April 26, 2018

14 Tips to Cure your Yips: Become a Better Putter

You’ve been here before:

It’s your first hole on a sunny Saturday morning at your favorite course.

You drill your drive straight down the fairway, get right on the green with your next two strokes, and then the nerves set in.

“Captain 3-putt, reporting for duty,” you mutter to yourself under your breath—and then proceed to botch what had been a promising hole, killing your confidence before you even get to the second hole.

It really doesn’t have to be this way.

In fact, it won’t be, after you get through these 14 tips for curing the yips and becoming a better putter.

Before you dismiss this and say “I don’t want to get better at putting, I want to get better at golf!” remember one thing:

Putting tips are golf tips. In fact, golfers spend about one third of their rounds of golf on the green, and about 40% of golf shots are putts.

Sounds pretty important, right?

Let’s get started!

14 Actionable Tips You Can Implement Today To Become A Better Putter

Here are the 14 best putting tips to quickly shave strokes off your golf game and cure those nasty yips.

1. Hit the sweet spot!

First things first:

You can’t have any hope of sinking a putt unless you hit the ball with the right part of the putter head.

Yes, we’re talking about the sweet spot.

What is the sweet spot on a putter, and how do we find it?

The sweet spot is essentially the area of the putter head that most efficiently transmits the energy of your putting stroke to the ball. If you hit the sweet spot cleanly, there will be no distortion in the putter head.

To find the sweet spot, you can simulate the way your putter would hit a ball:

The sweet spot is generally close to the middle of the putter head, but not always where you would expect it to be, so this exercise is important.

First, hold your putter grip in one hand and bring the head up, facing you, so the putter’s shaft is horizontal with the ground.

Then, slowly but firmly use the finger of your free hand to tap different spots on the putter head, while still holding the grip firmly in your other hand.

You will find that when you tap certain spots on the putter head, it moves up and down but also wiggles a bit side to side. That means the spot you tapped is not the sweet spot.

Eventually, you will tap a spot where the putter moves up and down with no side to side feedback. That’s your sweet spot!

How to use the sweet spot when putting

When using a putter for which you’ve defined the sweet spot, a training putter with an accentuated sweet spot, or other putting aids, it’s important to note that the sweet spot is both a horizontal and vertical location on your putter head.

In other words, if you think you’re hitting the sweet spot but your putts still look and feel off, there’s a good chance you’re hitting the ball too high or low.

When putting, you should always hit the equator of the ball with the center of your putter’s sweet spot.

incorrect alignment of putter with golf ball
Here's an example from P2Grips of a putter linking up well horizontally with a ball, but failing to line up vertically with the ball's equator.
proper alignment of putter with golf ball
Here's an example of the sweet spot lining up perfectly both horizontally and vertically.

2. Stroke, don’t hit it!

According to Erik Isakson:

“Good putts are the ones that begin rolling end-over-end as soon as you make contact, and you can’t get this kind of roll if you’re slapping it, jabbing it, or even hitting it.”

It seems logical that you wouldn’t treat a put the same way as you would a drive or an iron shot, but the truth is, many people who struggle with their putting are culprits of hitting their puts rather than stroking them.

The best way to have more control over your putts is to have control for a longer period of time. This takes practice, but it starts with being conscious of the way the ball looks when it starts moving.

If the ball skids and doesn’t immediately start rolling steadily, you hit it too hard and fast.

Really, it’s about keeping a steady and natural rhythm and pace that allows the ball and club face to connect for as long as possible before the ball is released.

Around the World putting drill graphic

3. Master the “Around the World” drill

This drill is an excellent way to build confidence from a particular distance by making multiple puts in quick succession. It’s also a great way to build a consistent rhythm into your muscle memory, which will help you on future puts.

Step 1: Place 6-10 balls at around the hole at an equal distance from the hole. Start at a shorter distance, like 3 feet. You can try longer distances later on.

Step 2: Take your practice swings before you hit the first ball, but no more until you’ve hit every ball.

