Many of you know that one of the main reasons I stopped playing competitive golf was due to the putting “yips”. As a player, I was never able to find a long term “cure” or solution. In fact, many golfers suffer from this problem so I’ve been on a mission to learn more about it.
The yips are involuntary motions of the hand or wrist that can make putting a nightmare. The golfer literally experiences a jerk, spasm or interruption at the point of impact causing the ball to squirt off line! This happens most often on short putts, but golfers can experience the yips in all areas of the game. Of course, under pressure the yips occur more frequently.
I was fortunate enough to spend several days working with Dr. Debbie Crews of Arizona State University. Debbie is considered a leading researcher in this area and is currently on her second study of the yips in conjunction with the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, AZ. So far she and her team have found that up to 48% of ALL GOLFERS have experienced the yips. Those that have played the game more than 25 years appear to be the most prone to the condition. And, these involuntary spasms are not limited to golfers. Similar conditions affect other athletes, musicians, and surgeons.
While most people assume that a yip is a result of stress or “choking” under pressure; the research shows there is more to it than that. Some golfers are actually experiencing a neurological problem called FOCAL HAND DYSTONIA. This condition is a movement disorder that is caused by degeneration of neural circuitry following years of the same hand movement.
For now, we know of no cure or solution to the yips but Dr. Crews and her team of researchers is heading in the right direction. From what I’ve learned I now make the following recommendations to my students:
· Experiment with a new grip or putter that recruits different hand movements or muscles. I putt left handed now and am excited to report that I do NOT yip!
· Get with a professional or someone who is trained to help with some of the psychological factors associated with the yips. Pre-shot routines, breathing, and using specific stroke cues are helpful.