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Golf teaching and playing articles > Avoid the yips, lower your expectations

28 Oct 2004


All golfers know how important putting is in lowering their score.

As a result, they sometimes feel too much pressure to make every short putt.

That can lead to a case of the "yips." The yips are a condition where you feel so much anxiety about the result of a putt, your body actually flinches when the putter comes in contact with the ball.

I want to share some tour statistics with you, because if your expectations are too high you will put that extra pressure on yourself, and your putting will suffer.

Research done by Dave Pelz (recognized as the guru of the short game), reveals that tour players make about 90 percent of their putts that are 3 feet or shorter. The percentage drops to just 50 percent on 6-foot putts. Are you expecting to make all of your 6-footers? If so, you are expecting to do better than the best players in the world.

The percentage drops lower as the putts get longer. At 10 feet, it is only about 20 percent. At 15 feet, it is only 10 percent.

Keep in mind that these are the players who do this for a living. They play and practice all the time. How often do you play and practice?

If you watch golf on television, it probably appears that the golfers are making all of their short putts, but remember that you are watching only the players who are playing the best that week, so they are probably making a higher percentage of putts than the rest of the field.

The conditions they play under are probably better than the ones you play under, as well. The greens are usually double-cut and rolled to eliminate as many imperfections as possible.

On the weekend, after the cut is made, there are only about 75 golfers walking on the green with spikes. If you play a public course on a weekend in the afternoon, you probably have had a couple of hundred golfers walking on the greens before you.

Having this many golfers walking around the cup causes what Pelz describes as the "lumpy donut" effect. This is a 6-foot area around the cup that has been walked on so much that the ground has been depressed, with the exception of 6 inches around the hole, which is raised because golfers do not generally step within 6 inches of the hole.

The result is that when your putt is slowing down, the lumpy donut causes the ball to veer offline at the cup.

The golf balls the pros use are probably tested to make sure they are not out of balance, as that will cause putts to miss even if the green is read properly and the putt is struck as intended. Do you test yours?

Professionals and their caddies are experts at reading greens. So they have two experts reading each putt. Do you?

My point is, you are probably not going to putt as well as tour players, so stop expecting to do so and take pressure off of your putting.