Are the yips caused by a mental or physical problem? The debate is still ongoing and the answer depends on if you are a mental game coach or a swing instructor. Occasionally, I will have students that seek me out because they have what they think are the chipping yips. Similar to the putting yips, but with a different club obviously, the chipping yips occur when a play perceives as if he is stabbing or jerking at the ball upon impact. Some players describe it as an uncontrollable stab at the ball, beyond conscious intervention such as an automatic response that they have no control over. However one describes the yips, it still a menace for some unlucky golfers and can be very embarrassing at the least.
Last weekend at the New Orleans PGA Tour event, you saw a Tour Pro using a cross handed grip with his chipping clubs because he had the yips. So even the best players in the world can get the chipping yips and it is not a phenomenon exclusive only to senior players. Some instructors, such as Hank Haney say that the chipping yips are caused more by poor technique than a poor mindset. By changing your grip, such as how you grip the putter (to take out the wrist in putting), golfers can cure the putting yips Haney confesses.
I have a different take on the yips and in this case, the chipping yips. I think the yips start with fear—fear of hitting a bad shot, fear of being embarrassed, or any other fear you can imagine. The fear causes more golfers to try too hard to make a good stroke or at the very least over control the stroke. My philosophy is that trying too hard and over control lead to a feeling of jerking the hands or club at impact. I have had success with students on trying to be less conscious of the stroke and more feel oriented. Sure, good technique is very important in all phases of the game, but no matter how good your form is, fear and over control will get in the way of the most technically sound stroke.
Here are six tips getting beyond the chipping yips:
Let me first say that you can improve and get beyond the chipping yips. You must believe you can change and improve otherwise you will stay stuck in your current mindset by thinking you have a golfing “disease.”
Stop the self-labels! The first step is to stop labeling yourself as having a disease with the chipping club. When you label yourself as a person with the “yips” you are saying that you will always struggle with this dilemma and just have to cope with it. Once you adopt the label and believe it, you make it very hard to shake loose of the negative stigma associated with the yips. You leave no room for confidence to grow in your chipping as you are stuck to accept the self-label you have adopted.
Identify the fear or source of over control. Step 2 is to identify the specific fear associated with hitting a bad chip. However, the yips is often not about the fear of hitting a bad shot, it’s about fear of the consequences of hitting a bad shot, making a high number on a hole, or shooting a crummy round altogether. You have to go even further down the line of consequences to figure out what the eventual fear means to you. So you don’t chip well and ad a couple strokes to your score? What does that mean to your ego? Is it embarrassing? Are you worried about what others may think if you have a poor round? Are you protecting your single-digit handicap? You have to look at the consequences to determine where the ultimate fear lies and then you can address it head on.
Change your practice routine. Step 3 is to stop working on technique for now (temporarily) until you can free swing the chipper in practice and then on the course. Working too much on technique or positions in practice can cause you to further over control your stroke on the course because you will think too much about how to make a good stroke rather than seeing a good shot in your mind and reacting to that image or feeling. Instead, you should work on freedom of movement and touch or feel in your practice. Good touch and controlling distance in chipping is essential to good scoring. To do this, you need a good sense of touch around the greens. This requires that you working on controlling your trajectory of the shot and judging the distance correctly. Practice reacting to a spot on the green you picked out and “tossing” the ball there with your club.
Let go of precision and get into feel on the course. In my experience, the yips start by trying to be too precise or thinking too much about the mechanics of the stroke. Great players focus more on the feel or imagination of the chip rather than the how-too. Let me explain. Great putting or chipping is about programming your mind and body for execution with images in your mind. A visual player prefers to see the trajectory, landing area, and roll out in her mind just prior to hitting the chip. A feel-oriented player will want to feel the tempo necessary to hit a given shot. In both cases, you need to react to the image you see or feel in your mind and let the stroke flow from this. Step 4 is to give up control and work on being freer with the actual stroke. You have to give up control of precision to gain control of your touch.
Hit the shot you are more confident hitting. Step 5 is to employ a shot-making strategy by hitting greenside shots that you are most comfortable hitting when on the course. For example, you have nothing to be ashamed about if you use your putter to hit a shot that is 6 feet off the fridge. The name of the game is SCORE. Sometimes golfers trap themselves into playing the “right shot” or conventional shot, which may not be the right play to make a “scoring shot.” Pick the club and hit the shot you are most comfortable hitting in that situation and don’t feel like you have to play the perfect lob shot over the bunker to get it close.Free yourself up by having a strategy that will help you simplify the shot and use your strengths.
One bad chip does not mean you are yipping today. Step 6 is to not make assumptions about the first bad chip you make of the round. Do not engage with the…”Here I go again, hitting poor shots with the chipper. Am I going to struggle all day with this?” This mindset is self-defeating and reinforces the self-label of yipper—that you cannot get away from it—and you are stuck with it no matter what you do. You have to do your best to let go of the bad shot and write it off ASAP. You can only give yourself a chance of recovery (from the yipping blues) if you convince yourself that the next chip you are going to hit stiff. A good putter would never tell herself that she is going to miss four footers all day after missing the first four footer of the day!
1. Download our free Golf Mental Game Report titled, “Six Costly Errors Golfers Make During Their Preshot Routine”
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3. Read more about how to overcome the putting and chipping yips.
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