KeyGolf's Yips Diary
There has been enough print put out about "yips" in recent months that we have decided to join the foray. So we will add to, revise, re-publish and comment upon any and everything that comes down the pike on the subject - at least for awhile. Why? Hopefully to fill up the rather large hole in the current information base about the subject
The most recent offering concerning the yips comes from the pen of Hank Haney, via the electronic version of Golf Digest from 8-05-04, "The Secret Issue: How I cured my driver yips."
Hank goes a long way, in effect all the way, around his elbow to get to his thumb - and he's no dummy - just to relate his self "cure."
And we will go a long way to avoid sounding like we are belittling what he says or the hard work he did. We are not into that, though we will try to take some critical points from his summary to shed light on the matter. Hank is only another unwitting victim of the same malady that has seduced the entire golf scene for many years. Almost all yips "afflicted" golfers have either missed, not been told or avoided hearing a couple of critically important issues. They have, therefore, been relegated either to be saved by spontaneous remission, an exception to the rules, left to wander in one of golf's "black holes," or give up the game. Hank found his way into an exception to a critical rule that happened to work for him, but it was anything but quick and easy. So his report in GD is something that is inconclusive, as even he admits:
"I haven't found a magic yips vaccine. The changes I made weren't scientific. This process worked for me, but following it to the letter might not work for you. It's not so important what you do to address the driver yips. It's more important to understand that doing the same thing over and over again won't work. You have to find a different pathway in your brain for the motor signals to travel. That might mean some other crazy kind of grip or preshot routine. Don't be afraid to experiment. Golf is too much fun to miss out on."
The curiously sad thing is that he is almost "right on" when he says "You have to find a different pathway for the motor signals to travel." Leave out the word "motor," and the statement will be full-figured. The "motor" part appears to be based on a misconception along with a "result" oriented mentality rather than a "process" orientation. In turn, that precipitated a plausible, but improbable, remedy resting on grip and swing changes that can only be called an exception to a rule. The fact that it worked for him, and also can be shown to be dealing with symptoms rather than causes, means that it is exactly as he says. It works for him, but it might not (we say, most likely will not) work for others.
It is only a relatively short journey to look into the ease with which golfers have been mesmerized by short-termed half-truths that have been promoted heavily as "the only way to go" to play this game, and every one of those has had just enough (half) "truth" to hook the mind of anyone lacking the ability to test the proposition. Golfers love the notion of "experimenting till you find it."
And this is where the plot thickens. He either did not realize, or have an inkling, that he was sitting right on top of a rule-oriented solution. His words say there was not even a remote recognition of it. No clue shows in the story he tells. He thought the solution was in the act of not looking at the ball, and that would be partly so. But, in fact, it was much more to be found in the act of talking while he was hitting which kept his conscious attention in the present and diverted his thinking from anything past or future, where anxiety thrives.
Not looking at the ball would tend to reinforce thinking based in the present moment, and we've all heard that offered as a "remedy" for ball-boundness (which under examination is a form of mental blocking that results from anxiety). However, it is also possible to close one's eyes and think about most anything, which can re-open the door to anxiety. That does not happen when you are talking, since that follows the "one-thought-at-a-time" rule. The talking, perhaps a bit reinforced by not looking at the ball, shut down any anxiety signals long enough to remove the non-discriminatory blocking action (yips) and that did the job for him. So he was half right, like his predecessors. What he thought he found is no more than the kind of thing any of us can come up with where we have missed the basic issue, make an uneducated guess, stop short on any investigation of the possible, ignore what is available in the world of common knowledge, and then luck into a "fix."
The moral is: If you don't know for sure, go find out. Check, test, investigate, consider many sources. Don't just settle for the same old tattered explanations or ruminations to serve as a starting or finishing point. We suppose that he, and millions of others who play golf or who have investigated the yips, can be forgiven for not having stopped to look thoroughly into cause and effect. There are some that we would like not to exempt in the forgiveness category, however. They belong to the fraternity of scientists that should have known better and seen more. But their implied claim of leadership by reason of their institutionalized position brought forth a flawed premise. Their conclusions were accepted by a lot of others who were ready to follow - blindly.
