques.  They need to be incorporated into the golferís entire putting system to be truly effective.  (Please refer to my 2006 three-part series.)  No technique should be employed or relied upon in isolation.
Here are the best new proven putting yips tips you may wish to experiment, employ, and integrate.
ï First, at the beginning of the season, decide on ONE putter and stick with it for the entire year.  I encounter so many yipsters who bounce around from putter to putter that, this in itself, only serves to keep them lost.  No matter how mass produced, each putter has its own unique look, feel, and if you will, personality.  Find one which looks good to your eye and stick with it through all of 2008.  Stick with it especially during the low and yippy times.  Blame this on me!
Your putter is your tool, sword, or instrument, if you will.  Your putter can also be seen as an extension of your thoughts.  Honor your putter.  Granted, you will make different hand adjustments and even modify the grip (see below), but stick with the same putter.  There are so many subtle variables in putting that you need to stick with the same putter to eliminate as many as them as possible.  Choose one putter for the year.
Here is a unique variation which has helped a good many yipsters.  If you want a bigger putter grip, you might want to experiment with building it up from the outside.  Instead of installing a bulbous oversized grip, wrap one or 2 grips over your existing one.  I have found tennis racquet overwraps work best.  (A couple of yipsters have found some success with the opposite extreme in using the thinnest grip they could find.  Keep this option in mind as a possible alternative.)
Unlike the slip-on oversize, the added layers provide more feedback.  With any thicker grip you have to stroke the ball more fully, thus better employing the bigger muscle groups of the shoulders.  Especially on short yipable putts, the greater diameter of the grip will help keep the fine motor impulses of the hands disengaged so a more connected stroke can commence.  Make sure you stand taller or have a shorter putter so the arms naturally hang down.  A thick slip-on or overwrap grip will help with a shoulder stroke in which the hands and forearms merely go along for the ride.
Take more…or less…time.  Now, you may be reacting,ìGreat, this is a big help!  Bear with me.  Although I advise yipsters to identify, groove, and rely on a consistent preputt routine, sometimes it can become too routine.  Experiment with the extremes of your preputt routine ranging on a continuum from:  Lee Trevinoís philosophy of Miss Em Quick all the way to settling longer over the ball.  I have had yipsters benefit (from temporary to permanent) by altering the time they spent over the putt–either more time or less time.  Especially under pressure or when you feel  yippy, change the timing in your preputt routine.  Initially, you just want to survive these occurrences, but the alteration might help in the long run.
Set your hands way ahead of the ball like an extreme forward press.  Push forward (bow, supinate) the front hand and cock back the rear hand as far as they will go. This position will also lock the rear elbow into your stomach which will reduce flinching.  Indeed, this position will feel very restrictive…which is exactly what you may need.
This setup position will significantly change the angle of the putter face.  So after you set your hands in this position align the back of the lead hand and the palm of back back hand on the target line.  After making the micro-adjustments with your hands and putter face you might want to tap the putter on the ground a couple of times.  This tapping releases any tension from this position as well as anchors the alignment.
Such putts will roll longer due to the decreased loft of the face.  This will counteract the more restrictive stroke of your rear elbow wedged into your stomach.  Trust that the ball will reach the target.  Even if you do yip the stroke wonít be affected.  Granted, this extreme press might not feel good nor look good, but the results will.
Here is a specific mental imagery many yipsters have found valuable.  As you settle over the ball really ìfeelî the connection between the ball and the hole.  No, this is nothing mystical.  Imagine the hole receiving the ball like a vortex.  Feel the ball being drawn to the hole and sucked down into it.  Really visualize both the connection and process in great sensory detail and even in slow motion.
Such imagery should be comforting and reassuring.  The hole is where your ball NEEDS to go.  After seeing and feeling it, simply release the stroke sending the ball on its natural course to the inevitable result.
Really feeling the connection between ball and hole is the way of readying yourself to make the stroke.  Do not start until you feel this connection.  For yipsters, this imagery diverts attention away from the sensitized physiological and psychological emphases toward something that is outside of your control; namely, the ball being drawn down into the hole.   Weeeee!
Here is a technique I have adapted from my general mental coaching playing sessions to specifically help yipsters.  When we are on the course, I talk with my golfers about concentration.  One concentrating technique I developed is what I call ìturbocharging.î  On 3-4 big shots during a round, I advise the golfer to open the eyes very wide during the set up over the shot.  Opening eyes very wide turbocharges existing concentration better immersing the player into the shot performance.
Under pressure and, in particular with yipsters, there is a tendency to blink at the end of the backstroke or during the throughstroke.  Since the eyes are really an extension of the brain, blinking can disconnect the brain from the body, especially with fine motor skills.  This blinking also tends to move the head.  More significantly, this blinking disrupts concentration and allows the yips to twitch.