Step 3: Begin putting. Move either clockwise or counterclockwise around the circle until you’ve hit all of the balls.

If you miss any putts along the way, ignore it and keep going. Your goal here is to ingrain a rhythm for putting from a specific distance, not to suddenly adjust to different distances.

Step 4: If you missed any of the putts (it’s ok if you did), repeat the drill until you sink them all.


Step 5: Once you feel perfect from the 3 foot distance, try the same drill from a different distance. Expand your radius 1 to 2 feet at a time.

A big obstacle to good putting is psychological, and one of the best ways to combat the yips is to have repeated success.

Line Drill putting practice graphic

4. Master the Line Drill

The Line drill is the opposite of the Around the World drill in that every single putt will be from a different distance.

Let’s give it a try.

Step 1: Place 4 balls in a straight line leading up to the hole.

The first ball should be close to the hole (about 2 feet away) and each ball should have about 2 feet between it and the next. In other words, your closest putt will be 2 feet and your furthest will be 8.

Step 2: Take your practice swings before you hit the first ball, but no more until you’ve hit every ball.

Step 3: Begin putting, starting with the nearest ball. If you miss—rather than continuing—set the balls back up and start over until you’ve made each putt in succession.

Step 4: Once you’ve sunk all of the putts in a row, give the drill a try from a slightly further distance. Increase the distance between each ball by half a foot or a foot and see how you fare.

putting drill for distance control graphic

5. Learn discipline and distance control with this putting drill

This drill is all about not making the putt.

Say what?

Well, that’s not what it’s all about. Really, it’s about discipline. Learning how to get your putts into a small area without obsessing over sinking the putt.

Here’s how the drill works:

Step 1: Grab about 8 tees and measure a distance about a 3 foot radius away from the hole on the putting green.

Step 2: At this distance, form a circle with the tees around the hole.

Step 3: With the objective of getting your ball inside the circle—but not necessarily in the hole—try putts from all different distances.

You “win” when you get 5 putts in a row, all from different distances, into the circle.

This drill will work wonders on improving your perception of the power needed to get your ball near the hole.

6. Learn the basics of reading the green, and repeat them in every putting practice session

You should never feel like you’re taking too long to read the green when you get started on a putting practice session.

Many golfers who practice putting often like to get straight to the green and start putting before dedicating adequate time to surveying the green.

Keep these tips in mind next time you start a practice session:

  1. Before you do anything, look at the contours of the green to understand how it is structured. How do the high and low areas meet and how may they influence the break of your putts from multiple positions? Having a general understanding of this before you get started will help you for the entire time you’re on the green.
  2. Get as low as you can when surveying the green. Certain high and low points may not be visible from above, but they will be clearly in view if your viewpoint is lower.
  3. With your first few putts, your adjustment after the putt is just as important as the choice of speed and aiming line before the putt. The best way to learn is to do. Did you underestimate the break or overestimate the power needed? Being mindful of this can help you learn your tendencies and improve in the long run.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s learn some pro tips on reading a green effectively.

7. Make sure you’re not “depth deficient”

According to Golf Magazine, 65% of golfers under-read the break on an average putt. That means it’s an incredibly wide-spread issue.

But why does it happen?

Well, the problem may be our eyesight—or rather, the way that our mind’s eye interprets distance based on what we see.

Here’s a great diagram from the Golf.com that shows how our perceptions based on memory of where something is positioned can change the second we look away:

depth perception on putting green

Why is this important?

First of all, it matters because we typically don’t look at the hole the entire time we are swinging and putting. We look at it to measure up our putt. Our brains and eyes are not perfect, and tend to produce small illusions when distance is involved.

Second, it matters because a knowledge of this common error can help us correct our perceptions of where to aim and how far the ball needs to go.

Craig Farnsworth at PuttDoctor.com gives us two solutions to this issue, both of which are sure to decrease your depth deficiency.

