Putting and the Yips (article)

Interesting article. As usual, the non golfing scientist is completely overlooking the obvious. As the months go by, and I continue to play golf now using an entirely different approach on the greens than I used to… I’m really surprised that what now seems so obvious was not figured out by many of the great ball strikers.

I think the premise of this article is spot on about the muscle tissues… but the solution is not.

I’m skeptical. Though I could see where training the forearm and hand muscles like we do here in the full swing could cause a sense of tightness and tension in those muscles when we reach the green to attempt a fine motor skill.

Did you develop the putting yips as you developed the ABS protocol over the last 15 or so years? And is that what caused you to develop a different approach to putting?

Has anyone seen or read any of Geoff Mangum’s (cited in the article) material? I think it’s excellent. He seems to focus on the brain science of putting as much as the mechanics/aiming protocols. One of the aspects he talks about is that all the “feel” you need in putting is the same as that which you need to reach for a door knob before opening a door. I.e. not much and that everyone can do it. Summarising his thinking - he says that if you get some basic mechanics down (which he thinks aren’t as important as people think), aim correctly, put a nice rythm and tempo to the stroke, then tell yourself that you can’t go long (more than 3 feet past the whole) and not short either, then there’s not that much else to it. sounds easy eh?! There is footage of him on youtube.

I’m keen to experience lag’s methods but I expect that will have to wait until I have finished the ABS modules.

I never had the yips… but my overall feel deteriorated because I was using a very light grip pressure while putting and a very firm grip pressure when striking a ball. I now base my feel upon a very firm grip pressure on the greens also… so it’s the same thing now from tee to green. Setting up my gear correctly on the greens has been the biggest key to getting it right. I don’t think putters are made correctly. They are all designed for swingers and not hitters.

Flat stiff and heavy with no offset all the way to the green with a round grip, and suddenly I am supposed to change everything, and then have to adjust my body to poorly designed gear in relation to the rest of my golf game? Makes no sense really.

So when I get to the green and my caddy hands me an upright, lightweight, whippy shafted club, well, of course I have to approach that completely differently. Golf doesn’t need to be two games… (it surely was when I was on tour)

Most great putters I know are not the best of ball strikers.

Two main rotations going on in the golf swing… torso and forearm. Conventional putting instruction is trying to eliminate both.

Why have offset?
Why have your eyes over the ball?
Why swing the club on a totally different plane?
Why keep the lower body still?
Why grip it light?
Why use a club that doesn’t resemble anything else in the bag?

If you study the really great putters… it’s all there.

And I will say this… the really great putters could putt on horrible greens.

I have a video in my putting forum where I demonstrating some things and making putts on sanded greens…and I mean heavily sanded.

Putting on perfect surfaces does not require as good a stroke as if putting on bad surfaces. You can get away with skidding and glancing blows on fast perfect greens. Try that on bad bumpy greens. You really learn to putt on bad greens, because the advantages of really getting the ball rolling properly with a bit of hook spin become very obvious. It’s amazing how many putts you can make on bad greens if you are really rolling it well.

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I haven’t read Jeff’s stuff… but I simply can’t believe how well I can putt now with zero practicing. I say this because with zero practice, I am only relying upon technique. Technique alone.

If you practice a ton, you can make nearly anything work. I’m not impressed with that… either on the golf course or putting green.
Can you putt well with little or no practice on poor greens?

If yes… then you are doing things right.

The practice is going to give you feel for speed… which is vital… and there is no doubt that practice can make the difference between top tier putting and simply putting good. If I went back out on tour, I would practice putting a lot… for the speed feels… not so much the mechanics of the stroke, because I have that down now.

There is a lot to be said for studying the great putters of all time, and among these I would include: Bobby Locke, Geo. Low, Palmer, Nicklaus, Bobby Jones, Billy Casper, Dave Stockton, younger Ben Hogan (in his prime), etc.

Round grip is good. Lie angle is key. As far as the general approach, I really like Dave Stockton’s philosophy.

Ground pressures: These are SO key. Check how many of the guys in the above list go a little pigeon-toed in the stance to get some activation of muscles and ground pressures and opposing foces going. Something very interesting when you activate it on a smaller stroke - the feel feet into the green stabilizes the core, and the rather unexpected part is that it REALLY flows into the hands, and frees the brain to focus on speed and path - roll that ball into the hole without trying.

I’m not sure what method you’ve come up with on putting, John, but I am very curious to know more. Given all you’ve created here, I’m sure it’s good stuff.


