From the research that has been done, and from my own experience as a mental coach, there are 3 “Types” of Yips:
1. Focal Dystonia (neurological problem)
2. Attention and Performance Anxiety (yips caused by fear)
3. Yips caused by poor technique
Focal Dystonia is an actual nervous twitch which occurs during the swing or stroke. This type of yips has affected many players over the years including Bernhard Langer and Mark O’Meara. Many players you see who use “unorthodox” putting grips are doing so, because they’ve developed the focal dystonia yips. However, with adjustments which minimize the use of the muscle that twitches, a player can successfully return to the same level of skill (like Langer and O’Meara).
However, most Yips are not caused by Focal Dystonia…
Attention and Performance Anxiety
Most cases of the yips are caused by a player’s lack of focus before and during a shot and high levels of performance anxiety.
Think about it this way, if you are able to practice without yipping, it’s not a physical issue. Something changes on the course…
In practice, when there are no consequences to a shot, a player can (often) freely access their skills (especially after several goes at it). Their focus in on the intention for the shot and during the shot the mind is quiet, meaning there’s no “interference” in the movement. On the course however, where the outcome is more important, the focus is no longer on the intention, but rather “prevention”. If it’s chipping, the focus is usually preventing a fat or a thin and in putting it’s missing a short one. This makes the mind noisy before and during the shot, and in the 2 seconds it takes to play it, there’s an attempt to control and correct, resulting in the “twitch” and a poorly executed shot. So how to improve or train yourself to put your focus in the right place (at the right time) to play shots freely without the mind getting in the way?
A player starts to shift their focus from what they intend for the shot, to what they don’t want to happen. This completely disconnects a player from the shot (what type of shot they are going to hit, where the target is and how far away it is), which is essential in the short game and putting.
What is it that a player with the yips fears will happen? It’s not just the physical act of “yipping”, it’s all the feelings that go along with it, which are more painful. I’m talking about the frustration, embarrassment, disappointment, confusion, panic etc. which are stored in the “subconscious” mind.
The fear is of triggering those painful emotions, by yipping. So a player will (subconsciously) do what they can to avoid them. This involves focusing on the stroke/swing (especially the impact area). The consequence is loss of connection with the target and loss of fluid motion, and more importantly, more yips!
A good player without the yips, is “looking and reacting” to the image of the shot, which tells the body how to move to execute it. He or she is trusting themselves to execute the shot, which is exactly what’s needed for fluid motion and a good shot.
Yips caused by poor technique
This is the least common cause of the yips, but it’s not to be ruled out. Poor technique can cause you to require the hands and wrists to “save the shot” in the impact area and cause variability in the face angle and angle of attack. E.g. if your alignment is closed to the target and you also take the club-face back closed, you will unconsciously sense this during your swing and require the hands to open the club-face at impact.
How To Cure The Yips
Now that we’ve looked at the causes of the yips, let’s look at the cures. In my next email, I’ll show you how to identify where on the yips spectrum you are, and how to solve the problem.
Let’s break this “The Yips Cycle” and set yourself free!