The definition of the yips for golfers has changed over time. Some experts would say that golfers who have muscle spasms or unwanted physical movements affecting players’ shot making have the yips. Other yips experts would say that golfers with mental game or anxiety-related problems such as choking lead to the yips. Most would agree that the ‘yips’ are become worse when players feel more stress and anxiety in competition.
Many people think that choking results from tension, stress, or anxiety. And this cause players to feel distracted during their performance, and thus performance suffers. For example when performing a shot, players may be focused on the score or how others view their performance. This distracts players from focusing on the process of executing a shot successfully, which causes them to tighten up, worry about bad results, and thus choke.
The key to making a good shot is focusing on the present moment; the here and now. Focusing in the present helps players to eliminate anxiety or fear that comes from thinking about missing a shot. When your mind wanders and you’re not focused in the present or are distracted, you’ll putt with fear and tension, which exacerbates the yips. You should focus on execution and the process of making putts, rather than results or how others view your performance.
You can have less yip symptoms and choking by planning your putt, visualizing the line, aiming and aligning your body, and react to the target. The result takes care of itself when you work the process. This is a key lesson I try to instill in my students. Hitting good shots and making putts comes from paying attention to the process of execution. It’s easy to forget this simple concept when players worry too much about missing putts or what the results “mean”. Players with a result-focus whisper to themselves things like: “Don’t lip out”, “I don’t want to I three-putt again”, “Are you going to miss another one?” A result-focus does not lead to good execution; it only increases tension and self-doubt.
Here are three keys to help you work the process:
1. Remember that Only this Putt Matters. You must stay focused only on the simple task of launching your ball down the line you selected. Nothing else really matters, does it? One of the biggest errors players with the yips is thinking ahead about the results of missing a putt. Or letting the mind wander to the putt you missed on the last hole. The key is to keep your mind locked into your routine and if you lose focus, refocus attention on what you need to do: to execute a good putt.
2. Use a Preshot Routine. I’m a firm believer in the use of a preshot routine to help you stay focused on the present. A preputt routine is great for focusing your attention on relevant performance cues. If you don’t have a routine, your mind wanders aimlessly as you prepare to hit your putt, which can open the door for doubt and fear about negative results.
3. Use Smaller Goals to Help You Concentrate. Small goals or process goals are easy to obtain objectives that help players focus the process of executing a task successfully. Process goals will help you focus on execution or preparation for each shot. An example of a process goal for full shots would be focusing on hitting fairways, or picking a smart target. Examples of process goals for putting include commit to your read, stay in the moment, and trust your set-up and aim.