The first step is to recognize that the yips is a perpetual cycle, that plays out during every round. And this cycle needs to be broken to cure the chipping yips.
You start off each round with doubt about if/when the chipping yips is going happen. And so the cycle begins…
As you approach your ball after missing a green, that doubt gets stronger.
Instead of having 100% focus on the shot at hand (how you are going to play it, getting a good visual of what the shot will look like etc.), you start to think about how you are going to prevent a Yip happening. Your heart rate increases…
Some players with the yips even joke about it happening with their playing partners, in the attempt to alleviate some of the embarrassment when it actually happens. This negative reinforcement only helps the cycle continue.
Where is your focus?
Before a shot, your focus shifts to what negative outcomes “might happen”, instead of just sticking to your process. Any task you perform with that much concern about the outcome would be difficult.
When you’re over the ball, those preventative measures start to dominate your thinking. Instead of being fully engaged with your intention for the ball, there’s a disconnect from the target. Anything to prevent a yip and those feelings of embarrassment and failure, instead of just trusting yourself to hit the shot.
Chipping is about finesse and touch, which is why the most common form of the yips is the “chipping yips”. You have to use your eyes to tell your body how hard to hit a shot. A player with the yips might take a look at the target, but the conscious mind then starts to focus on “just making solid contact”, which overrides the subconscious “feel” for hitting it the right distance.
Elite players determine the right shot with their conscious mind (trajectory and landing spot) and let the subconscious make the swing (no interference from the conscious mind). Visualization is used to imprint the intention for the shot on the subconscious and then the rest is automatic. They don’t think about their swing at all.
The subconscious doesn’t understand “don’t”
When a player has the yips, they feed their subconscious negative outcomes, and their conscious mind tries to control the stroke and prevent those negative outcomes become a reality.
When you are reminding yourself what you don’t want, you are actually telling your subconscious what you “DO” want. Your subconscious doesn’t know the difference between a positive and a negative. It’s non-judgemental and non-critical and just accepts what it’s fed by the conscious mind. So if you’re putting negative images or feelings into it, you’re more likely to get the same out.
The result is a complete loss of connection with the shot and how hard to hit the ball, causing a yip.
Cures for the chipping yips
In order to find a cure for the yips, there’s a few things you can do:
1. Know what to focus on in between shots to displace thoughts about yipping
2. Follow a disciplined shot routine to keep your conscious mind focused on positives
3. Just letting go, engaging with the target and trusting your subconscious to play the shot
4. Getting better at responses to yips