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How to Fix Your Yips with Feedback

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Much has been written about the putting yips over the years, with many different proposed explanations. They have been attributed to nerves, anxiety, focal dystonia and even, as Tommy Armour famously put it: “a brain spasm that impairs the short game.”

While the true source of the putting yips remains unknown, what it looks like is very obvious. It’s for that reason — and my lack of neurological training — that I’ll be focusing on the mechanical side of the problem that plagues so many people.

Classic yip stroke movement

Explanation

What we see here is lead wrist extension and trail wrist flexion. Simply put, the bottom hand takes over the stroke with three main disastrous effects for control of the putter face.

  1. Adds too much loft. Basically, the ball gets slightly airborne straight off the putter face. This compromises the ball roll and changes dynamic launch angle, creating unnecessary backspin. All putters have a small amount of loft built into the design (typically 2-4 degrees) to help lift the ball out of the depression that it sits in on the green, so there is no need to add more loft with your putting stroke.
  2. Toe moves faster than heel. This causes the putter face to close at a rapid rate, leading to pulls or pushes due to the extra timing involved in attempt to square up the club face.
  3. Off-center strike. I also see yippers actually missing the center of the club face more often than not. The same aggressive rise angle of the putter that adds loft can also produce a putt that strikes the ball below the vertical sweet spot on the putter. The subsequent loss in ball energy makes direction and speed issues inevitable.

So we have a trio of unwanted outcomes from this simple fault; the ball jumping off the face and heading left or right with unpredictable speed — not a great formula for holing putts!

We know that for putts to go in the hole, they need to be hit on the correct line with the associated correct speed. Putting is hard and there are narrow margins for success. A positive outcome is a lot less likely with a yippy stroke. What often makes things worse is when the yipper knows the yip is coming, and he or she attempts to compensate for it. That appears to have happened to Ernie Els when missing this tiddler:

With the anchoring of putters now banned in competitive play, our plausible alternatives are limited to the cross-hand grip, claw grip or some other variation or differing style that aims to reduce the involvement of the wrist. The solution I am going to propose will allow you to keep your regular grip, but instead uses kinaesthetic (touch) feedback to encourage the correct movement.

Clarification

Before describing what I’m doing in the video above, it’s important to clarify what I feel should happen in a solid putting stroke. I like to see a slight forward press of the hands (if you have a putter with any offset configuration, as most do) with less extension in the lead wrist and more extension in the trail wrist, as demonstrated below.

Hands set slightly ahead of the putter head

From there, I like to see the movement be driven by the rotation of the t-spine (trunk or thorax) as the dominant source of motion as opposed to wrist, elbow or shoulder movement. I feel like many yippers get into trouble from the start with poor posture, hands behind the ball and with a backstroke that is too high. Then we see the classic move into impact as the body stalls and the wrists take over.

Demonstration of an (exaggerated) yippy stroke

Solution

Back to the video of me hitting a putt with the bands. The device I’m using is called a GravityFit TPro, and it performs three really useful functions. First, it gives me feedback as to whether I’m in good posture. I believe that having a properly organized spine and shoulder blade position is critical to making a good stroke driven from rotation of the t-spine.

Posture and Movement Feedback

The second benefit I get from the equipment is the feedback on whether I’ve made the movement correctly. If the body stalls out and hands or arms take over, I will lose connection of my shoulder blades with the paddles on either side. It’s like a closed feedback loop, constantly telling me if I’m doing a good job or not with my rotation.

The third function involves the bands. As you can see in the photo below, I loop these around the thumb of the left hand and over the palm of the right hand. This actually wants to pull my left hand in to flexion and right in to extension, which we know is the opposite of what happens when we make a yippy stroke.

Resistance bands encouraging hands to set better

So now I’m being told if my posture is set right, if I’m rotating properly and I’ve got anti-yip guidance from the bands. My recommendation is do plenty of reps using the TPro away from the golf course, perhaps at home in your living room. When you go to the putting green, start off by hitting 10-15 footers to no target in particular to adjust to the different feels and get used to getting a quality strike. Then slowly make your way to the dreaded short putt range and calmly knock them in.

Like anything that involves a change in technique, it’s going to take a few reps to make a difference. The beauty of using the TPro is you can do it at home — with or without a putter. It’s also going to have a useful side effect of improving your posture, which most of us could benefit from!

For more info on my short game coaching services, drop me an email: mballard@pgamember.org.au

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Nick Randall is a Strength and Conditioning Coach, Presenter, Rehab Expert and Massage Therapist contracted by PGA Tour Players. Nick is also a GravityFit Brand Ambassador. He is working with them to help spread their innovative message throughout the golf world and into other sports.

