Since you’re reading this article, I’m going to assume that you suffer from the yips. If I’m right, then I’ve got some information for you that I believe will help you overcome the yips and play with freedom.
From my experience, (in most cases) the yips is NOT a physical issue. It’s a focus and performance anxiety issue.
If you are able to chip and putt well during practice, with no signs of the yips, then there’s no physical reason why you can’t do it on the course.
Curing the yips is about getting better at controlling your focus during your shots and managing performance anxiety in between shots. It’s about changing your habits, improving your concentration and increasing your belief in your skills.
To begin with, we need a new measure of success for your rounds. All of my students have what we call “process goals” for their rounds. These are ALL things within their control. Setting goals around the things you can control, will automatically begin to lower performance anxiety. This goals can include:
- Where you put your attention during your shot routine
- How well you stay present in between shots (not thinking about the consequence of past shot or upcoming ones)
- How well you put negative outcomes behind you
- How you talk to yourself throughout the round
- How positive your body language is
If you can do a better job in these areas, then you’ll start making the yips disappear.
Let’s start with probably the most important one on the list, your shot routine.
Where is your focus during your shot routine?
The main difference between practice and play (for many golfers, not just those with the yips) is where a player puts their focus before, during and after a shot. 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?
I work with my students to improve their concentration on something specific before, during and after the shot, to maximize their chances of curing the yips. It’s different for different players, but it could be from the following:
Mental puzzles (distraction techniques)
Focusing on things that will keep your mind busy during a chip or putt – this could be music, counting, rhymes or puzzles etc., which can stop the mind trying to interfere with the movement of the stroke.
Connecting more with your senses
If you can improve your engagement with what the shot looks and feels like (and do a better job focusing on that) before and during the stroke/swing, you will increase success.
Using the power of words
Words can help trigger confidence and help with movement. Describing the intention for what you are about to do can help you achieve it.
Sensory tricks to reduce impact anxiety
Moving the focal point of your eyes, so you have to guess where the “hit” will be. This way you can mimic your practice swing/stroke (that you do nicely) without the ball.
Finding something that works is about experimentation and keeping it fresh, so you’re mind doesn’t figure out what you’re trying to do. In other words, you might have different distraction techniques for each round until eventually, your confidence in your ability to play the shots increases and the yips disappear (you can use a more conventional shot routine).
More effective practice for curing the yips
Another area you can improve is with your practice. When players with the yips tell me how they are able to practice yip-free, I will ask them “so how do you practice”? What I usually discover is that it’s very “convenient” practice of standing in one spot hitting balls to the same target. Instead, what we need to train is how to stop and start and adapt to different shots. Play one shot to one target, stop for a minute or two, and then play a completely different shot or putt. Simulation of the golf course (and adding consequences) is very important.
Give these technique a try and let me know if you have feedback or questions.
Making The Yips Disappear
If you’d like to learn more about my approach along with practical steps you can take, check out my free 3 part guide by clicking the button below.
Photo by Neville Wootton