What are the yips in golf?
What causes the yips in golf?
The yips are a funny old thing. Nobody knows for sure what causes the yips in golf, but boy can they have an impact on your game. A cross between a technical fault and a huge mental problem, the yips can manifest themselves throughout your golf game and give even the best golfer nightmares.
The yips are most common in putting, but it can also become apparent across the rest of your short game, which is much more feel based than the long game. It is very possible however that you can develop yips in your tee-to-green game, especially with the driver.
Golfer Tommy Armour coined the term ‘yips’ when trying to explain why he could no longer compete nearly 100 years ago, and it has stuck ever since. Most known as a problem that golfers have with putting, the yips can also be an issue for players of all sports, including baseball. Golf is where the phenomenon is most prominent however, so let’s have a look at how you can tell if you have the yips, and what you can do about it.
Do you have the yips?
While the yips are potentially devastating for your golf game, it is extremely rare to get full-blown yips. Genuine yips are believed to be caused primarily by either the sudden loss of motor neurons and motor skills or a complete mental barrier that has spun out of control when it comes to a certain athletic movements.
This means, when you take the putter back for a 20-footer, you are incapable, for whatever reason, of hitting that ball 20-feet. For a golfer who practices fairly regularly, to hit a putt to a hole 20-feet away would be pretty straightforward. When you have the yips, it is impossible. You will likely either get the wrists flipping over way too quickly or completely decelerate, as you’ll have no gauge of proper technique or feel to hit the ball where you want it to go. It can be a terrible feeling.
So, it’s very important to recognise what issues you have before diagnosing yourself with the yips. It is very possible, especially if you are a beginner player, that you don’t have any semblance of the yips at all, and simply don’t have the feel or the proper technique required to play certain shots.
With the short game and putting, this is especially the case. If you were able to play good chip shots consistently before, and then experienced a complete loss of feel for no reason, then it is indeed possible you have the yips. If you struggled to consistently play the correct shot before feeling a loss of confidence, the problem can likely be fixed with technical coaching and correct practice!
If you do have the yips however, perhaps backed up with a coach’s diagnosis, then don’t panic. It will a hard process, but it is possible to cure them…
How to Cure the Yips
The yips have no known cure from a scientific or mental point of view, but you can certainly do your part to find a cure personal to you. The yips, as mentioned above, stem primarily from either a mental block or a loss of bodily functions that prevent your muscle memory from doing its job. So, wherever you’re experiencing the yips on the course, it is vital that you keep these two possible causes in mind.
How to cure putting yips
The most common way to experience the yips happens to be possibly the most important part of golf, and not surprisingly the simplest kinetic motion. You use almost every muscle in your body to make a full swing, but sometimes with the putter, you can just use one or two. As is often the case with this crazy the game, the simpler it should be, the harder it gets.
If you’re experiencing the putting yips, here is a slightly different method that will trick your body and your mind in equal measure, getting some feel back into your muscles in the process…
- First, hit five putts from 3 feet using only your wrists, no arm movement.
- Then, hit five putts from 3 feet left-handed (or right for a left-hander) with the back of your putter.
- Lastly, hit five putts from 3 feet using only a wedge. Use it however you need to get the ball in the hole.
- Repeat this process from 5 feet trying to hole every putt.
- Then go to 10 feet and try to get every putt within a small circle around the hole, still trying to hole them however.
- Then, try and do the same from 30 feet, only worrying about distance control this time.
- After this entire process, hit five putts from 3, 5 , 10 and 30 feet as you normally would in a round. Again, try and hole from 3, 5 and 10, and just worry about speed from 30 feet.
This practice method will trick you into gaining feel back into your fingers. When you have the yips, it’s vital that you overcome any mental or physical hurdles in your way, and this practice method will do just that by tricking your mind and body. If this works well in practice, and not on the course, then employ the same technique through a round. Find the method that’s the most effective for you of wrists, left-handed shots or wedge putts, and use that throughout your round. Alternate between normal putts and your chosen unique method and you will soon get the feel back to hopefully cure your yips for good.
How to cure chipping yips
The chipping yips will likely be when you’re either thinning completely or fatting completely every single short shot you hit. This will come again from the same techniques as in putting, with your wrists or deceleration. The answer lies in making things harder for yourself, but not in terms of technique. This is because when things are too simple you can lose your head in how easy it should be…
- Find yourself the tightest lie you can, which for those not in the know is a closely mown or hard piece of ground (the rough or a bunker is not a tight lie, but fairways and greens are).
- Then, put your hands way down the grip of the club where at least one is partially touching the steel, and go back and through with the same speed bruising the turf in practice.
- Try and make 20 practice swings like this in a row that all bruise the turf. Don’t use any wrist action and don’t worry about missing a couple, just focus on the connection.
- Then, hit a few shots with the same little motion and see if you can make good contact. Again, don’t worry about where they go, just trust yourself to make this movement.
- Then, repeat this process a few times with three or four different clubs.
Hopefully after a few shots you will have your confidence back with chipping, as if you can chip off tight lies you can chip from anywhere! The advantage of gripping so far down the club is that you’re closer to the ground. That helps you trust your eyes and therefore feelings much more, which will hopefully work for you!