Summertime and the living is easy. The long sunny days of summer are calling golfers to play more golf, but they’re also encouraging you to play better golf so that you can enjoy the game more. Let my personal experience with the yips help you to look at mastering the mental game of golf.
I am a golfer who suffered from the yips for nearly three years. I can tell you that only those people who have suffered or are suffering from the yips know what it’s like to feel so helpless when you’re on the green. I must add that while the yips are most commonly occurring when you’re on the putting green, I know people who have driving and chipping yips. No matter where the yips occur, the common denominator is the feeling of fear and helplessness that overcomes the golfer.
As a golfer whose handicap rose from 4.5 to 10.5 due to these putting yips, I’m here to tell you that you can overcome the yips. The secret to beating the yips is the key to any good golf game. Remember this simple philosophy: “Golf is a game that is played first in the mind and second on the course.”
For me, the yips were a fear, a twitch, a nervous reaction; but when I tried explaining the phenomenon to other golfers, it was unexplainable. Other golfers simply couldn’t understand the problem, even though they said they did.
I tried all sorts of different options to cure the yips, including putters from large mallets to small blades and from 30 inches long to 50 inches long. I tried left hand low, split hands and even tried putting side saddle. It wasn’t until someone told me to take deep breaths before I walked on to the putting green that I realized that the yips are a fear of failure in my mind. I needed to change my mindset and relax my mind by controlling my breathing and thinking of only positive thoughts. Keep it simple, stupid!
I have never regained those lost handicap strokes, but I did regain my sanity. I no longer have the yips—Oops, that’s not really true. The more accurate statement is that I have learned to control the yips by improving my mental approach. Here’s a few insights into what mental mastery consists of in a better golf game.
One of the great challenges about the game of golf and the major reason why I love the game so much is that there are so many clichés about the game that really are true, but not necessarily for every golfer. For example, how many times have you heard golf analysts say, “Tension is the biggest enemy of a good golf swing”? Well, that certainly is true, but where does the tension come from? It comes from the mind, from thinking negative thoughts instead of positive ones. From recalling bad shots instead of good ones. From thinking about the five keys to a successful swing, instead of making that successful swing.
As you play more golf this summer, the more you should look at those people who are successful in the game. What separates the top 10 player from the number150 on the money list? You might say skills, but I would argue that it’s their mastery of the mental game. Remember that tension I mentioned in a previous paragraph, well that tension can ruin your next shot, your next hole, even your whole round. Tension abounds on the last round of pro golf tournament, but those who can control that tension through their deep breathing, through visualization, and through their minds will turn out to be the winners.
One final thought: Consistency in golf is a virtue, but achieving consistency is a battle. The battle to master the mental game of golf is never ending, but it should never stop you from playing both more golf and better golf.