Why do people get the yips? From a lack of confidence they feel after missing short putts and from anticipating poor impact. In my first drill, simply make some smooth pendulum stokes with your eyes closed. Then, as you make your stroke, count out a simple rhythm 1-2, 1-2, etc. Once you feel a good flow, have a buddy, at his discretion, place a ball in the path of your putterhead. Not knowing when it's coming eliminates flinching and the yips.
A Change Of Style_Ê
Right now, your brain is wired to putt in its current adopted technique, most likely the common reverse-overlap grip in which the index finger of your weak hand overlaps your dominant hand. While that grip is used by many golfers, it's important to remember that small hand muscles are particularly vulnerable when you're nervous and will, thereby, promote the yips. Try to short circuit the fouled up system by radically changing your gripping technique. Look at the images (left) and pick out your new grip today!
Create A Putting Ritual
If you've ever watched a basketball player get ready to shoot a free throw, you've seen him go through a set of movements to help stay relaxed and rhythmic. He may, for example, bounce the ball twice, flex his knees, set his wrists and then shoot. If you say or make those movements to a beat, it might come out like this: Bounce, Bounce, Flex, Set, Shoot. If you repeat this sequence in the form of a basic beat, it might sound like this:_Ê Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom. Just like the beat of a drum. Basketball isn't the only sport in which you create rhythm. The next time you're on the putting green, develop a ritual. Start by lifting your right thumb off of the putter grip. Now, begin your ritual by placing the thumb back on the grip. We'll call this Tap. Then rotate your head to look at the hole. Follow this by turning your head back to the ball. Swing back, and then swing through.
Get Some Exercise
In many cases, golfers who suffer from the yips stab at the ball with a short, choppy stroke. Motions like that yield any number of ugly results. To get the feel of putting beyond impact, try this isometric exercise. Have a buddy place some gentle, but constant pressure with his hand against the face of your putter. Then make five strokes, making sure you swing the putter into the followthrough at least as far as your backswing. Then have your buddy step aside and roll two or three putts. I guarantee you'll feel an immediate freeing feeling and significantly more acceleration._Ê
Build A Bridge
Hole? What hole? To help eliminate the pressure of outcomes, practice with a scorecard over the hole. Practice putting from three to five feet away, trying only to roll the ball over the card. If you're making a good, aggressive stroke, the ball should come to rest about two feet past the cup. After you're done, remove the card and pick a spot just beyond the hole on your intended line. Then roll the ball with confidence on your line and simply let the hole get in the way. You'll never leave it short again!
Use Your Belly
One of the best cures for the yips is the long putter because it gives you the true feel of a free swinging pendulum and eliminates the handsy hits that cause jerky, inconsistent putts. However, I think a more palatable option for most players is the shorter and easier-to-control Belly Putter. Simply anchor the putter to a comfortable point on your midsection and swing away. If you like, add a little 1-2 count to your stroke to promote a smooth rhythm. You'll find that this pendulum stroke reduces the amount of smaller muscle movement and keeps the blade on plane.
An Egg In The Hand
An egg in the hand is worth•hmm, maybe that's something else. Regardless, a soft and constant grip pressure is a vital ingredient to maintaining a smooth flowing stroke. For those who think they've got a mess-free stroke, grab an uncooked egg and head outside (or your better half might kill you!). Once you've gotten to a place you don't mind messing up a bit, hold it in your right hand and pin it between your right index finger and the shaft. Now drop a few balls and stroke some putts, keeping the pressure soft and constant. If you grip it too hard, you'll know soon enough.
Jeff Ritter is the Director of Instruction at the ASU Karsten Golf Academy in Tempe, Ariz. To learn more about his teaching and to read some of his other tips, visit www.jeffrittergolf.com._Ê