What is apparent at that point is that the laws and rules of influence are hard at work and tough to resist. There is a giant conspiracy issue that goes like this. Once an authoritative figure sets forth a theory, others will tend to accept it, untested. (The "BIG" guys are never wrong, are they?) So any and all then proceed to build new cases and theoretical notions based on old, inadequte, partial, unfinished and/or faulty premises. Anyone may get caught up, then, setting out to prove something believed to be "right." Failure to consider documentation is an engraved invitation to miss what really is correct. Look around. Once Mayo Clinic called the "dystonia" shot with regard to yips, almost everyone jumped on that bandwagon. Mayo has now offered a mild, almost off-hand, reversal by admitting that there "may be" some anxiety issues involved. Once they find out anxiety is likely the crux of the matter, you can bet they will take credit for the "discovery," or protest that they were there in the first place and never intended to omit that reference. (Anyone need a "flyer" on weapons of mass destruction?)
What most tend to miss is the reality that the human system is NON-DISCRIMINATORY. If you read this and don't know what that means, do not stop until you have investigated every possible source you can find to understand it. If you play golf, you cannot afford to "leave home without it" - the fully appointed, accurate knowledge of how that works and why. That does not belong in the category of optional, personal preference. It is mandatory knowledge - if you wish to solve many of the golf problems and issues you likely ruminate about on a daily basis. Start with the works of Hans Selye, MD. Anxiety and its effects are universal, involuntary, non-discriminatory and immediate. No one can escape that reality, nor would we want to, since anxiety is the early warning system for any kind of threat or real danger. The fact that the anxiety bell rings also for "good" things only means that we need to develop our ability to evaluate and understand the difference - a point of reference that can be shown to be seriously lacking in many quarters.
The yips invade a player's game in direct proportion to how well s/he knows how to manage the non-discriminatory elements and issues in life. If Hank Haney thought he made a new discovery (that you can yip a driver just like you can yip a putt), he needs to know that we published that item nearly twenty years ago and few paid attention then and not many more see it now. It is not new information. Ignored, maybe, but not new.
The missing knowledge pertaining to the"non-discriminatory" issue leads to a second fault. Anxiety triggers the non-discriminatory system without our permission and it does that unfailingly any and every time anxiety rears its head. Now, if you didn't know about the non-discriminatory reality, you would be left vulnerable to sieze on any half-true meaning and action, consequently missing the real role that anxiety plays in the "drama."
It is not a "sometime thing." It's an "everytime, all the time thing." It is universal, regular, constant. When you have anxiety, it triggers the immune system (which is non-discriminatory) and that system, in turn sets up a first line defensive action instantly. It doesn't wait. It doesn't hesitate. It jumps to attention and that attention is registered in a blocking action. The muscles tense, blood pressure changes, breathing changes and thinking goes either blank or off to the races. The body takes on rigidity, while the mind loses it's usual track - all of which, put together, results in the action that has come to be known as "the yips."
No amount of anything, grip changes, swing changes, equipment changes, or anything short of a clear mental thought process that literally manages the anxious signals, will remedy that in the long term - unless you luck into an exception. Once in awhile someone may find such an exception, but that cannot be offered as a rule. It is not one. It is an exception and anyone who thinks they can teach by exception or learn from one is deceiving him/herself and others, to boot. No argument that it makes interesting reading, however.
Hank almost got it. He found himself distracting his own attention by talking while he was demonstrating his driver - and hitting those non-yips shots - to his own amazement. All he had to do was go the next step and turn that process into a clear key and he could have kept his old grip and his original swing. It's too late to "prove" that with him, but you are not too late to make your own considered adjustments, should you need to.
As long as you have the information and knowledge that anxiety is the direct cause of the blocking action in the immune system, known as the yips, and you know that anxiety can be managed by staying in the present where there is no anxiety so that the immune system is not triggered into action, and you know that a clear key will keep you in the present long enough to make a golf shot, you are home free, even if you have had and are having a problem with the yips. It's a management issue and only a problem if you don't understand it and neglect learning how the management process works. Do, however, bear in mind, that if you have retained the yips for a long time, they may now have also invaded your habit pathways and require a longer time-frame for re-learning in order to enjoy the fruits of the management principle and be yips-free.
One postscript. It is not lost to us that a possibility exists that some golfer, suffering from dystonia, may be out there somewhere. We haven't met that player, but there may be one or even a few. That fits the category of an exception to the rule. The rule goes with anxiety, which is always there, not with dystonia which is only occasionally to be found. We have worked with players having Parkinson's, Tourette's syndrome, cerebral palsy (early), amputations (using prosthetic appliances), and worked with the mentally disadvantaged. All of those also fall into the "exceptional" area. To a person, all were able to experience less manifestation of their "problems" when using a clear key. Hence we know that even if there is a physical limitation, the effects can be minimized if one manages the anxiety issue effectively.
