How to cure the 'Yips'

How to cure the ‘Yips’

As a mental toughness coach, this is inevitably the most common request I get for help. I’ve seen people, literally at the point of giving up the game, due to the fear of embarrassment and frustration created by the Yips.


What are the yips?

Yips are every golfers nightmare. Being unable to control twitching in the hands and arms, leading to frustration and anxiety. Its most commonly seen in putting but can also affect chipping and driving too.

Yips can affect players of all ages and abilities, leaving the player in total misery. Ironically it tends to affect more competitive players who are used to playing well. Unlike the shanks, which is a flaw in the swing path, the yips is an emotional problem. This is why we find it so debilitating, it attacks our confidence and self esteem, striking fear into our soul.

It attacks the pros on tour too. I’m sure you can all recall Ernie Els on the 1st green at The Masters last year.

Golfers have tried and failed to resolve the issue by changing their grip or even going to the extreme of purchasing a new club or putter. But of course none of this works, due to the fact that the yips is a mental problem. They may get a temporary resolve, but in reality, it’s a case of treating the symptom and not the route cause and over time the problem will inevitably return.

Brain Science

Our brains are complex pieces of machinery. They contain 2 hemispheres, left and right. The Left side is used for analysis and decision making whilst the right hand side is used for visualisation and creativity. When taking a shot the brain will use both hemispheres as part of the pre-shot routine, the left to analyse what club, distance and shot to make. Once the decision has been made the right hand side will kick in, using the eyes to visualise the shot. On taking the shot the left side will become quiet.

Facts about the Yips

When you have a case of the yips
– Your feel for the shot diminishes and is replaced with the desire to control.
– You become Outcome Focused, instead of Process Focused.
– Your subconscious mind is totally focused on ways to avoid the yips.
– Your eyes will move quite quickly or stare intensley for long periods
– Your left hand side of the brain will be dominant before and during your shot

Why is this a problem?

– When your focused on control your attention is on the outcome, rather than the process, resulting in your motor skills becoming less effective, i.e  you loose “the feel”. We all know putting is about the” feel”. If you loose this ability, it becomes more difficult to gauge how hard or soft to hit the ball. Consequently your attention will turn to the mechanics of the swing, resulting in your left brain going into overdrive, analysing the shot. The longer you stand there, the more negative thoughts you will have. Some have likened this to being “paralysed with fear”.
This is exactly what happened to Kevin Na on tour with his driving. Other players would dread playing with him, as his thinking time over the drive was incredibly long. He would struggle to take the club head away from the ball, his over-thinking was preventing him from initiating his back swing. Numerous complaints about his slow play forced him to seek the advice of a mental coach to resolve his angst.

– When you are outcome focused your attention is tuned into how to prevent the yips instead of the target to hit. This creates numerous messages being sent to the brain which leave the muscles confused and not ready to execute the shot in hand. This lack of control creates the jerky movement of the Yip, removing any rhythm, tempo or timing.

– Your subconscious mind drives your body to perform, if it doesn’t receive clear messages its unable to perform at its best.

– When your eyes are moving rapidly several messages are sent to the brain, resulting in your muscles being unable to respond effectively and jerky movements follow.

– When your left hand side of the brain is dominant your decision process has not been completed and therefore continues to offer you “advice” through the execution of the swing. Unfortunately this impedes the use of the right hand side of the brain, which is required to help you visualise the shot to make and the target to hit. Without this working you will not make the shot you require or hit the target.

So What’s the cure?
To eliminate the yips you need to clearly define what’s causing them and then using mental toughness routines to quieten your mind before and during the shot.

As I previously mentioned Yips are mostly caused by emotion (70% by anxiety), in some cases they can be caused by poor technique. A lesson with your golf pro will eliminate any poor techniques in your swing or alignment.

To resolve your emotional yips you really should seek the advice of a mental coach. A session will identify what’s creating the problem and how to resolve. Its all about breaking the cycle and creating new neural pathways in your brain. This will in time, make you become process focused, rather than internalising what you’ve done wrong and the mechanics required to take back control.

Every yip can attack your confidence and esteem resulting in performance anxiety attacks between shots. Don’t be held to ransom by them, get in touch with a mental toughness coach and resolve your issue, so that you can continue to enjoy this wonderful game.

My proven process has helped many golfers, remove their fear of embarrassment, anxiety and frustration. If you would like help with your yips please arrange a session with me by simply clicking here

Hope you enjoyed this week’s blog, please do drop us an email and let us know what you think, we would love to hear from you. Why not visit our website and check out our other blogs.

Carol Alford