In the Jan. 18 issue of the Naples Daily News, I discussed some of the physical and mechanical problems of why you yip your putts from 3 to 5 feet. Now, let's talk about some of the mental reasons you might be a yipper.
Some have said that the putting yips are a mental thing and not a physical thing. They are both right. The putting yips originate from missing a lot of short putts. Once you miss, you lose confidence and you start expecting to miss. Here are my top 10 mental reasons for the putting yips:
1. Fear: There is a fear of missing and embarrassing yourself in front of your friends.
Correction: Think of the "process" and not the end "result." Just try to make a good stroke. That is all you can control. Believe in your ability. Focus on your technique instead of the outcome.
2. Tension: Overly tight hands create a quick, jerky stroke.
Correction: Take a deep breath before you putt. This relaxes your muscles. Also try to establish and stay in a consistent putting routine.
3. Lack of Confidence: Lack of confidence in short putts.
Correction: To create confidence in your short putting skills, visualize the putt going in before you stroke it. Think of times in the past when you made this putt. But again, stay in the process and don't get too involved in the end result.
4. Poor Self-Talk: Telling yourself that you hope you don't yip this putt is not the way to become a good putter.
Correction: Tell yourself that you are a good putter and you are capable of making a good stroke. Say this over and over to yourself until you start to believe it.
5. Thinking Too Analytically: Over-thinking often causes the yips.
Correction: Don't read too much break into the putt. Don't give away the hole. Try to die your putts into the hole instead of jamming them in. This gives you the entire hole to work with.
6. Lack of Commitment: Correction: Once you see your line, stay committed to it. Don't make an in-stroke adjustment as this will cause you to yip it.
7. Putting Undue Pressure on Yourself: You don't need to put so much importance on making the putt. Some players think they must make all 3- to 5-footers or else they are a poor putter.
Correction: Don't put so much value on making all short putts. Expect to make a good stroke, but don't worry about the result. Even pros miss their share of 5-foot putts. See the hole as a washtub and you are putting to the washtub. If you miss the putt, what is the worst thing that will happen? Keep things in perspective. The millions of people in China really don't care if you make that putt. So, put less importance on the value of making that particular putt.
8. Thinking Wrong: If you're a yipper, I'll bet you say to yourself, "I hope I don't yip this one."
Correction: What you should say is, "I can't wait to make a good stroke."
9. Not Staying in Your Putting Routine: If you don't have a specific putting routine, you should get one. It is a definite part of the mental preparation needed to overcome the yips.
Correction: Repeat your routine the same way each time, which is, looking at the hole from down the line, side and rear, and taking the same number of practice strokes.
10. Overtrying or Trying To Be Perfect: As Bob Rotella has said in his book, "Golf is Not a Game of Perfect," go ahead and let the air out. By that he means, squeeze the putter hard and then relax your hands just before you stroke it. There are many good books at the bookstores on "self talk," and the mental side of the game on the golf course. Take a look next time you are in the bookstore.
Change your mental attitude and you will be surprised at the outcome. Good Luck.
Dr. Jim Suttie, the 2000 PGA Teacher of the Year, is director of instruction at The Club at TwinEagles in North Naples and at Cog Hill Golf Club in Lemont, Ill. He also is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher and rated No. 15 by Golf Digest. Suttie coaches the FGCU men's golf team. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.