We also know that there have been, and continue to be, a wide variety of "solutions" offered to be rid of the yips, but not one can be given the assignment as being universal. They emerge under the heading of exceptions to the rule - some being better "performers" than others. The only universal remedy will be found at the point of addressing the principle of managing anxiety and all its inputs and outcomes. We found that in the process that centers around the clear key management "tool."
That leads us to a conclusion. Where there is no obvious physical disability, anxiety management through using a clear key, will deter or eliminate yips 99% of the time. The only condition is the thorough, systematic application of the clear key process and commitment to it. If you have that, all the other remedies are subsumed in it.
We are pleased for Hank Haney's having remedied his problem, but we regret that his solution is not a universal one. He has two more chapters coming, so read them under a banner that says "Reader! - Listen and Evaluate."
Diary, number II
Following is a quote from a new website featuring the new Wishbone Putter Grip:
"About the Yips.
Copyright © 2005 Carter Golf, Inc.
You will find the rest of the information and comments, including a few "barn burners," at http://www.wishbonegrip.com/
The two foregoing paragraphs are saturated with apologetics without responsibility. Mayo originally published their findings, labelling yips as a manifestation of "focal dystonia" and having nothing to do with anxiety. Now they say it "resembles" focal dystonia and confess that symptoms "may worsen under conditions of anxiety and stress." We pointed out to them the possibility of flawed findings from research that failed to include obervations pertaining to anxiety, more than three years ago, but they kept to their "line" until now. We simply chose, meanwhile, to accept their jaundiced view by saying to ourselves, "If the doctor says 'You are going to die,' who are we to argue?"
Clearly, the makers of the new Wishbone grip show little comprehension of the "yips" problem - cause and effect. There is no "grip" that will offset or dismiss either the anxiety or the physiological responses that are the fallout from it. One cannot resolve a psychological problem with a physiological remedy. You may show some form of temporary relief, but there will be no solution under such circumstances. A special grip may have some stabilizing effect as with our reverse pressure in putting, but neither, alone, will stop anxiety, and therefore cannot dismiss the yips. Once we see the new grip, we may well advise that it, along with a clear key, may interrupt the yips.
Please read our Putting Book carefully, as well as our articles concerning anxiety and the yips. In our experience, 100% of golfers unfamiliar with clear keys, either have had, or will have a bout with yips at some point. It is inevitable.
Our conclusion is that the above illustrates that most people don't even know the yips when it has invaded their shot. It isn't the pervue of putting only. It is available to every shot in the game. And those, unprotected from the effects of anxiety, will know it first and foremost.
Here is what one of our friends, who just began his experience with clear keys had to say just this week:
"I just had to e-mail you about the success that I have had from the CD I bought from you recently "KeyGolf The Double Connection". I am a 56 year old golfer, that has played since I was 12 years old and have played a lot of golf from Scotland to Pebble Beach. I have had a handicap 2 in my 20's and 30's and have played a lot of competitive golf. About 7 years ago I started having a little yip in my swing in that I would have a little difficulty taking the club away from the ball, and would drop my hands at the top of my swing. It started affecting my golf game, scores, and caused a little frustration too. I still could play well because I had a pretty good short game so my scores did not suffer that much but my woods and long irons were really affected by this little yip.
Well about 4 years ago after laying of regular golf due to work and the illness of my parents, I started playing again and started developing a full swing yip that I just could not even take the club away from the ball, I just froze. I had to fight to get the club back and when I finally took it away, I never knew what would happen with that shot, I could top it, sky it, hit it right or left, who knew. It was affecting my long shots, driver, long and medium irons, but short wedge shots, chips and putts were not affected. I have battled this problem for 4 years. I could sometimes hit a few good shots on the practice tee but never on the course. Over the years the practice tee shots got a little better and I would sometimes think that I had it licked, but when I got to the 1st tee, it would start all over.
Over the years I have been hypnotized 3 times, bought tapes to self hypnotize, relax, etc with no success. I even have tried beta blockers to see it medication would help. Not much luck here either. Well, back to your CD I bought. I read it the day I got it, read it again the following day. I have developed the "clear key" aspect of your CD,. The 1st time I played golf after reading your CD I was just amazed. I had only about two yip type swings the whole day. The 2nd and 3rd time (a Saturday and Sunday), no yips at all!!! Hit the ball as good as I have hit it in years. I shot 3 over par on Saturday and 5 over on Sunday (missed 4 putts of less that 5 feet for birdie that day or it would have been much better). I played today with my wife and 2 1/2 year grandson (who never shut up the whole day, ran around behind you and in front of you all day) but even with the distractions, NO YIPS!!!. I am really excited about playing golf again and it is really due to your CD. It was recommended by fellow golfer on one of the golf forums where I was asking for help. I just wanted you to know how happy I am about being able to play golf again at the high level that I played in the past. I wish that I have know about this years ago.
