Monday, December 8, 2008

The Mayo Clinic and The Yips

I've been reading a lot of Geoff Mangum's Web site over at It's a great Web site and I like his work much more than Pelz's or even Utley's and I recommend it to anybody who likes to play the game and wants to get better.

Back in the day the "yips" were a pretty big part of the game. Both Snead and Hogan suffered from them in their latter days, prompting Snead to use the putting stroke in the pic above, which was later banned. Then there was Langer and his historical yips, which he went out of his way to cure and is one of the better putters in the world.

I personally have never had a bad case of the yips. I *believe* that this is due to my left eye being dominant. I *believe* that being right handed and left eye dominant causes a right aim bias. And as David Orr's studies have shown, those with right aim bias tend to change their stroke path in order to get the ball to the hole (so they use a cutting across motion to make up for aiming right of the target). Left aim bias golfers tend to manipulate the *clubface* in order to get the ball to the target. Meaning, their stroke is fine until the last second before impact they will open the face to get the ball to the target. And manipulating the face by opening it before impact has always equated to "the yips", IMO. (Which would explain Snead's straight on putting can aim better straight on than off to the side of the ball. Snead being able to aim better would allow him to take a better stroke)

I do believe that the putting yips are not that big of an issue on the professional level today than they were say even 20 years ago. Why? Because extensive studies done on putting have found ways to cure them or at least curb the impact they have on a pros putting. I believe that years ago somebody like Sergio may have faded into obscurity with the yips. But now with things like SAM puttlabs, belly putters, long putters and just better instruction you really don't see many golfers fade into obscurity because of putter yips (full swing yips is a different story).

Anyway, here's a good article on Mangum's Web Site about the Yips (

The earlier studies found no causal relation between anxiety and dystonia, but the Mayo Clinic team appears to reject this finding. The key difference in analysis is that the Mayo Clinic team believes episodic anxiety in golf can produce dystonia-like performance deficits over time. From this proposition, the team credits a prominent but not total causal role for anxiety in the yips. The team hence aligns itself with anecdotal accounts of golfers and the prevailing lore of the yips among golf's sports psychologists and gurus who reject the neurological underpinnings of the phenomenon in favor of a psychological explanation.


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