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Beat the yips with these simple tips



The yips is a disease that affects the cognitive process of the brain and disrupts fine motor movement of the body. Golfers are predominantly affected by the disease on short putts, but can also be affected on other shots.

The disease has ruined the careers of numerous professional golfers, and has forced many golfers to quit the game all together. According to the Mayo Clinic, 33-to-48 percent of all serious golfers have experienced the yips, but there’s hope. This disease can be treated with a simple remedy that I have outlined in the paragraphs below.


As with any recovery program, the first step is acceptance. Golfers must accept the fact that they have a cognitive problem that hinders their ability to make short putts. Many golfers who suffer from the yips have tried various grips, putters, techniques, etc., but have not addressed the root cause of the problem, the mind. Once golfers have accepted the fact that the yips are a byproduct of faulty thinking, they can begin a process to treat the problem.

Committing to the Process

The second step is commitment. Committing to a long-term improvement plan is essential in overcoming the yips. The process that I recommend includes developing a pre-shot routine, selecting small targets and making appropriate choices to give oneself the best chance possible.

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Related: For more on the pre-shot routine, please read Part 5 of The Ultimate Putting Program.

Pick Small Targets

By selecting small targets, golfers can narrow their focus, providing better accuracy and greater results. An archest aims at the center of the bull’s-eye, and even though he may not always hit the bulls-eye, he almost always hits the larger target.

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In golf, picking a blade of grass or a discolored piece of the cup can narrow a golfer’s focus, allowing them to more frequently hit the larger target, the hole. Taking practice strokes while looking at the target and holding an image of the target while making the stroke are sure ways of eliminating the possibility of negative thoughts creeping into the mind. This technique can allow a golfer to find comfort during stressful situations.

On breaking putts, it may be beneficial to pick a target outside of the hole (as shown above), creating a straight putt and allowing gravity to carry the ball to the hole.


Spend more time looking at the target to capture a mental picture of where you want the ball to go.

In practice, putt while looking at the target. This will immediately change your focus from an internal thought process to an external one. Being more aware of the target is the single most valuable thing that you can do for you golf game.

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Make the Choice to Putt Well

“Whether you see yourself making the putt or missing it, you are correct.”

As human beings, one of our greatest assets is the power of free will. In putting, we have two choices. We can either think positively of what we intend to do or we can think negatively of what we fear might happen. The fear of failure is a crippling mental thought that can destroy any golfer. I assume we can all agree that it makes sense to focus positively on what we intend to do. The choice of visualizing oneself making putts comes down to a golfer’s commitment to the target and their faith to allow it to happen.

Note: Those who suffer from the yips often times are more fearful of missing than they are excited by the possibility of making a putt. Embarrassment and verbal harassment from their playing partners are often times the reason for such fear.

Press the Reset Button

If a negative thought enters your mind you must STOP and start over, even if it happens after you address the ball and are almost ready to make a stroke. This is critical in the beginning because you will need to break the habit of continuing with the putt regardless of negative thinking. As you continue with this process, the negative thoughts will begin to disappear and you won’t have to restart as often. Soon you will have more confidence and be putting like you have always thought you should.

Good luck and congratulations on becoming a better putter and overcoming the dreaded yips.

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Henry is a PGA member and TPI certified golf instructor. Employed by New Mexico State University, Henry spends the majority of his time teaching the PGA Golf Management curriculum. He specializes in teaching golf instruction and player development. Henry also coaches a handful of amateur, elite junior, and professional golfers. GolfWRX Writer of the Month: June 2014



  1. Bruce Rearick

    Jun 21, 2014 at 9:57 am


    I questioned your conclusion? As the author of the column isn’t it your job to prove your conclusions?

    To fix a choke – find the mechanical source of the problem. To start assume it is a rotational problem.

    To fix the actual yips? You have to change the task mentally and mechanically. Find the source of the yip. Start with the hands. Change the source of your putting motion.

    • Henry Stetina

      Jun 24, 2014 at 10:45 am

      Actually, I believe my article clearly emphasizes the point that the yips (or choke) start in the mind. I believe all motion starts in the mind therefore a golfer’s mentality must change prior to making changes to the stroke. I understand there are mechanical flaws but that has already been covered in thousands of articles related to the topic. I don’t quite understand where you’re going with your criticism, but that’s ok, you’re entitled your opinion.

  2. Brannon

    Jun 20, 2014 at 2:44 am

    Great article! I’ve personally been battling the yips on many fronts but they all started with putting and chipping as I became obsessed with becoming a scratch golfer. I put way too much pressure on myself and results then lost my focus on the process. I’ve been doing a little better recently with that and look forward to trying your great tips. I don’t want to end up another golfer who had to quit the game he loved due to this awful affliction.

    Thanks again

  3. LY

    Jun 19, 2014 at 10:33 am

    I have found that when I putt looking at a spot 1″-2″ in front of the ball on my intended line and not the ball also helps. I focus on that spot and it helps to swing through the ball not at the ball.

  4. Jeremy Beale

    Jun 18, 2014 at 5:47 pm

    When I stand behind the ball I often think of this Tiger Woods quote:

    As a kid, I might have been psycho, I guess, but I used to throw golf balls in the trees and try and somehow make par from them. I thought that was fun.

    For me the thrill of golf has always comes from the battle against the agony of defeat and the constant rigor of the course. Nothing says that more than the putting surface–ones final mark on each hole. There is a since of glory that is provided with our victories and a certain pride that comes with defeat of ill expectations.If we are challenged then we know we are playing golf.

    However, it still good to remember that off the course everything else is just life, on the course well, we are just playing another game.

