HOWARD WARD: Overcoming The 'Yips' in Baby Steps
It's just baby steps right now, but I'm making some progress in regaining the ability to play with "regular" irons instead of the full set of hybrids I've been using for the past couple of years.
Frankly, I'm a little afraid to write this, because if I start thinking about the progress, it may very well change those baby steps back into the yips.
I'm the only person I know who has the yips with his irons. I've seen a lot of people over the years who have developed the yips with a putter, but not with a complete set of irons.
I'm speaking firsthand when I tell you that a case of the iron yips can play havoc with your golf game, not to mention your mental state.
For the one reader out there who doesn't know what the yips are, it's the inability to draw a club back and take it through the normal swing. Strange things happen when you try this.
In my case, it happened by osmosis. I was on a driving range a few years ago before a golf outing, and I noticed the guy next to me hitting some of the ugliest shots I had ever seen. I had always been a decent iron player and I was intrigued by the shots this guy was hitting. Almost everything he hit came off the clubface low and to the right.
Lord, I wish I had just gone through my normal warm-up routine that day instead of going to the range.
My normal warm-up consists of bending over to tie my shoe laces, then sitting in the golf cart until my tee time arrives. It started on that fateful day. I had a 4-iron shot to the first green and cold-shanked it. I shanked a 6-iron and a wedge on the next hole. By the sixth hole I was a basket case. On the ninth hole it took me five wedge shots from 100 yards to reach the green. I completely circled that sucker.
It got so bad I couldn't take a club back. When I started my backswing every bad shot I had hit in the last six months flashed through my mind.
I picked the minds of the best golf instructors in the Sandhills. Kelly Mitchum watched me hit two shots and it took him two months to get his normal swing back. Bob Flynt went to the range with me and left pale-faced.
Bob Dougherty spent an hour watching me try to hit a 7-iron and was visibly shaking when it was over. Sam Bankhead took a look at me trying to hit a 6-iron and closed his indoor range for repairs.
I went to Myrtle Beach and visited Golf Dimensions trying to find some kind of iron I could swing. My second shot from their trial range took out the little swing monitor to the right of the tee. I'm banned from Golf Dimensions.
Everybody I played with tried to help me. It got even harder for me to make a swing because I could hear the other guys gagging in my backswing.
In desperation, I went to a set of Wedgewoods, irons shaped like little woods. That helped, but I had huge distance gaps between the clubs. I tried a set of Wood Brothers irons and gave them to my son-in-law. I tried a set of Callaway irons and gave them to a friend.
I was driving the ball well and putting well, but in between was golf hell. My wife advised me to think positive and I did. I was positive I couldn't hit an iron.
I bought a set of Vulcan Woodys, hybrids that looked like irons. I was able to play again. I was self-conscious playing with them because of all the stares I got, but I was able to make a swing again. That was three years ago.
Now I'm once again trying to hit regular irons -- almost. It's a set of Adams Idea irons and I've worked my way up to the 7-iron. The feeling of satisfaction is amazing.
I can't really talk about it yet because I'm too emotional. But maybe a few months from now. If the yips don't come back.
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