The ‘yips’ became a much-used term among golfers when Bernard Langer, Germany’s top golfer at one time, went through a prolonged phase of suffering from them. Commentators worldwide used the term to describe his slump in rankings. Not familiar with the term? It is used to describe a strange phenomenon of losing total confidence in your putting abilities to the point when you cannot even sink putts of two to four feet!How do the yips creep in? From my experience, once you start missing the short putts, your level of confidence decreases, which then makes you make more stroke and ball conscious than is healthy. Soon involuntary muscle twitches and psychological interferences sneak in and in the end, you just cannot pull it off anymore.
History has proven that putting yips will break down even the greatest ball strikers. For example, in the August Masters of 1989, Scot Hoch missed a two-footer to win and went on to lose the playoff to Nick Faldo. Faldo is still remembered for his triumphs and successes of those years.
It really seems very easy to sink two-foot putts but even for this simple stroke, you need the same amount of concentration and focus as any other shot. Never forget that the one stroke you add for a one-foot putt counts just as much as that added for a 320 yards drive. They are both important.
Once you are afflicted by the yips, your confidence is destroyed and the game stops being fun. There are ways to cure the yips. First, check your set-up, specifically your eye line. Align them with the target and the face of the putter square to the target. For some of you, this step alone will put you on your way of taking care of the problem. For cases that are more serious, try the following drill: While practicing putts, hit the ball only from the toe of the putter or try to hit just the top edge of the ball. The idea here is to get you more focused and move away from the same old putting stroke that is causing the yips. Try to stroke the putts with just your left hand or change the grip from conventional (left hand on top of the right) to cross-handed (just the opposite).
The cause of the problem is sometimes mechanical but in most cases, it is just mental. If you feel you have the dreaded yips, get into a new groove by changing your practice style.
(The author is a golf instructor and golf director at Gokarna Forest Golf Resort & Spa, Kathmandu. He can be contacted through