If you’re reading this then I feel for you, as it means that you’re almost certainly suffering from the dreaded y’s. I didn’t even want to spell out the entire word in the title because, in our world of golf, saying the word in its entirety is like saying Voldemort, Beetlejuice, or Candyman.
By now you’re probably aware of what causes the dreaded “jolt” or “jerk” or “spasm”, or whatever else you want to call it, but here’s a short clip of Dr. Debbie Crews from the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas at Dallas explaining the debilitating deed:
You may have taken a few things away from that short video clip as I did, such as how there’s probably a dysfunction in the brain going on, that sometimes simply a change of hand position can make all the difference, that the brain will remember the new action, and, most importantly, that there’s hope for fixing the terrible yips.
You may now be wondering why I spelled out the word in its entirety. Well, it’s because there’s really nothing to be fearful of; in fact, the more you fear, the harder it is to overcome – at least, this is something I’ve learned in the last couple of years to help overcome my case.
Yes, the reason why I truly do feel for you, if you’re suffering from the yips, is because I know all too well what Dr. Crews speaks of, as I suffered from them for the majority of my golfing years.
Not to brag, but friends of mine have always loved watching my natural swing – toot toot – and growing up I was a respectable 7 handicap. But my handicap was not a reflection of my swing and ball striking but rather my putting, as I would post my cap with 40+ putts on the regular. I’ll give you a moment to let that detonate in your brain for a second. Looking back, I can’t help but think of Marlon Brando:
Okay, so maybe it’s a little harsh to believe I’m a bum or am lacking class, but after years of friends and strangers watching me make some beautiful golf shots from tee-to-green, only to finish each hole with some incredibly embarrassing spasmodic putting, I sure felt like Terry Malloy for a time. But whereas Brando won an Academy Award for his role in that classic movie, On the Waterfront, I lost a lot of enjoyment in the game. Then came school and work – i.e. life – so I stepped back from golf for a handful of years. I mean, who wants to knock a gap wedge to three feet and then three-putt for bogey, especially in front of people?
But, like every other golfer, I can’t get enough of the game – I grew up on acreage with a 70-yard pitch in the backyard, my first job was at a golf course. Now that school is complete and my career is long underway, I decided a few years ago that the natural thing to do was get get back into the game I’ve been playing since childhood and give it another try. And I figured with so much time off that maybe things would be different this time around.
Upon my return, I was playing bogey golf, so a far cry away from my single-digit days. I was rusty, but it didn’t take me long to get back to a 10 handicap after only playing 30 rounds that first year. But wouldn’t you know it, the better I got, the more those pesky yips started to show up again.
So I watched Dr. Crews speak in depth about her study on what causes the yips to see if I’d learn more that could help:
I tried all kinds of advice that she speaks of in the video, such as looking at the hole, beta blockers, reverse grip, the claw, you name it. Nothing worked, and the old feeling of disillusionment was starting to deluge back into my being.
The intense feeling of fear and embarrassment prevented me, as it does to many other unfortunate golfers, from having any shred of confidence with my putting stroke – yet again. And no matter how hard I practiced Dr. Clews’ advice of focusing my attention on target and feel, the hand just didn’t want to listen.
So I continued my journey, but this time around I was determined to overcome the malady so that I could enjoy the game that I love for the rest of my life. I bought a Super Stroke Jumbo Grip; I bought an Odyssey Tank putter for added weight; I practiced putting on my lunch hour (see feature photo above); I practiced quieting my mind, focusing on a smooth stroke, lighter grip pressure; and still no improvement.
And that’s when it hit me: why not go against every piece of advice I’ve ever read about light grip pressure and squeeze that grip like it owes me money? It was a weird eureka moment, where a rush of confidence literally – and I mean literally – flooded through my brain (I’ll never forget it). I somehow instantly knew, even before making one single putt, that it was going to work. If a dysfunction in my brain circuitry wants to take over and jolt that lower hand with impunity, why not override the brain with brawn and don’t even give it a chance to spasm in the first place? I had nothing to lose.
“And that’s when it hit me: why not go against every piece of advice I’ve ever read about light grip pressure and squeeze that grip like it owes me money?”
Now here’s a disclaimer: I’m not a professional golfer. As such, I’m not claiming to have “The Answer” to fixing the yips, because I think it’s likely that the actual answer for fixing the yips can be different from golfer to golfer. I’m merely sharing my last gasp of hope from my own true story of how I overcame golf’s most feared word, because I watched my handicap drop seven strokes from a 10 to a three in one season. Another moment for the detonation to go off…
As I write this and I find myself looking back at Dr. Clews and her research findings, I’m starting to realize why an over-squeeze of the putter has changed my game so drastically. I always knew it, but this time I felt it in my being that confidence overrides fear.
I’m in control again of my putting. I look forward to putting; in fact, it’s my favorite part of golf. I have that synchronicity feeling that Dr. Clews speaks of where I feel like every putt within a certain distance is going in. Now, of course, they don’t always go in, but I’m now rarely three-putting and instead I’m finding myself always hovering around 30 putts a round, which for me allows me to once again enjoy the game I’ve grown up to love – finally.
I do still use the claw-style grip, which I feel is almost a must with anyone suffering from the yips, and I also still use and love both my jumbo grip and tank putter; but more importantly, I do still squeeze that grip even though it has already paid me back, and then some.
“I always knew it, but this time I felt it in my being that confidence overrides fear.”
Having the yips is arguably the worst affliction that a golfer can have. It has ruined careers for some pros, and crushed spirits at every level. But if after reading some of my story gave any kind of a stir inside of you then there’s a good chance that you’ve been beaten all the way down like Brando after struggling with tried and failed attempts at all kinds of cures, so why not give it a chance and squeeze away and take back control of your club and the part of the game that is preventing you from the enjoyment that you so desperately want and deserve. It may not work, but maybe it will, and at this point, really, the only thing you stand to lose is some strokes off your game.