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Tuesday, Nov 16, 2004

YIPS

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You're a golfer facing a pressure-packed putt and you miss it. Did you just clutch? Or did you get a case of "the yips"? That's right, "the yips". This mysterious condition ruins many a golfer's game but it doesn't have to keep you out of the game. Paul Cleary has the yips.

"That would be a yip right there. When I yip, the right hand will take over, and go just like that. Pull the ball dead left."

Yips--a four letter word in golf--is an uncontrolled twitch that typically strikes experienced golfers without warning, usually during a putt, costing the player strokes. Bernhard Langer battled the yips for much of his career. He went to a neuropsychologist, they changed his putting stroke completely. Rick Martino is a veteran instructor at the PGA Learning Center in Port St. Lucie.

"They worked very hard on developing a stroke that was consistent in the distance. It went back, and there. So his goal was to take the putter back and through, not to roll the ball into the hold."

A change in putting style, that is working for Langer. Researchers studying the yips say the condition can be both physical and psychological.

Sports Psychologist Dr Rick Jensen: "People who experience the symptoms of the yips are not experiencing it for all the same reasons. The assessment for me is what is causing it."

It's not only a problem for golfers, it can also cause writers cramp, or even interfere with a musicians performance causing the hand to become unresponsive.

"Violinists can loose control of the bow, because it's the same type of motion. It's a slow twitch muscle control movement.:

And there appears to be one common trigger: pressure. For people who experience the yips, when they're under pressure it can occur more often. Researchers know the heart rate goes up as the yip occurs. But take heart, yipping doesn't have to be the end of your game. Consider a sports psychologist, relaxation techniques, and a teaching pro to nip your yip. As Paul Clearly discovered, a change in putting style may be all it takes.

"A reverse overlap, start over-lap, cross handed."

Paul's tried them all, and finally found a grip that made him yip-free. Researchers say as many as one in 4 golfers will at some time experience the yips, typically after they're been playing the game for years.

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