Solution 1: Step away from the ball and look at the entire length of your upcoming putt from the side. By doing this, you will get a much more accurate picture of the actual distance your putt will need to cover.

Solution 2: From where you’re already standing on the side of your upcoming putt, point your putter at the ball. Then move your putter along the line between the ball and the hole at the same speed you want your ball to eventually role. This will enhance your brain performance and give your mind a more accurate perception of distance.

If you want to improve your perception of break, try this:

Along the break of your putt (typically the final 3 feet), place two objects on either side of the ball at equal distances. Ball markers or coins work great.

Now get behind your ball and survey the break. You’ll notice that the objects appear to be at different heights. You now have 4 reference points (the ball, the hole, and the 2 objects) to inform your putt rather than 2.

8. Read the green from the lower end of your putt

In Tip #6, we talked about how reading the green from closer to the ground creates a more accurate vision of the structure of the green and the potential break of your putt.

This is absolutely true, but there’s more to it.

You want to be close to the ground when you survey the green, but you also want to be on the right side of it.

As a rule of thumb, Todd Sones recommends reading downhill putts from the hole and reading uphill ones from the ball.

This way, any changes in terrain and bumps will be right in your line of sight, whereas if you were to read the green from the top down, it would just look like a field of green.

9. Find a reference point before you read the green

When people and animals get buried in avalanches, they often dig themselves in further while trying to get out. This tends to happen because being buried in a mountain of snow with no view outside gives us no reference points. We don’t know up from down.

Golfers often make the mistake of burying themselves in little avalanches of their own.

When reading a green, it’s important to have an external reference point that can add perspective to the tilts in the green.

In these situations, the best type of reference point is a horizontal line on a flat surface.

Some golfers look for horizontal lines in the distance, while others use the brims of their caps to create a steady reference point relative to the ball and the hole.

This method also helps against external distractions—like nearby bunkers or the apron of the green—which can trick your eyes into telling your brain that your putt should follow a different path.

10. Don’t just putt—work on your putting mechanics!

So far, we’ve talked about using the sweet spot, reading the green and some helpful drills, but how about actual putting?

Here are some things you should practice:

1. Your alignment and setup

Make sure your shoulders are square to the hole and your arms are hanging without feeling cramped over the ball or overextended to reach it. Face the ball and try to look slightly ahead of it before you swing as this will help you maintain your desired direction.

2. The length of your stroke

A great way to assess the length of stroke necessary for a given part is by measuring out your stroke length when you practice at a putting green.

If you put a yardstick on the ground starting just behind the ball and facing behind you, you can actually mark the stick with the length of your backstroke for any given successful putt.

You may be thinking, “When I’m on an actual course and the ruler gets removed, how am I going to know the right distance?”

It’s not necessarily about knowing the exact distance—it’s about training your muscle memory to understand the correlation between backstroke length and distance.

3. Your body’s position and stability

Make sure your body is stable and not moving during your stroke. If you do move—even during your follow-through—it can compromise the accuracy of your putt.

4. Your swing

In any good putt, your swing will involve no wrist movement. Your arms should swing freely from your shoulders.

As we all know, this is easier said than done.

Here’s a tip:

See the little hole at the end of your putter’s grip?

end cap of putter grip

Try sticking a tee in it before you putt.

As you hit the ball, if you see the tee swing toward you as the head of the club swings toward the ball, you’re using your wrists.

To gauge whether you’re swinging correctly on a putt, you should see your arms, and both ends of the putter—tee and head—moving in one fluid motion.  

11. Your putting rhythm consistency will make or break your game

It’s imperative to have good rhythm in every single type of golf stroke. This is particularly pertinent in putting, where your backstroke and forward stroke should be equal.

Just how important is rhythm in putting?

Sara Dickson, a PGA Certified Instructor, conducted a study of 750 golfers, ranging from amateurs to tour professionals, testing for consistency in 3 crucial areas of putting:

  1. Impact location
  2. Face angle
  3. Rhythm

She found that most of the golfers tested did well regarding consistency of impact location and face angle, but tour golfers were leaps and bounds more consistent than the amateurs when it came to rhythm. Needless to say, the tour pros are also leaps and bounds better at putting than the amateurs.

