The 'Yips' became a much-used term among golfers when Bernard Langher, Germany's top golfer at one time, went through a prolonged phase of suffering from them. Commentators worldwide loved to use the term repeatedly to describe his slump in rankings.
The yips was soon in vogue, used to describe any prolonged bout of errant putting. Not familiar with the term? It is used to describe a strange phenomenon of losing total confidence in your putting abilities to the point when you can't even sink putts of two to four feet! Soon you feel you can't sink anything at all.
In my many years as a golfer, I have found myself going through bouts of being unsure from inside five feet on quite a few occasions. In fact, during my last professional tournament I missed about seven putts inside three feet. I can tell you I was lucky to make it through and win the championship by the slenderest of margins, just one stroke. If I had been confident with my putting stroke I would have had a nice cushion of a few strokes as I came into the closing holes. Instead, the 'putting yips' that week put me in the nerve racking position of knowing a single error would cost me the title.
How do the yips creep in? From my experience, once you start missing the short putts, your level of confidence decreases, which then makes you make more stroke and ball conscious than is healthy. Soon little involuntary muscle twitches and psychological interferences sneak in and in the end, you just can't pull it off anymore.
History has proven that putting yips will break down even the greatest ball strikers. You just can't make it to the top with such a problem. For example, in the early 90s, Raymond Floyd missed a two-footer to win and went on to lose the playoff to Nick Faldo. Faldo is still remembered for his triumphs and successes of those years.
It really seems very easy to sink two-foot putts but even for this simple stroke, you need the same amount of concentration and focus as any other shot. Don't ever forget that the one stroke you add for a one-foot putt counts just as much as the stroke added for a 320 yards drive. They are both important. Once you're afflicted by the yips, your confidence is destroyed and the game stops being fun.
There are ways to cure the yips. First, check your set-up, specifically your eye line. Align them with the target and the face of the putter square to the target. For some of you, this step alone will put you on your way to taking care of the problem.
For more serious cases try the following drill: While practicing putts, hit the ball only from the toe of the putter or try to hit just the top edge of the ball-intentionally top the putts. The idea here is to get you more focused and move you away from the same old putting stroke that is causing the yips. Try to stroke the putts with just your left hand or change the grip from conventional (left hand on top of the right) to cross-handed (just the opposite).
The cause of the problem is sometimes mechanical but in most cases it's just mental. If you feel you have the dreaded yips, get into a new groove by changing your practice style.