A spell of the putting yips was wrecking my confidence on the course. No matter how hard I tried to sink short putts, they would find a way to avoid the hole. Something odd was going on. I’m usually a decent putter so how can I suddenly lose the ability to sink simple putts from 2 feet?
I needed a practical plan to change my negative thinking and develop some new positive habits. But what did the experts recommend?
After a week of reading, watching and listening, the most common cited yips cure was a grip change. Although how gripping the club would change my mental state wasn’t clear at all. Experts had numerous suggestions on what to think about, or not, including breathing and focussing techniques and how to develop positive routines.
Based on the collective wisdom of the golfing internet I decided on a 3-point plan of physical, mental and putting routine changes I could implement and see if they helped.
Physical – Grip change
A physical change, trying something simple but new, might be enough to tell my brain and muscles that things are going to be different from now on. So I changed my grip on shorter putts.
I grip with a hybrid of a standard overlap and prayer grip. My right hand sits a bit lower than the left with both index fingers straight down the sides of the wide grip.
I tried out some different gripping methods on the practice green and the claw grip felt good. The flat fingers of my right hand on the front of the grip changed my wrist orientation by 90 degrees turning my elbow outward. Different muscles at work.
It wasn’t as great on long putts when I felt I needed more grip strength, but from ten feet it was a definate improvement.
Mental – Trusting my body
This was probably the hardest change. Old dogs with old bodies, learning new tricks. Dads dancing springs to mind.
My body knows how to sink putts but sometimes my brain is not convinced. I’m a good (and very modest) putter on an average day, until recently. I needed a way to distract myself from worrying about a miss.
Breathing calmly, relaxing any tension and starting to trust my body to sink the putt might help. It doesn’t matter if I miss but I just had to go for it and send the ball into the hole. I had to leave any thoughts about technique on the practice green, just feel ‘the force’ and start enjoying my putting again.
Routine – Visualise the putt
I’ve been using the ‘quiet eye’ technique for most of my putts. After lining up the putt with my PuttBANDIT ball marker, I look at a single small point at the back of the hole and then at a tiny spot at the back of the ball in a couple of cycles before fixing on the back of the ball and making the stroke.
My change was to reverse the order of the eye scanning process. Ball first then the hole.
I started with my eyes on the ball and then imagined the roll of the ball across the green, moving with any break, and dropping into the hole. In short, I was previewing the putt in my head and then letting my body do the rest.
This was something I could start to visualise even before addressing the ball as part of my green read. The putt path could then inform the ball line-up process with my PuttBANDIT ball marker.
Did it work?
I’ve played six rounds of golf since making these changes, three on unfamiliar courses. My putting has definitely got better. No doubt about it. I feel more confident and less stressed over the putt too.
In my last round I took 28 putts, with no 3 putts. Nothing to worry the PGA Stats people, but a lot better than 9 excess putts.
It’s early days and there’s always the chance of a relapse, but right now it feels good. I feel I am causing the ball to find the hole, and the more I sink them, the better I feel.
Paul Hart is a co-inventor of the PuttBANDIT ball marker and enthusiastic golf improver with a much improved putting game.
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