    • Henry Stetina

      Jun 18, 2014 at 5:51 pm

      Great quote Jeremy! I also like the one about his Dad teaching him to “putt to the picture,” referring to his mental picture of the target.

  5. François

    Jun 18, 2014 at 5:46 pm

    What would you recommend for the chipping yips ? It is harder to chip while looking at the target i guess?

    I have been struggling baddly with this for years 🙁

    • Henry Stetina

      Jun 18, 2014 at 6:02 pm

      There will always be a combination between physical and mental when dealing with these issues. I am sure you are plagued with fear, doubt, and low confidence. You may also be using a faulty technique which causes your body and hands to stop and you are left to desperately fling the clubhead towards the ball. If I were you, I would start by making a full pivot toward the target in the forward swing. Mentally, it is important to visualize the trajectory and landing spot. I hope these two tips help.

      • François

        Jun 18, 2014 at 8:14 pm

        You are so right about fear and confidence, i use my putter from ridiculous distances because of this… i will try the 2 tips for sure. Thank you

    • David

      Oct 3, 2014 at 2:39 pm

      I have suffered from the yips for a number of years to the point the game became miserable. I recently designed a very simple device that attaches to the putter shaft providing a guide towards the target. Putters have markings behind the ball but very little to help the player aim forward. The putting aid creates a smoother stroke because you keep your head down and accelerate through the putt. I believe the guides on the putter behind the ball create deceleration. Since developing the training aid my yips have subsided. Confidence has grown and more putts are on line. Please take a look at It also helps with chipping using the same principle of accelerating through the shot.

  6. Jason

    Jun 18, 2014 at 5:38 pm


    Thank you for taking the time to write this helpful article. I developed the yips nearly 1 year ago (almost to the day as i still remember the round/day it happened) and i’ve been struggling with my game ever since. I anxiously look forward to putting these tips into play this weekend.

    I’ve gone from a 1.7 index to a 6.4 in the last year and haven’t broken 80 in almost 3 months. I’ve had too many rounds to count where i’ve shot 80 or 81 with 35+ putts. It’s nauseating.

    • Henry Stetina

      Jun 18, 2014 at 5:53 pm


      Thanks for sharing. I would really like to hear your progress in the upcoming weeks/months. I hope that something may have clicked to help you get back on track. Good luck

  7. Gene

    Jun 18, 2014 at 3:44 pm

    Henry, Any help for backswing yips? With an iron in my hand it’s a freak show!

    • Henry Stetina

      Jun 18, 2014 at 5:08 pm

      What do you think about just prior and during your swing?

  8. Chuck

    Jun 18, 2014 at 3:38 pm

    Real yips is focal dystonia (google it). Focusing on a spot and changing your routine isn’t going to make it magically go away. It’s a neurological problem that takes years of cognitive training to cure – beta blockers can also help. I now play tennis.

    • Henry Stetina

      Jun 18, 2014 at 4:54 pm

      Yes, I am aware focal dystonia is a neurological disorder and in sports it is referred to as the yips. Beta blockers slow the heart rate and are banned by the PGA Tour. Meditation, a natural practice, can have a similar result though.

  9. Steve

    Jun 18, 2014 at 11:36 am

    Great article.. I used to have occasional negative thoughts over putts, but I would ignore them and make a reasonable stroke. Starting last year, I’ve noticed that these negative thoughts sometimes cause a sort of “misfire” in my stroke. It feels like a flinch just before impact, and it seems to happen mainly in competition or when my long game is going well and I have a chance to match or beat my personal best score.

    It is definitely a cognitive issue not a mechanical one.

    Thanks for writing it.

    • Henry Stetina

      Jun 18, 2014 at 12:26 pm

      Great feedback Steve. You are definitely on the road to better golf.

  10. Bruce Rearick

    Jun 18, 2014 at 11:02 am

    Small targets for someone with the yips?

    • Steve

      Jun 18, 2014 at 11:40 am

      Focus on the target is the key. If I look at the hole while putting, the yips are gone, but my speed control is hit or miss. Focusing on the stroke mechanics in matches spells trouble for me.

    • Henry Stetina

      Jun 18, 2014 at 12:27 pm

      Aim small, miss small

      • Bruce Rearick

        Jun 18, 2014 at 2:09 pm

        Not if you really have the yips. There is a difference between a yip and a choke. For those who truly have the “yips” this information is misleading at best.

        • Henry Stetina

          Jun 18, 2014 at 5:07 pm


          I see you are becoming a constant critic of my work. I like your feedback but I would also like to share one point with you. Don’t point out a problem without a solution. If you see fault in my articles, feel free to comment on them, but please provide an alternative, an idea that you believe is more accurate.

          • Bruce Rearick

            Jun 20, 2014 at 1:02 pm

            OK –
            Small targets increase the anxiety of the task. Anxiety exaggerates the problem it doesn’t fix it.

            Yips are an involuntary uncontrollable movement.

            Your tips are better suited for a player who has an aggressive steer or reaction to a perceived target. This is typically a rotational issue. Closing the putter on the backswing is the typical culprit. Another choke pattern is a flip which is caused by a slow lead arm and an attempt of the low hand to continue the stroke. These patterns are more commonly described by experts in the field as a “choke”.

            Knowing the difference between the two is critical! As the anxiety increases from the misses caused by the choke they can easily develop into the real yips. Nothing described in you article would of any help then.

            Bruce Rearick

          • Henry Stetina

            Jun 20, 2014 at 5:01 pm

            Ok. So with that said, what is your prescription for someone with the yips?

  11. Pingback: Beat the yips with these simple tips - I'd Rather Be Golfing

  12. Adrian

    Jun 18, 2014 at 3:46 am

    Archest? Don’t you mean ‘archer’?!

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