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Mark Hartig

    Mar 6, 2018 at 3:29 pm

    I developed the yips in 1999. Tried EVERYTHING, including – 18 years before this video by Mr. Randall – and nothing worked.

    On an annual “buddy trip” to Sarasota, FL, my putting stroke was so poor that one friend whispered to another, “OK, what is he setting me up for?”

    My friend replied, “Nothing!! When I picked him up at the airport, he told me he had the yips, but I had no idea it was this bad.”

    Finally, after angrilly ripping a divot from the 15th green, I did something (yip cure-hope #101!) I had never done before. Whaah Laaah!! The yips were gone – IMMEDIATELY!! And the yips have never, even in the slightest of measure – returned to haunt me again.

    It is my hope to contact Mr. Randall to discus a collaberation!

  2. Steve S

    Mar 3, 2018 at 12:46 am

    This article may or may not fix the yips but it definitely saved Mr. Randall some advertising dollars.

  3. Bruce Rearick

    Mar 1, 2018 at 10:56 am

    This is great advice. He is changing the motor pattern from hands and arms to big muscle/ core movement. The device enhances the feel of the new pattern. It also promotes a truer rotation of the putter along the stroke plane. Many yippers start with rotational problems. I understand the frustration of those who have the issues, but I wouldn’t be so quick to give up on this concept.

  4. Mark

    Feb 28, 2018 at 6:22 pm

    I Cannot believe you allowed this article to be published!

  5. Sam Robey

    Feb 28, 2018 at 10:41 am

    The author of this article has obviously never had the yips and has no idea what he’s talking about. It’s a neurological issue. That’s why changing the motor pattern offers such a quick and lasting fix.

    • juliette

      Feb 28, 2018 at 5:47 pm

      While the author meant well with possibly a financial motive too, the only scientific yips study at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, NY concluded that the yips is indeed some kind of neurological misfiring–and attributed that to focal dystonia. On the other hand many physical fixes have helped people with the yips so I can’t discount this attempt. The physical fix really just opens a new pathway to the brain that creates a new circuit to replace the damaged yippy one. It’s still an anxiety problem.

      Maybe doing some or all of these things will be so foreign to some yippers that this new circuitry will help reduce their yips. But without that dynamic (Hank Haney said that he “cured” his driving yips by staring at the inside brim of his golf hat while swinging!!—try that for maintaining balance much less knowing where the heck the ball is) this does not address the yip problem at all.

      If the author is saying this will address the problem then I’m afraid to say it’s utter nonsense.

      • juliette

        Feb 28, 2018 at 5:50 pm

        Fwiw to bolster my comment I have had the driving, chipping and putting yips for decades, on and off again with driving (within a round, not years apart), chipping (off now for two years) and putting (completely gave up on putting LH and switched to putting RH where I do not yip at all…)

      • juliette

        Feb 28, 2018 at 7:45 pm

        One other thing…this article probably should not have been published because it’s like an article professing to explain why the Earth is flat. You cannot prove a premise that is known to be false by all who study and understand this issue. The more I think about it the more incensed I am that this kind of article is not filtered more critically by wrx staffers. Yeah, people who yip hold out all kinds of hope but this is not a physical address or alignment problem. Too many people at too high a level of golfing skills come down with this and all of them do not have alignment and address problems. That is just nuts. Oh yeah, what would Ben Hogan say about this guy telling him his alignment and address positions were just off. Wouldn’t be pretty…

  6. Greg V

    Feb 28, 2018 at 10:13 am

    I developed the yips in my 30’s. I could have given up the game, but I enjoy hitting a golf ball. The best that I have putted since then was with a claw grip on a belly putter. These days I resort to the claw grip on a regular putter. As some famous pro once said, when you got ’em, you got ’em. For awhile I actually putted clasping the grip against my left arm, like Langer did originally. I had them playing squash as well, when I would attempt a soft drop shot with the forehand. Same problem – right hand spasm.

    I think that if you have never had them, you have no idea of what you are talking about in relation to helping someone who actually has them.

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Want more power and consistency? Master this transition move

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Lucas Wald Transition

World Long Drive competitor Eddie Fernandes has added speed and consistency by improving these transition moves. You can do it, too!

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Why you must practice under pressure if you want to play better golf

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Practice, as most of us employ it, is borderline worthless. This is because most of the practices, if you will, typically employed during practice sessions have little chance of improving our performance under pressure.

The type of practice that improves performance is, for the most part, rarely engaged in because practicing under typical “practice” conditions does very little to simulate the thoughts, feelings, and emotions we deal with once our performance actually means something. If we want to really improve our performance when it matters, we need to put ourselves in situations, often and repeatedly, that simulate the pressure we experience during competition. And nowhere is this statement more true than on the putting green.

