Penicillin for the "Yips"
Paul Sargent, PGA Director of Golf
The First Tee Chesterfield
This article is for anyone who has ever struggled with that inexplicable scourge known in golf circles as, “The Yips”. Actually, what I will discuss below will help anyone who struggles with their short putting, even if they would not label their problem with a term that implies such chronic longevity. I truly believe that putting is 10% technique and 90% belief. Most top putters have no mechanical thought in mind when they roll their balls, just a vision of what the ball will look like falling into the cup. Their confidence in their ability to get the ball started on the line on which they intend is unshakeable.
Let’s say that one misses a couple of makeable putts early in his or her round. The average player will take that as a sign that he or she is about to have a pretty miserable putting day. The truly great putter looks at the situation differently. This person refuses to believe that he or she will miss putts all day just because the first few do not hit the bottom of the cup. On the contrary, this player believes that he or she has filled his or her “miss quota” and now it is only more likely that the next one will drop due to the law of averages!
I’m not saying that mechanics has no place in putting. The ability to maintain firm wrists and a soft touch will certainly put you on the right path. However, I maintain that on the putting green, a player with perfect technique and no confidence will lose to a player with abysmal mechanics and rock solid poise every time. This leads me to my solution for problems in short putting.
Answer the following question: If you hit 100 putts from six inches out, how many would you make? If you answered any less than 100, you must have blacked out during the test! In fact, all but a couple of them would probably go over the middle of the cup as they go in. Now, imagine that you were preparing to hit another 100 six-inch tap-ins, but as you hit your first one, the hole disappeared. The ball would probably roll some three to four feet past where the cup used to be (it’s not often that we baby a putt from tap-in range because our confidence is very high.) What does this say about what our approach to short putting should be?
With our first 100 putts, we determined that we are basically perfect at getting the ball on line from six inches. The second scenario illustrated that the energy applied to the average six-inch tap-in is sufficient to send the ball an appreciable distance past what is necessary. By transitive logic, we are all currently capable of nearly perfect direction on putts in the three to four foot range! Why, then, do we miss so many?
The answer is that we create far too much tension and inconsistency in our strokes by placing too much blame on ourselves for the outcome. If we strike a three to four-foot putt on exactly the line we want with exactly the speed we intend, does that guarantee that it will drop? No, because each read is inherently a guess…and don’t even get me started on spike marks! So, if we can do everything in our power to make a putt and still miss, shouldn’t we let go of our illusion of control and focus our energy on that which we have proven we can rely…the six-inch tap-in?
My short answer for short putting is this: Stop worrying about factors beyond your control, such as, ultimately, whether the putt will drop or not. It is not really up to you in the first place! Visualize every short putt as a six-inch tap-in and strike the putt with as much conviction and freedom as you would from that range. Let fate do the rest. You will be amazed at how many times “luck” will be on your side.