Mangum’s stuff is unique because his studies are extremely scientific and as mentioned, delving into neurological sciences. But his actual teaching is incredibly simplistic. In fact, I think Mangum’s issues are often when he tries to make things too simplistic that they become a little difficult to understand. For instance, in his ‘Reality of Putting’ DVD, he discusses the Hansel and Gretal technique to putting, but I don’t even remember what the Hansel and Gretal children’s story is about. So, I wound up watching it a few times and finally got the idea which was really simple, he just tried to relate it to the layman and I actually think made it harder.

I think Prichard’s stuff is nonsense.

To me, the yips usually start off as something that is mechanically off and it forces the golfer to make a compensation. And when they start putting poorly, they often over-compensate and then it just feeds off itself and causes the brain to go haywire.

The main thing I try to do with putting is focus on the speed/touch. If that’s good, it increases the effective size of the cup and you’ll make more putts eventually. And you’ll cut down on your 3 putts as well. Somebody like Mickelson tries to ‘take the break out of the putt’ by hitting it harder, but he actually reduces his odds of making the putt because when he hits it so hard, he reduces the effective size of the cup and actually forces himself to be more precise. So when I’m putting poorly, I immediately go back to the speed.


I think the yips are a result of the over anxious feeling of ‘hitting’ the putt… most people hit at their putts instead of stroking them…

I learned to putt from a really great putter… and he taught me to cock it back, and pull it through… that way, during the strike, it’s hands free… you simply rotate the shoulders through the strike…

I don’t believe the whole “the putter grip points at the belly” thing… that warrants a ‘hit’…

I was taught to put my weight 90% on my L leg, put my L eye directly over the ball, the ball position is on my L knee, with the putter shaft and my L forearm in a straight line (that was the most important part)…

also the grip should be a certain special way as well… put the butt of the club in the ‘groove’ of the wrist right in the center of the palm (not down in the lower part of the hand) … you should be able to put a tee in the gap created by the rest of the palm and the pinky finger… the last 3 fingers of the L hand hold the club in the tips of the fingers… not in the palm… the tips of the fingers of the hand and the palm oppose each other.

then lean forward, cock it back, and pull it through… and let the ball die at the hole.

I’ve done that my whole life with my bullseye putter and when I get hot… I make everything I look at… everything… my college teammates used to say I was the best putter they ever saw… and it was all because of my teacher… and he was GOOD!

if you’re not ‘hitting’ at the putt, you won’t yip


I believe in Mangum’s belief that the tempo of the putting stroke should be the same back as it is thru.

I think that makes it much easier for the golfer to have the best speed/touch on a putt.

I think where the ‘hitting the putt’ causes yips is when golfers with wristier strokes have a difficult time stroking the putter with good rhythm. However, I would be hesitant to say that ‘hitting the putt’ is the main cause for yips as I’ve seen ‘hand free’ shoulder putters get the yips as well. I think there’s usually two types of results with the yips:

  1. bad speed, usually too hard.
  2. the open face miss.

Funny, one of the things Mangum also discusses is how golfers often grip the putter too LIGHT and that causes the open face yip. It kinda feeds onto itself…if you get the open face yips, people will tell you to grip the club lighter…which only encourages the open face yip.


I just finished reading Dr Bob Rotella’s book “Putting out of your Mind”

Fantastic book, as are all books in his series.

His take on the Yips is a players fixation on the End result. He has worked with many players with the Yips. While not an immediate fix, simply changing the players perseption of what constitutes a “successful” putt can stop the yips.

He suggests judge the success of your putts by how well you go through your pre-shot routine and how well you strike your putt along the intended line.Not if they go in or not,By doing so you inevitably sink more putts.

The whole premise of his book is everyone has the ability to putt well if you let yourself do so. If you can toss a baseball to your mate 15 feet away you can putt well. When tossing a ball you dont think about wrist cock,the path your hand travels on or how far back to take it. You simply do it!. If you putt the same way as you throw you will be a great putter.

Since implementing his ideas I actually enjoy putting now and putt well without much practice

Dr. Bob knows his stuff.
I spent about 6 hours at his house one day talking, eating, shooting the wind… he puts his words in a way where you feel you can just ‘Do It’ instead of worrying about it.
After all what can really happen…You are going to "MAKE’ the putt or ‘MISS’ the putt…so why worry about missing it and then having no chance to make it. The more you miss the greater the odds become that you will start to make…unfortunately we beat ourselves up over the misses never allowing the makes to happen… just a mindset

I’m intrigued by your explanation of your putting stroke. Would like if possible for you to elaborate. Especially the grip and the stroke itself. I putt with some of the same mechanics but would be interested in learning more about how you putt. Thanks.

"After all what can really happen…You are going to “MAKE’ the putt or ‘MISS’ the putt…so why worry about missing it and then having no chance to make it.”