Unlike the squinty-eyed look of Clint Eastwood just before he blew someone away, full concentration is enhanced by a wide-eyed look of being completely immersed in the moment of the performance.  Keeping your eyes wide open better connects brain with body.  More integrated and fluid strokes then tend to emerge.  Even if your vision becomes blurry, whenever you feel pressure, doubt, or the yips coming on, open your eyes way wide.  This little technique will turbocharge your existing concentration.

Okay, if you are still reading this you deserve to be rewarded.  There is, indeed, a secret to putting.  You might have heard rumors about this, probably dismissing them as myths.  Yes, there is one secret to putting just about all the best putters have employed and hoarded.  They might have referred to it in different terms, but they all reach the same core.  It is also one of the most important emphases for coping and even conquering the yips.  For those golfers who come to Reno to work with me on their putting, I introduce it and we spend significant time working just on it.  I also have them swear that they will not tell anyone else (under penalty of being forever cursed with the yips!).  It is a secret I have alluded to in previous putting articles and even hidden deeply within a couple of them.  This one emphasis unifies everything for just about everyone.
Enough buildup.  The Secret is simply this: when the putt is away, visually focus on a couple blades of grass where the ball was.  Thatís it.
If you go into each putting performance emphasizing looking at where the ball was, everything becomes more unified and even natural.  The mechanical., psychological, neurological, rhythmical, and strategic elements of the putting performance blend together.
Now, this is much harder than it seems.  Especially under pressure to make the putt, doubt, or with the emergence of the yips, our minds and bodies usually split and conflict.  Having the discipline to visually focus on a blade of grass where the ball was connects stroke with outcome.  (Now, this is greatly different from the ìkeeping your head stillî or ìlooking downî observations one hears from some inane commentators or teaching pros.  It is quite a different neurological orientation and process.)  Visually focus on the precise spot where the ball was.  See a particular blade of grass, indentation, or even a discoloration where the ball was.
Many golfers–especially yipsters–take this emphasis one step further: after the putt is away they bring back the putter and place the toe on those blades of grass where the ball was before they look up.  This is a great practice technique and it can also be effectively  applied during the round.
Donít worry, your playing partners wonít notice.  They will just think you kept your head still.  They donít know the depth and breadth of what you are emphasizing.  Please, donít believe me with this secret (and donít share it with others!).  Find out for yourself.
These are some the recent proven techniques, emphases, and even secrets when I work with yipsters.  Now, do not run into your den or out to your courseís putting green to apply all of the above tips at once! All good putters, and especially those who recovered from the yips, have developed a comprehensive system to putting in which individual techniques were seamlessly integrated.  This comprehensive system should include putting philosophy, strategy and tactics, relaxation and centering, concentration, reading and targeting, preputt and postputt routines, mechanics, rhythm, and even intuition.
See which one of the above fits for you and then implement just that one for a full ten days.  It will probably work, but it may not.  If it works, purposefully integrate it into your system.  Then choose another tip to apply.
Remember, your yips were probably forming for years before they actually appeared.  So your coping and conquering efforts will take some time to work as well.  Dedication, patience, trust, and even a sense of humor will see you through.
Finally, donít do any of the above!  Take a break and donít work on your yips.  Sure, still play golf, but purposely donít emphasize anything nor worry about your putting.  Just nonchalantly swipe at putts.  Again, blame all of this on me!
Sometimes we just need to get away from it all.  There is a time to apply, modify, and refine.  However, there is also a time to do nothing.  Especially with such a complicated and devious affliction as the yips, frequently the more we try to control it, the more elusive it becomes.  Give yourself a break away from it.  Look at this as a metaphorical ìpitstopî in your race with the yips.
Take a couple of weeks off.  You might be pleasantly surprised that when you come back to addressing your putting you are more relaxed and even integrated.  Sometimes our minds and bodies become so frazzled that each needs time to heal.
There is the classic Sam Snead story when he was asked to watch the swing of an extreme duffer.  After five minutes of painful observing he was reported to have said, ìTake two weeks off…and then quit the game!î  There is a time to push and then there is a time to step aside and let it all flow and go.  Give yourself permission to occasionally step aside from your yips.
If there is a silver lining to the putting yips it is this:  I have found that golfers who have overcome their yipping actually become better putters.  They are more courageous, consistent, resilient, committed, fluid, and wise.  Rest assured that if you can cope with the insanity of the yips, you can respond to any little putt.
Let it roll in.
Dr. Tom Kubistant is one of the original modern day sports psychologists.  He has been researching the mental game and helping athletes since 1972.  He has written five books and over 400 articles on the psychology of human performance.  He is once again expanding his services to coach other athletes and performing artists.  Although he rarely works with golfers anymore, he loves talking to them.    © 2008, Dr. Tom Kubistant; all rights reserved

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