The yips are incredibly debilitating to a golfer.
There is nothing worse than hitting good solid golf shots all the way down to the green from the tee and then stepping on to the green and taking no less than three putts because of a sheer inability to move the putter through the ball in a smooth, accelerating action.
A putting yip is a weak, decelerating stroke, or twitch of the hands, through the ball. This replaces a smooth putting action and is completely involuntary. A yip is usually caused by the fear of missing putts that has built up over a period of time until that fear manifests itself as a nervous twitch just as the golfer tries to hit the ball with the putter.
To get rid of the putting yips here is a sequence of points to work through and practice.
1. Reduce anxiety
Anxiety is the cause of the putting yips and so the first thing that we need to do is to reduce the levels of anxiety over a putt. To do this, set yourself up over the putt and ignore the hole, instead, imagine that you have blinkers on and focus on a space of 2 feet - one foot either side of the ball. In doing this we are ignoring the hole which then allows us to focus on our breathing. It is incredibly important to breathe slowly and deeply when standing over a putt. When we are anxious we breathe in short, shallow breaths, and so to reduce anxiety it is important that we control our breathing.
2. Remove the focus from the hole
The pressure of holing a putt is a major trigger for the putting yips. To alleviate this pressure, put a ball down no more than two feet away from the hole. Either side of the ball, position two golf clubs or alignment sticks just over the width of a putter head apart to create a channel to swing the putter head through. With the focus on breathing, make sure that the putter head swings backwards and forwards gently in a good rhythm inside the channel that we have made with the two golf clubs. With the golf ball being only two feet away from the hole, the putter swinging down the channel will result in the ball going in the hole. However, remember that your focus is not to hole the putt, but to swing the putter down the channel. Focus on hearing the ball going into the hole rather than watching it.
3. Consider a change of grip
A major factor in the putting yips is the use of the wrists when striking the golf ball. To minimize the effect that the wrists can have in the putting stroke change to one of two grips.
The claw grip - here the top hand holds the golf club as normal but the bottom hand is positioned on the grip from the side with the thumb behind the grip and the four fingers straight and open across the front of the grip. This removes the bottom hand from the stroke, only allowing it to balance and guide the putter.
The reverse grip - this is also called the cack-handed grip. Here the two hands swap over with the top hand positioned at the bottom and the bottom hand positioned at the top. This grip aids the golfer in keeping the leading wrist still and stops it breaking down to flick at the golf ball.
These three factors, worked on in sequence and over time (remember this is not a quick fix), will rid you of the putting yips so practise and be positive to overcome one of the biggest challenges in golf.