What causes chipping yips?
I often get calls from anxious golfers asking “What are the yips?”. It is not a mechanical issue. Although it is true to say that when you make your putt your technique does break down this is not the cause of the problem. Trying to fix your technique does not address the cause of the problem. It is like removing the leaves of a weed. It may temporarily seem to have cured the problem but unless you get to the root and pull it out, your problems will remain.
No, what causes the chipping yips is you. Your very own mind has become conditioned to respond in this way when you play your chips. Isn’t this why when you are feeling relaxed, perhaps practicing alone, your yip can be less severe?
In short, the answer to the question “What are the yips” is the yips are a physical manifestation of mental interference.
A debate goes on among sports psychologists and sports scientists about the different types of Yips. Emotional and Physical. The Mayo Clinic defines “The Yips” as a “psycho-neuromuscular problem that often occurs in golf (especially during putting and chipping) when the golfer experiences freezing, jerking, or a tremor prior to initiating a putt or chip.” “Psycho-neuromuscular” simply means that the mind controls the muscles. It is not a disease at all but more like a phobia that develops and then becomes a habitual state of mind.
In simple terms, (emotional) Yips is a manifestation of fear. Fear of hitting a bad shot, fear of embarrassment, fear of scoring a high number and fear of “yipping”. The flip side to this fear is craving. Really wanting to do well, craving success, wanting to look good, craving a putt that doesn’t involve yipping. This flip side is often overlooked but is critical for you to understand how your mind works.
Your body’s natural defenses are designed to keep you away from the things you fear, via a mechanism called the “Fight or Flight Response”. You have conditioned your mind to respond in this way on the golf course and your body responds accordingly.
The second type of Yips is the (physical) Yips caused by a neurological disorder called focal dystonia. In this case, when fine motor movements are practiced over and over again a disorder can develop which causes the muscles to cramp at critical moments. Many musicians have been known to have this type of yips.
To my mind Emotional Yips and Physical Yips are the same thing. Our mind has interfered with our bodies ability to perform. Emotions are felt in the body, physically. We must develop our minds ability to stay relaxed and concentrated once more.