This is a success story that I wanted you to know about. You may use any part of this e-mail in any advertisements about your product. You way also give them my e-mail address if you like."
You make the call. We can't, since we never met a player who had "focal dystonia."
Diary, number III
After our comments about the Wishbone (below), we received a note from Gary Carter, the creator of the grip, so we asked him if we might share his thoughts with our readers. He agreed. Here are his comments:
"I can see you
have a wealth of knowledge about the yips and I would
like to learn more. I am the inventor of the Wishbone
Grip. I am an amateur golfer who had an extremely bad
case of the putting yips. I would panic over short putts;
I would loose the ability to breath; my whole body would
freeze up and it would take me forever to pull the
trigger. On occasion I would nearly pass-out before I
could putt the ball. My playing partners became so
frustrated waiting for me that they would all putt first,
then just walk away. So I do understand that anxiety is a
manifestation of this condition. However, the anxiety did
not simply appear. I believe it resulted from the fact
that I had a flawed putting stroke that caused me to
start missing short putts in the first place.
We responded to Gary, hopefully, with enough presence to clarify what was intended. We sometimes leave the impression that the entire "yips" problem is reversible by using clear keys, as if nothing else matters. That is not quite what we intend. The anxiety issue does not mean that there are no physical aids, measures or procedures that will help. There are a number, and even though we have not seen the Wishbone, we are willing to accept Gary's testimony as to it's favorable ability to cut through a "yippy" putting action for some players (perhaps many) and support "yips" rehabilitation. We just need to bear in mind that anxiety is there for all players and the manifestations of that anxiety may take different shapes for different players, requiring a variety of interventions.
The principle that all of us may need to grasp more completely, however, is that anxiety is a constant. It may come to awareness as a manifestation of some problem we face, or a problem we face may be a manifestation of the normal activity of anxiety. Excessive anxiety can be triggered by, and/or escalated by, an event or a condition, but it is always in the equation. Triggering can come from almost anywhere at almost any time. Anxiety never "just simply appears." It is always "at the ready," though there are legions of precipitants. In other words, we may need to struggle occasionally with the question "Was the anxiety triggered by a flawed putting stroke - or was the flawed putting stroke a result of the of anxiety from missing putts?
Meanwhile, here are our words in response to Gary:
"I'm sure that we can dialogue with your experience and mine together, if you like. It sounds like you may have seen my comments, which are limited to reflections about what I read on your website, especially the Mayo material. The over-riding principle from my viewing point, is that anxiety is involved at the rate of 100%, and that there are countless (or so it seems) remedial "tools," procedures and notions about the yips that are somewhere on the continuum between very minor and major, but none that I can find qualifying at the 100% end of that continuum. In other words, anxiety is the base line. We will find many ways to facilitate relief, which will work for some, but not all, and which will work often but not always. Paying attention to, understanding and managing the anxiety issues lies at the root of the problem and leaves no one, nor any intermediate situation, out of the equation.
I went back and
re-read my own words, and hope that point showed through.
In addition, if I did not make evident enough the point
that evaluation of aids is surely called for, I will try
to make that clearer. I'd be glad, if you will allow it,
to put your comments on my yips page (or any portion or
revision you'd like), including how to get hold of the
Wishbone, since your own experience is relevant.
Our readers will find access to the Wishbone at http://www.wishbonegrip.com/
Diary, number IV
Our journey through the "yips halls of information" continues, we keep looking for something that will either equal or pass the insights we have gained into the quest for a remedy, cure, rehab program - anything that can be offered as substantive.
The latest comes from a research project in England, headed by a psychologist - Mike Rotheram. He has conducted surveys and research for at least the past couple of years and has concluded that the yips are caused by "trauma."
He wrote, "The involuntary movements cannot soley (sic) be caused by anxiety. Some other factors are happening which is why I believe so strongly in the traumatic incidence....When we experience a stimulus which reminds us of this [traumatic] event, the brain throws up a physical response (this is well researched in occupational and physio domains), which acts as a defence mechanism (the twitch, the stagger, the jerk, the tension). This defence mechanism acts as a distraction which stops us from accessing the traumatic memory (traumatic meaning in the representation of the person with the yips)."