Here’s a tip coming out of the study:

Rhythm refers to “the duration of time it takes from when a golfer takes the putter back until the moment he or she makes contact with the golf ball.”

As a rule of thumb, this duration should be the same regardless of the distance of the putt. The length of the backstroke and forward stroke will change based on the distance of your putt, but the time the stroke takes should never change.

Next time you practice putting, keep this in mind. Try to make the duration of all of your swings the same, while adjusting stroke length and speed based on the distance of your putt.

12. Work on your confidence at the end of every practice session

If you’ve ever had a dog professionally trained, the trainer will tell you that training should always end on a successful note.

This way, the dog associates confidence and satisfaction with its training regimen rather than mistakes and disappointment.

The psychological aspect of this concept is very applicable to putting and yips.

For this reason, every session of putting practice should be treated the same way. End on a positive note that can help you build confidence for the next time you hit the links (or the putting green).

There’s not one “correct” way to do this, but a great starting point is to try and hit as many short puts as possible, getting the difficult parts of your practice and the tougher puts out of the way at the beginning and middle of your practice session.

There’s nothing quite like sinking 20 putts in a row. Nobody has to know they were from 3 feet out!

13. Work on your grip pressure and eye positioning

Perfecting the grip

If you’ve been in a store that sells golf supplies lately you’ve seen plenty of funky putter grips and plenty of traditional ones.

A quick Google image search for “putting grips” brings up far too many complex grip styles that almost look comical when you look at them all together:

collage of different putting grips

Which type of grip should you use?

Really it’s a matter of personal preference. What does matter, is that you grip the putter correctly.

Your grip should be light, but not light enough to let the club slip in your hands. Easy enough, right?

Eye contact!

As we mentioned earlier, your eyes should be positioned directly over the ball, but facing the line of your putt to make sure you will be putting in the right direction.

You can test this out by dropping another ball in the path of your lead eye (this is the eye that’s closest to the hole. If the ball lands on the direct path where you were planning to putt, your eyes are looking the right way.

14. Keep it simple and tune out all the noise

The yips are not an incurable medical condition. Heck, they’re not even a medical condition in the first place!

They are a psychologically driven performance issue that you can fight against and overcome.

So how should you cure your yips?

The most important thing is to not get too bogged down in the details.

So far in this post, we’ve talked about locating the sweet spot, reading the green, body positioning, mechanics, rhythm, and more. That’s enough to drive your crazy if you do it all at the same time.

Imagine being a novice golfer and trying to implement every single one of these tips on your first trip to the putting green. You’d spend half an hour planning before you even put once!

According to Dr. Bob Winters at the David Leadbetter Golf Academy,

“Great putters don’t get lost in dealing with their mechanics, even if their mechanics are poor on a certain day, because they realize the most important thing at the present moment is to get the ball into the hole as swiftly and efficiently as possible.”

At the end of the day, these tips help you become a better golfer because practicing them allows you to slowly but surely ingrain them in your putts every single time.

Instead of doing it all at once, practice one tip at a time, until it becomes second nature. Before you know it, you will have strongly reduced your handicap.

Practice makes perfect—But results come fast if you do it right

Feeling like a short game machine?

Good!

Now’s the time to get to a putting green and put it all into action. But don’t forget to implement what you’ve learned today on the course as well! But remember, don’t fixate on using every tip at once!

You’ll see the greatest diversity in breaks and grains on an actual course where every hole is different. You may find that you’re holing putts like a pro on your favorite practice green and then reverting to your flawed mechanics when a course throws a wrench at you.

Don’t worry.

As long as you work on these tips, you will improve your overall golf game.

Remember:

40% of golf shots are putts. That’s a lot of opportunities to improve your handicap.

Now go seize them!

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Become a Better Putter

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