The art and skill of putting is a funny thing. No element of the game requires less inherent hand-eye coordination or athletic talent. Putting’s simplicity makes it golf’s great equalizer. You roll a ball along the ground with a flat-faced stick in the general direction of a hole nearly three times its size. Sure, green speeds vary wildly, and there are those diabolical breaks to deal with, but despite that, putting is truly golf’s most level playing field; it’s the one element of the game where even the highest handicappers can potentially compete straight up with the game’s most skilled. At the same time, there are few other situations (other than maybe the first tee) when we feel as much pressure as we do on the putting green.

Ben Hogan, during the latter part of his career — years that were marred by poor putting — claimed that putting shouldn’t even be a part of the game because, in his words, “There is no similarity between golf and putting; they are two different games, one played in the air, and the other on the ground.”

Now, Hogan suffered a serious case of the yips later in his career, and while this statement was likely uttered following a frustrating round of missed three-footers, it serves to highlight not only the differences between putting and the rest of the game, but how taxing on the nerves it can be for even the game’s greats.

Its inherent simplicity, the slow pace of the stroke, and how much time we are given to contemplate it, are in truth what sets us up. It’s golf’s free throw. We very often know exactly what to do, and how to do it, like when we’re faced with one of those straight three-footers, but with more time to think, it opens the door wide for the type of second-guessing that arises during those moments we feel a bit of pressure. And that’s the biggest part of the problem.

The self-sabotage that leads to missing relatively short easy putts, the reasons behind it, and practices to overcome it is something for a different article. What I really want to get into at the moment is a practice that I think can help ensure you never end up in that desperate place to begin with.

Most of us rarely practice our putting, and when we do, it’s in about the most useless way we can. We’ve all done it. You grab a sleeve of balls just prior to the round, head to the practice green, and begin rolling them from hole to hole around the typical nine-hole route. Now I could go into a whole host of reasons why this isn’t very helpful, but the No. 1 reason it’s such a pitifully poor practice is this: there is no pressure.

Early in my career, I worked at a club where there was at least one money game on the putting green every day, and many nights too. The members (and staff) putted aces, 5 for $5, rabbits, and many other games for hours on end, and when the sun went down they often switched on the clubhouse roof-mounted floodlights and continued into the wee hours. Many days (and nights) I witnessed hundreds of dollars change hands on that putting green, occasionally from my own, but in my younger days, that was fortunately an infrequent occurrence.

Those money games were a cherished part of the culture of that club and an incredibly good arena in which to learn to practice under pressure. To this day, I’ve never seen as many really good pressure putters (many of very average handicaps) as I did during that period, and when I think back, it’s no small wonder either.

The problem with practicing golf, or just about any other sport for that matter, is that it’s difficult to practice under the types of pressure we compete in. In 4 or 5 hours on the golf course we might only have a half dozen putts that really mean something, and maybe only 2 or 3 of those knee-knocking 3 footers with the match on the line or the chance to win a bet.

When I was younger and playing in those money games on the putting green, I had a meaningful putt every minute or two, for hours on end, and you either learned to handle that pressure pretty quickly or your hard-earned paycheck was being signed over to someone else. Now I’m not bringing this up to encourage gambling, as I know for some people that can become a serious issue, but rather to point out how the opportunity to practice repeatedly under pressure helped me learn to deal with those situations. And with how infrequently we even get the opportunity to face that same pressure when we actually play, it’s important to try do our best to simulate it as often as we can during practice.

So when it comes to my own students these days, I don’t necessarily encourage gambling (I don’t discourage a little bit of it either), but I do encourage putting and practicing for something. I’ll get three of my students together on the putting green and say “look, you guys putt for 30 minutes and the loser has to do 100 push-ups” or something similar. I’ll tell students to putt against a parent for who has to mow the lawn, do the dishes, or some other mundane household chore neither of them really wants to do. The point is to have something on the line, something that will make it really hurt to lose.

You can even do it by yourself. Wait to practice putting right before lunch or dinner and make a pact with yourself that you can’t eat until you make 15 three-footers in a row. Until you find a way to practice under pressure all that practice is really just that: practice. You shouldn’t be surprised if, when the chips are down, mindless practice doesn’t translate to improved performance. Hopefully, by learning to simulate pressure during practice, you’ll play better when the heat is really on.

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WATCH: How to execute the “y-style” chipping technique

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Top-100 instructor Tom Stickney of Punta Mita Golf Academy shows an easier way of chipping around the greens to get the ball rolling faster and ensure ball-first contact. Enjoy the video below, and hope this helps!

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