Our studies have shown that it makes no difference how the stimulus is identified or defined. It can be a "trauma," but also any number of other stimuli. There are an inumerable number and kind of trauma. That dimension would have to be isolated in studies to demonstrate that only a person who has had a certain kind or degree of "trauma" will suffer the yips. Every living being has been through some kind of traumatic experience, if only at birth. Trauma can be associated with something as simple as a bee sting, inasmuch as that word (trauma) stretches on a continuum as do many other descriptive terms. He says the "brain throws up a response." We say it is the immune system, per the studies of Dr. Hans Selye, that inserts any one or more physiological responses. According to what happens is that the signal-giver, known as anxiety, triggers the immune system, which instantly delivers the "twitches." The "twitches" are an outcome of the defensive action of the immune system, not the brain. Rotheram seems to say that anxiety is not involved, except incidentally. However, it is impossible to have a traumatic memory without anxiety, while it is clear that anxiety does not require a trauma in order to be felt in one's experience. Anxiety is always present. Trauma does not come with universal size, frequency or shape. Anxiety is consistently present and on duty at all times.
On a secondary note, we are not quite sure what Mike means by a "twitch" acting as a defense mechanism. That may be a manifestation of a defense, but it cannot be considered, in itself, as a defense mechanism. That one, simply, is not in the "textbooks."
We wait to hear more from this point of view, though the early reports indicate that we will be looking at yet another isolated symptomatic approach rather than at a core issue leading to "full remedy," which we see as an impossibility. There is no "cure" for the "yips," short of the end of life. Because "yips" is a manifestation of the fact that one's immune system is fully alive and doing its job, "riddance" is not the issue, anyway. The real issue is managing the non-discriminatory system that produces the yip, by preventing the anxiety signal from reaching it long enough to produce the desired result. We stand firm with the need to interrupt the anxiety signal so the immune system is dormant long enough to make a golf shot. That's what clear key is for.
Diary, number V
The following was recently reported by the aforementioned Rotheram group in the UK that has been studying the yips for several years and believe they have found a remedy through a fairly reputable therapeutic process known as the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) extrapolating a theory based on a belief that yips result from an emotional function or mal-function which can be "cured' through EFT. They appear to believe that emotions cause the yips. EFT is, in their words, "a psychological version of acupuncture, whereby acu-points are tapped on while the client focuses on underlying emotional causes."
We note that this is one of those almost conclusions. In fact, emotions are connected with yips, but they come after the fact, as a "result," not before it, as a "cause." Emotions, prior to the yips are experienced as part of things like fear, nervousness, doubt, uncertainty, projected embarrassment (if I miss), and will be found to be no more or less than manifestations of anxiety, which is the root cause of all those emotions, and the trigger that will set physiological defenses in motion..
In any event, Mike Rotheram, who no doubt is a sincere observer, sent the following email, (which we edited for spelling):
Our concern with the survey, to which we cannot respond without some challenge to the chosen process, is that personality really has only an after-the-fact investment in the yips. Behavior Style is the issue that really belongs there, but even that is not important to the yips, except as one means of evaluating which of the styles will be most affected by the yips and in what order. We know, however, that, since the remedy lies in mastery of the automatic process, if that is in place, the yips factor will require no additional attention.
In other words, this survey, and the EFT approach could be paralleled to the following: Someone comes up with the idea to take an oil drum, gather together two rows of 50 cats each, trained to guide mice toward a hunk of cheese placed in the barrel, and then submitting that as a superior device versus the common mouse trap.
It is not a matter of whether it might work. The yips issue just doesnt need to travel a path around the elbow to reach the thumb. The process needs the simplest form possible, not something loaded with all manner of extraneous treatments, therapies and procedures. Any golfer can own, operate and commit to the automatic process, through simply understanding how anxiety is managed. That will convert the yips into a non-issue.
We do applaud Mike and company for coming up with yet another peripheral way of dealing with a problem that has interrupted many a golfer. We dont doubt that it may help some, but it lacks the universal character and usefulness to help all golfers.
We also know that a lot of golfers dont care whether they solve this and other "mysteries" of the game. Those devotees will be found invested in the chase, the experiment, the lost and found issues, the fun of laboring over what will and what wont work. They need the excitement of not knowing, not being consistently confident, having a constant challenge, and we suppose thats OK, but there should still be room for the few that prefer to take care of business themselves and have the assurance that they have a reliable means of dealing with what the game brings.
[For anyone interested in the actual survey sent from this group, just send us an email and we will forward it to you].