If you asked most golfers what they dread, most would say ‘yips.’ They may tell lurid stories about how the lowest handicapper they know just tanked. He was at the top, and now he is way down the pecking order and thinking of packing up altogether. And all because of golf yips in the golf swing.
Yips have a fearsome reputation, and a lot of that depends on their mystery. They come on suddenly and unbidden, making you look foolish and spoil the pleasure of the game. In fact, you never know why they come or when they are going to occur.
In this article, I am going to try to demystify the yips. Because if we can understand them, they will not terrify us so much. And you never know, we may even find a way to create a golf yips cure in the golf swing.
What causes yips?
To find out how bad it can get look here (or don’t if you’re going to avoid a cringe)
And they can happen to the best of us.
They can happen to anyone
When you see videos like these, you may ask: what is going on here? Is it a simple matter of nerves? Or are there physical causes?
An excellent place to start our investigation is with sports psychologists.
One explanation lies in the relation between the brain and the muscles we use when we take a golf swing. The theory goes like this: the similar constant movements we all make in an average golf round as we swing the club can somehow overload the brain creating a block. Some people have described this as a type of mental cramp. The brain knows what it should do, but, at a crucial moment, it cannot correctly transmit these messages to the relevant muscles and nerves.
Other explanations concentrate on the role of stress. Here the idea is that the fear of wanting to succeed can disturb the flow of movement. There is a sweet spot of having enough pressure to focus and get the body is a state of readiness, but still being relaxed enough for the body movements to be free and flowing. When the golfer gets too stressed, the flow disappears, and yips happen.
There is also a physical explanation to do with the physical forces at play in golf. This exciting video suggests the problem is fighting against centrifugal force.
The truth of the yips probably includes some elements of all the above. But that is not the whole mystery. We all know that we can play poorly on certain days.
The thing about the yips is that they come suddenly and for no apparent reason. What’s more it is tough to predict which golfers they will happen to or when.
How to cure the yips
Changing your mindset can help immensely. If you approach the problem with an inquiring mind and a positive, flexible attitude, you can find a solution.
Turn to the professionals
There is a lot of help for golf yips. You can start with your regular golf coach or the professional at your club. They will have their recipes for success.
You might also consider seeing a hypnotherapist. Hypnotherapists are experts at getting your anxiety levels down. What’s more, they will also use techniques which can change your unconscious beliefs about your game. The saying they use is that if you can imagine doing something, then you are on the way to doing it in reality. Many top professionals use the services of a hypnotherapist. Make sure you go to someone who is appropriately qualified and registered. I would also recommend that you choose a hypnotherapist who is also a golfer. They will adequately understand how distressing yips can be and will know the critical pressure points in any game. You might even make a new golf buddy! And one with a secret weapon!!
Helping yourself over the yips
If you want to help, yourself try these tips and techniques.
Own the problem
Denial doesn’t work. If you have an issue for more than a couple of weeks, you need to take action. Here is a strategy which works.
Look at your history
If the yips have started suddenly have a good think about what happened around the time this started. Did you miss an easy shot? Did a golf buddy laugh at you? Run through in your head what went on.
Tell a new story
Once you have done that, re-run the history. Remember all the times you have made that easy shot well. Visualize yourself, making the shot smoothly and brilliantly. Focus on all the right shots you have made.
Visualize your mistakes. Imagine the error as a photograph. Then in your mind fade out that photograph. Make it into a sepia print and then fade it even further so you can hardly see the image. Notice something? You have taken the sting out of the event, and you can now go forward.
Now you have worked to get the lousy event into a less troublesome place in your mind; we can move on. You will now have a much stronger mental attitude and can look at the reasons for the mistake which started the problem.
Check your grip
A weird thing about the yips is that they typically occur in one hand but not in both. You will know which side is the problem for you. So, try this simple trick. Play a few practice shots with your hands in a different position. Do not worry too much about whether you make a good shot, get to feel your hands in a different place when you hit the ball.
Then go back to your normal position but grip the club more tightly with the hand without the problem and more loosely with the ‘twitchy’ hand.
Practice some more and feel the power in your steady hand. Focus on this.
Disaggregate your shot
If you have problems with a specific shot, then try this technique. Imagine that rather than being a movie, your ball trajectory is a series of still snapshots. Get out on the practice range and go through the shot, snap by snap. Then put it back together again, but slowly. Play the shot in slow motion. Then build up to average speed. Doing this will mean that you remember the ball trajectory in a new way. It can overcome the problem.
If you are an experienced golfer and playing well, you will be in that state of flow often called unconscious competence. That means you are so natural and so good that you do not have to think about what you are doing consciously.
But if you get the yips, this flow goes. You are continually unpicking every single move and often anticipating the worse.
So, learn some mental tricks to overcome this. Get a picture in your head of something unemotional and relaxing, a beach scene or forest can work well. When on the golf course, run through your moves quickly before you take the shot. Then think of your picture as you take the shot. It means your conscious mind will be taken up with your imagined snapshot while your unconscious golfing expertise can come through unhindered.
Another technique is to give your conscious mind some tasks to occupy it. As you take a golf swing, try counting backward in sevens. Your conscious mind will be so busy it will not have time to send negative messages about your skills.
Change your routine
Change the time you play, the clothes you wear, with whom you compete. It doesn’t matter what you change. The important thing is to tell your mind that things are going to be different.
Live in the moment
You know that some of the best moments in golf is that feeling of a perfect swing and connecting with the ball. That can give you more direct pleasure than where the ball ends up! So, revel in this.
Do just the next thing you need to and do not think any further ahead. And enjoy the present shot.
Control your anxiety
Anxiety is a physical manifestation of a mental state. By doing some simple material things, you can control it. Breathe slowly and deeply and push out your diaphragm, so you are breathing with your whole chest. Then make sure you breathe out for just a little longer than when you breathe in. It will slow your system down, and your anxiety levels will dip.
Get it in perspective
Focus on enjoying the rest of your life. You will probably find that your golf game starts flowing again once you stop worrying.
Get control by letting go.
Accept golf is a game of ups and downs
One thing which makes golf so exciting is that things can go wrong! If you have yips, I would recommend you spend a day watching golf videos like the ones I mentioned earlier in this article. A few hours watching the top professionals mess things up will make you realize that it is just part of golfing life.
Golf yips cure in the golf swing – get a positive mindset
You may have heard the phrase; there are no problems, only opportunities. Cultivate this attitude. Overcoming obstacles is a chance to learn about more yourself and your strengths and weaknesses. In fact, you will also learn more about your own golf game and what you can do to take yourself to the next level.
So, own the problem and begin to enjoy the journey to solving it. A good start is to think about what we have said in this article. If you follow just some of the advice, you will change the way you play the game and who you play the game with.
- Experiment with a different grip and perhaps with various clubs and golf balls
- Play in a new setting and on some different courses
- Learn to control your anxiety (a skill which is valuable in many areas of life)
- Learn to strengthen your mindset by visualizing. It can be useful in any situation where you want to win or overcome a challenge
- Improve your golf shots by learning to break them down into constituent parts. You can use this technique in your general practice to excellent effect
- Assess where the game of golf fits in your life as it may help you get even more out of your sport.
That sounds pretty good to me. So perhaps you should even welcome the yips as part of the journey of learning the game and improving your golf.
Enjoy golfing (with or without yips).