There are a few well-known words that strike fear into every golfer's heart. Right up there with the dreaded 'shank', the term 'golf yips' is an utterance that should never cross your lips for fear of catching the disease yourself.
Any golfer who has ever experienced the yips will confirm that it can be a very lonely place. Feeling like you have little to no control over your body movements can leave you in constant fear of another derailment. The longer it goes on, the more deep-seated the mental block will become, but with the correct approach, you can overcome them.
What are the yips
Although the term 'yips' can apply to any golf shot, we will focus mainly on the most common reference - the putting yips. They can affect anybody and are involuntary motions in the putting stroke, which can strike at any time.
The yips have been feared and dismissed through the years and have been given an almost mythical status by some. One common early misconception is that they are caused by anxiety - but that has since been debunked as many golfers have experienced the yips while stress-free on the golf course.
With that said, tension can build as a result of the unexplained jerky movements in the putting stroke, leading to the yips actually worsening.
The good news is that almost always the cause of putting yips is mental. You haven't suddenly forgotten your tried and tested putting stroke, nor have you lost the ability to judge line and distance. You may feel like your wrists have developed a mind of their own, but over time it will pass.
How long you'll be afflicted will come down to your ability to reset and use some of the tips we list below.
Tips to beat the yips
When it comes to defeating the yips, two approaches need to be considered. Both are as important as eachother.
First off, are you actually fighting the yips? To know that, you must have a sound technique as a base. Without understanding how to hit a shot or make a stroke, you can mishit golf shots in pressure situations and misdiagnose it as a case of the yips.
When you know you have the technique down to a tee, you can easily identify when your putting stroke has become a little 'yippy'. If that sounds familiar, we have five separate tips to help you out.
Practice under pressure
Why is it that you can stand on the putting green and hole putts for fun but start to struggle and miss putts under pressure? It all comes back to consequence. Practice without any consequence fails to replicate the conditions of your competitive weekend rounds where every putt counts.
To introduce stress and tension, you could use the clock drill. Put balls around the hole in a circle at 3 ft and 6 ft, and try to hole them all. If you miss one, you must start over again. You could also have a putting competition with one of your buddies and have a wager on the outcome. Whatever it takes to increase the pressure on each putt.
Putt as you practice
So this may sound contradictory to the point above, but essentially we mean that you shouldn't dwell over your putts on the course. Taking more time than you need to - particularly when you've been suffering from the yips - can build tension.
Try to read the line and pace as you would on the practice green. Go around the hole to get a feel for how the putt will break, then step up, take your practice strokes, and hit. Any delay can sow seeds of doubt and increase the chance of the yips taking over.
Change your grip
Changing your putting style can provide a route out of your current funk. One of the reasons many of us don't experiment with new putting styles is that we get comfortable with our current grip. Well, what better time to try a new approach than when we're plagued with the yips?
Changing grip is the most common way amateur golfers try to cure the yips - and while it's far from a guaranteed solution, it can help. Often a drastic change, such as a new grip, can be the catalyst for improved performance on the greens.
Both the left-hand low and the claw grips can take the right hand (or left for a leftie) out of the equation and eliminate the jerkiness in the putting stroke.
There will be other grips you can experiment with, so find what works for you in practice and see how it pans out on the course.
Get a new putter
Switching to a new putter might seem like a plaster on a gaping wound, but it can have some positive results. Looking down at a new putter can emphasise the whole idea of a reset. Your putting stroke can return to its pre-yip state, and putts can start to drop immediately.
One note of caution: it will only work for some, so don't go and throw hundreds of pounds at a new model without testing a few out. Putter fittings are becoming increasingly popular, and they will give you some helpful feedback. You can try different shaft lengths, grips, weights, etc. If you've been thinking about a new flat stick recently, why not give it a try?
Take a break from the game
If all else fails and you find your rounds becoming more and more frustrating, taking a period away from golf could give you the reset you need. It needn't be for long, but t it can help you reflect and refocus on your positive golf memories.
Whether you step away for a couple of weeks or a few months, when you do finaly return you'll be reinvigorated and should be able to stand over a putt and make an unimpeded stroke.
If the yips are ruining your rounds, we hope one of the tips above can help your regain your love of the game.