Fighting The Yips In Golf

Every golfer experiences the ‘yips’ from time to time. It is a mental challenge faced by golfers and is defined as: a state of nervous tension affecting an athlete (such as a golfer) in the performance of a crucial action. (Merriam-Webster) You know, the moments when you standing over an eagle putt to win something and your heart starts racing, palms sweat, your mind races and it is hard to concentrate. Negative thoughts start eroding your confidence to a point were self-doubt starts to rule the moment. The yips are a scary thing and dreaded by all golfers.

The yips are such a dreaded thing, that many golfers refuse to even say the word. Just acknowledging it can negatively affect their game. I am not that superstitious and over the years I have learned to identify and cope with this mental side of golf.

I remember one case of the yips or performance anxiety from back in the mid-90s. I was just starting to develop my game and was still learning how to play under pressure competitive conditions. I was the first to tee off at the Canadian Military Ontario Regional Competition because I was the low player out of my home unit.

As I stood over the ball, with everyone watching, I could not focus or concentrate. Instead of backing off, I swung my club and squibbed my ball about 50 yards down the fairway. Talk about embarrassing! Walking to my ball, I took many deep breaths, talked myself up and prepared for my next shot. Fortunately, I squeezed out a par on the hole after 3 good shots, but that did not chase my yips away.

On the next two holes, I was nervous teeing off! I second guessed all of my club selections, aim points and swing mechanics! I was a complete mess. However, playing well away from the teeing area helped me gain control of my emotions and thoughts…..thank goodness. Starting on the 4th teeing area I was back to normal and went on to shoot a respectable 3 over par 75. It was not the low round of the day, but it was a great score for me considering how I started the round.

The yips can last much longer than 3 holes. It can be around until they are gone and there is no specific time frame in which we can expect things to change. Yips really are a mental challenge that can be difficult to banish. I found this video on the yips and thought it was worth sharing:

David MacKenzie’s advice about breathing and visualization before and during a round is great advice. I have used these for years to control my thinking and improve my mental state of playing. I especially endorse being mindful or staying in the moment when playing. This, above all other techniques, works best for me and my game. This technique does keep my yips at bay and might work for you.

Lastly, I find that relying on what I practice during pressure situations is a stroke saver. I am able to stop thinking and only focus on the mechanics I have engrained for that shot. I find that the less I am thinking (about mechanics and avoiding errors) during a swing, the more consistent and effective I play.

The yips are a real and sometimes scary thing for golfers. They cause mental distress that in turn impacts our swing mechanics. It manifests in many different forms when playing and is something that we try to avoid. I have less yips now that earlier in my career; with my coping techniques the yips are a rare and fleeting thing.

Do you have coping techniques for the yips?

I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!


7 thoughts on “Fighting The Yips In Golf

  1. Pingback: Owning the Course – MyBreaking90

  2. Jim, I had the chip yips for about five years starting in 2012. It is the most awful thing. Coming out of it is an arduous process. I started with trying to find every video on the internet and ultimately learned that it was technique based when I sought and took a chipping lesson with my instructor. Even then, I had to practice new techniques and get comfortable, but the cure came when I finally could mentally commit to a chip shot and not deviate. Wouldn’t wish this on anyone.

    The story you told and successfully overcame seems more like responding to game pressure than a sustained problem with an area of your game. I believe full swing yips are rare but do occur. I think Henrik Stenson had them late in his career? Not sure how he overcame. Most players get ’em on the green with their short putting. Fortunately, I’ve never been affected there.



    Liked by 1 person

    • Brian,

      You could be right, however performance anxiety early on my career was an issue. Especially when the pressure was on, my game was not soild enough to perform at those times. I think that that situation has changed and I am definitely happy about that.

      Cheers Jim

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve been a preachers kid, and I’ve been president of the student council in my younger years and fear of how I’ll perform isn’t something I struggle with much after being in front of crowds most of my young life. But I’ve felt fear on the golf course in the past. I wouldn’t say I’ve solved it, but I haven’t had that issue for awhile. I think that the last real vestige of it was when the group in front let me go around them. That polite action was seldom good for my game in years past. Today, it’s much more likely that I’ll hit one of my better shots of the day than a terrible one but I have no idea why or even really when that happened. It’s not something I’ve ever consciously worked on. I used to do the same when I noticed I had shot par 3 times in a row. I’d always flub the next tee shot after seeing that. It never seemed to fail. I took to not keeping score until the 9 was over for that. It helped I guess. But how you go from the fear to unconscious acceptance is a mystery.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Jim,

    I decided to rid myself of the yips this year by simply making one solid decision in my pre-shot routine. Now….., my decisions are not always sound, but at least I hit it the way the I decided prior to my shot. For example, I would often second guess a putt – direction or distance, but now I make 1 decision, forget other thoughts and swing through the ball. Again, this is a good cure for the yips, but also a challenge in making that 1 good decision or perhaps that 1 bad decision in the pre-shot routine. Chipping around the green is another good example as I now swing through my 1 decision and accept what it turns out to be – close to the pin or potentially off the back of the green. Maybe this is why I still have the damn duck. Kirk

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kirk

      Your approach is perfect. I do the same thing and have found that I am success ful more often than not. It does take time to build the confidence to be true to your decision. Oh yeah, the duck loves hanging with you 😁

      Cheers Jim


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