Dr. Gary Wiren, PGA Master
Playing the Japan PGA Sr. Tour, I spent a lot of time trying
to find a workable putting style. It prompted me to think about
a psychological phenomenon that is most frequently associated
with-but is not exclusively confined to-our efforts on the green.
I speak of the YIPS. Out of curiosity I looked up the word in
the dictionary. According to Webster, YIPS apparently dont
exist. Webster most certainly did not play golf.
mentions under yip the sharp barking of a dog, or yelp.
Sorry, thats not it. Ive heard people yelp when they
yip, but they are two different things. No, Mr. Webster, all
of us who have played enough golf to have experienced tracing
our attempts at par through the early morning dew, or have requested
that the car lights be turned on to finish our final strokes
for the day have most assuredly seen the yips, and some of us
have experienced them. The yips Im talking about didnt
come from dogs. Not four-legged ones anyhow.
is a yip? Its a twitch or spasm, sometimes violent, centered
in a dominant hand and forearm, which causes a golfer to lose
control of his natural stroking or swinging motion. It is primarily
associated with short strokes like putting, chipping or pitching,
with putting being the most common.
some people it is surprising that the yips strike good players
far more than bad ones; not to me it isnt. Expectation
levels run higher in better performers. To a competitor like
a Ben Hogan, the thought of missing what should easily
be made, is unnerving. In his case it got so bad that his
limbs literally froze in the face of a potential miss, and he
couldnt draw the putter back.
strange part of the yip syndrome is that it doesnt happen
on longer putts. Because when you are farther from the hole,
you are not expected to make it; therefore the pressure to perform
is reduced. The yip-shot, if it can be called that, is a psychosomatically
induced bad shot. But if we expose this malady to the scrutiny
of common sense, it should-logically-never happen. Here is what
yipped putt comes from fear; the fear of missing. Imagine you
are facing a three-foot putt. Now let me ask you a question:
what if you miss? Whats the worst thing that can happen?
Your wife will still love you when you get home. The dog wont
bite you. Youll have a good dinner to eat, a comfortable
bed in which to sleep, and a sunrise to greet you. If you miss
that putt, 800-million Chinese will never know.
live on a small planet in a medium-sized galaxy in an immense,
expanding universe. Whether you make or miss the-three-footer
has little chance of affecting the course of history in that
universe. Quite honestly, your putt is of insignificant consequence
and NOBODY REALLY CARES except you and your opponent. Your opponent
will be happy if you miss, so even the miss isnt totally
bad. It just depends on the perspective. You may say, Ill
lose a dollar, a ten, or one hundred dollars. So what?
When compared to the conditions of survival that people face
everyday in Beirut or Ethiopia or Bangladesh, is such a loss
really of any consequence? Put it in perspective! This isnt
life or death; its a game being played in beautiful surroundings,
on a grand day, surrounded by friends enjoying a pastime they
love. The worst thing that can happen to you, should you miss
that three foot putt, is that youll have to putt again.
allow yourself to envision the consequences of a make or a miss
to be so large that it prevents you from doing what you are fully
capable of doing-which is making a smooth stroke. After all,
once youve read the green, thats all there is to
the next time you start getting nervous over a short one, put
it in perspective. Step back, smile, remember where you are and
what youre doing, go up to it and roll it in with the confident,
relaxed stroke of someone who no longer has the fear of missing.
For, what if
Gary Wiren, PhD
PGA Hall of Fame
World Golf Teacher's Hall of Fame