Editor’s note: This is Part 1 of a two-part piece:
There are some elements in golf that we all suffer from time to time in our golfing careers. One is the putting “yips.” Some people call it an affliction with no cure. One thing for sure, if you have it, it is like a cancer and it is likely to get worse before it gets better.
What are the putting “yips” and how did you get them? The putting yips can simply be defined as quick, uncontrollable jerky strokes with your putter. The stroke is completely devoid of rhythm and pace as the right hand gives the ball a quick punching motion. The putting yips generally show up on these makeable 3-footers where your partner is expecting you to make the putt and you jerk it 4 feet by the hole. How embarrassing! Although the mental part of putting is very important to overcoming the yips, in this first part I am going to discuss the mechanical skills that create the mental problems that lead up to the yips.
-- Tension in the hands at address and increased tension through the stroke — Correction: Grip the putter as light as you can at address and maintain that grip pressure through the stroke. Think of the pressure one uses when holding eating utensils.
-- Poor pace and rhythm to your stroke — For example, you may have been told to take it back short, and then accelerate through. Please don’t do this as it encourages poor pace to your putter head. Correction: Take the club back the same distance as you come through. If you go back 4 inches, come through 4 inches. Also, if you go back at 4 miles an hour don’t try to come through 15 miles an hour. In other words don’t try to accelerate the putter with your hands. The tempo of your stroke might be a little faster with the longer putt because the putter must go back farther, but the frugal simply time it takes to stroke a 40 ft. putt will be the same amount of time as the 3 ft. putt. The only difference is the 40 ft. putt has a longer, faster, stroking action, while the 3 footer has a slower pace and shorter swing. Get a metronome from Radio Shack and work on your pace. Or, those of you who are more count to yourself when you putt, “one and two and three. It will work wonders.
-- Too much “hit” in your stroke — Some of us have been told to “hit” the putt. This type of thinking destroys a putting stroke and allows the right hand to take over at impact. Correction: From now on, think of the putting stroke as a pendulum. The pendulum is being swung from a place on the top of your spine. Simply rock your shoulders up and down and keep both hands out of the stroke. Remember: no hands in your stroke. This should take the “hit” out of your stroke.
-- Using a putter that is too light and too short — Generally speaking, the “yippies” I have seen have short, light putters. This encourages the yips, as you will have to move it faster on the forward stroke to get the desired distance. Correction: Find a longer and heavier putter, as this will encourage you to swing it slower. There are numerous clubfitters in the area that also fit putters. I mentioned the two I know of in my December 21st article- Shane’s and John Ford’s Golf Institute both in Naples. Having their putter fitted is an area many golfers erroneously ignore.
-- Incorrect distance control — Most “yippers” are aggressive putters and they hit their 3 and 4 footers hard with no break. But, when you miss, it goes 2 feet by the hole. Correction: Try to die the ball into the back of the hole. This allows you to use the entire hole instead of just the center of it. Putter pace and distance control are the most important 2 things about putting.
-- Poor aim and poor eyesight — Golfers who aim too far right of their line tend to use their hands at impact to close the face to get the putter back on the correct line. Or, golfers who aim too far left will subconsciously hold the face open through impact and miss to the right. Correction: Aim your putter first at your line or your spot and stay committed to the line you picked. Don’t make an “in-stroke” adjustment. Have someone laser your aim to give you your tendencies. Check for eyesight problems with a physician.
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In the next article, published on Feb. 1, I will discuss some of the mental and psychological problems related to the “yips,” and some methods to overcome these problems.
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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 email@example.com.