I’ll print the above and work out a way to tape it onto the shaft label - I sometimes find it very easy to lose sight of this, which I guess not only affects my putting but my overall enjoyment of being on the green as well. Wise words.

I’m with Rotella here. As someone with the yips myself, who can’t smoothly stroke even a 1 foot putt and have even air swung a 1 inch putt, it’s all in the head. If it was scar tissue, it would happen in practice rounds or on the practice green, but it doesn’t. I agree it’s scarring though, in the brain. My brother had it as well and we believe it came from playing a lot of sport as kids with our father often coach of the team having nothing complimentary to say about a great performance but would be furious at any slip up, even trivial ones. It led to an extreme fear to stuff up and a crippling demand for perfectionism of ourselves.

I don’t believe it’s hereditary however, well not through the genes anyway. If the person doesn’t recognize the causes it can be environmentally passed down though.

i had the yips with baseball. when i was youngster, i was playing up a division as 13 year-old third baseman on a team of 15 year olds. i always felt a lot of pressure playing ahead of the older guys, and one day i threw a ball away, and the error resulted in two unearned runs. a few more of those, and i could never throw the ball to 1st base from third base without choking up and short-arming it into the ground 15 or 20 feet in front of the base. eventually, i was moved out to right field and i could strong arm it without hesitation to 2nd base, 3rd base and to home plate. but, still, if i was throwing to first, i would choke it and throw it away.

interestingly enough, i was playing in a work-associated softball league a few years ago and i had to play shortstop or second base because i STILL could not throw to third base. definitely a mental thing…

The human mind is a strange beast.

Yips are exactly the same reason most amatures cant hit 200y over water when their last 3 drives were 240yards.

Most people fix on the negative or the “dont” part. i.e- DONT hit it into the water, DONT hit it left into the trees, DONT miss this 2 foot putt. Soon as you do this your brain is wired to instinctively aim were you are thinking… So dont think where you DONT want the ball to go

I had the yips playing Cricket for a few years,I was so scared of getting out I froze up and couldn’t play a scoring shot to save my life.

I came to realise all these negative thoughts are simply guaranteeing you failure before you start. The best way to overcome them is to stop CARING I found.

I didnt care if I got out in cricket, I dont care if I miss my 2 foot putt and I dont care if i hit it in the water.Its only a game after all…

I instead focus on the positive result I want. I look where I want the ball to go and its amazing what your brain will do to make you hit it there

i agree yips is way beyond golf…

just like crr, an all star second baseman for the yankees comes to mind, but i won’t mention his name 'cause he’s from my hometown. :unamused:

all of a sudden he got it in his head that he couldn’t make a routine throw to first base. ended his career.

just watched the baltimore ravens kicker pull one to lose the game, the hold looked a little sketchy though…but still he missed a short
kick by a mile.

in my 20’s i was a horrific putter. i didn’t know if it was the yips or bad form, but one day i just started telling myself i was the best putter i know.
things have been better ever since. at least that’s what i believe :laughing:

I recently listened to a Talkin Golf Podcast with Dave Stockton, where he was talking about players taking too long over putts.
It kinda struck a chord, I’m now trying to be more instinctive and fluid - move in, one look, wee forward press and go. I guess I’m trying not to give myself the time to think about missing, which was my main problem.

And strangely it bears similarities to my long game, I usually see the shot while walking up to it and choose my club before the bag is off my back, a quick kinda practice swing to feel the weight of the club more than anything and take in the surrounding evironment, then move in settle down with a waggle or two, one look, forward press and go. I never think negatively about missing a fairway or a green, although in reality I often do…so I’m trying to take this approach onto the greens - I can’t say at this stage whether I’m making more putts, but I’m definately enjoying being on the greens more and certainly finding putting fun at the moment. (plus it speeds up the game quite considerably!)

Most of you know that I am not the most technologically gifted person when it comes to all this high-tech computer stuff, but I saw something today that made me think the trend toward golf as it was in back in the day is a fight uphill all the way.

Saw this guy on a putting green today with some kind of contraption on the shaft. Since I am the worst putter to walk the face of the earth I decided to see what he was doing. It looked like some kind of Sky Caddie thing-a-ma-jig and it was making a tone and displaying three sets of numbers after his putting stroke. I asked him what it was and he just said it was a measuring device for face angle, etc. I asked him where he bought it and he said…“it’ my cell phone with an app on it”.

Wait, I said, that’s your cell phone? He said it was and damn if it wasn’t an IPhone or whatever it was called. All he did is download a putting application to it and there he was getting his practice in with it.

I was thinking what next…being able to play with a phone in your pocket giving some kind of remote feedback while putting.

It’s a different world for sure. I’ll be dipped…if I didn’t see that with my own eyes, I might not have believed it.