What are Golf Swing Yips?

Does Barkley Have the Golf Swing Yips?What are the full-swing yips in golf? The full-swing yips are another variety of the yips in golf. They are different than the putting yips. I have worked with players who had problems with the full swing. But I think the golf swing yips are much rarer than the chipping or putting yips.

When you have the full swing yips, you simply can’t swing at the ball freely. Charles Barkley, the famous basketball player, who took up golf had one version of the full swing yips. At the top of his swing, he would pause and then violently jerk the club down from the top. So I think this is one common form of the full swing yips. When you take it to the top of the swing, you either can’t pull the club down and paused too long or you jerk the club down from the top.

One case of the full swing yips that I worked with, was a young player who simply could not take the club back. He would stand over the ball in some cases for as long as 30 to 40 seconds before he can pull the club back. Almost as if he was frozen and couldn’t start the club on the backswing. It really didn’t matter what club he had in his hand, you seem to be frozen over the ball never ready to hit the shot. I know some golfers just get the yips with the driver and no other club in the bag.

Many amateur golfers flinch at the ball at impact. They have a very free-flowing practice swing, but when they get up over the ball their swing looks completely different. I called this a hit impulse. The hit impulse is the moment you put a ball in front of you, you hit at the ball instead of take a full swing through the ball. A good friend of mine used to call this chopping wood. I don’t think I would consider a hit impulse full-blown yips with your swing, but is a very close cousin.

Again, my philosophy is that the golf swing yips are not unconscious or a physical defect in your swing. In most cases, the golf swing yips are born out of fear, anxiety, and over control. When you want so badly to make the perfect swing, you might never pull the club back.

Certainly, having good mechanics or technique with your swing can unlock some of the fear and anxiety you have about hitting bad shots. The keys to overcoming the golf swing yips are to have a trigger to initiate the golf swing and have a free and flowing full golf swing. If you’re petrified of hitting a bad shot, you can’t pull the club back smoothly and effortlessly. If you have the hit impulse, try swinging a golf club with your eyes closed and then progressing to hitting shots on the range with your eyes closed. Focus on swinging through impact instead of trying to hit at the golf ball.


  1. Hello, I’ve had the yips for decades, sometimes full blown cannot take the club back yips and sometimes flinch right at impact sending ball about 45 degrees off target line. I always feel it coming just before it happens, sometimes knowing it’s going to happen as I step up to the ball.

    This holds true for all the yips I have: chipping, putting and full shot. It really doesn’t matter what club I have in my hand on the tee, if it’s yip time I’ll yip it.

    What I want to say on this website is that you’re on track by listing fear as one of the key causes, but your proferred solutions are always going to be short lived. They’re short lived (various putting grips and strokes, no look full swings, no look chips, reverse handed chips on and on and on) because the problem is in one’s
    head. Those solutions are short lived because the genesis problem still exists, it’s just been diverted.

    Now, I putt opposite handed and it works most of the time. I chip with my arms pinned to my sides and chest, rotating my body back and through, and for full swing I just never know when it’s coming. I can cause it to come, too.

    I was asked to be one of the participants in the original 2003 Mayo Clinc study.

    • Jason,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts about that. I’ve had the full swing yips since they appeared one day in a college qualifier. I played golf in college and managed to battle through them on and off since. They’ll always be there but I can usually find some thought that will keep them under control so I can finish a round. I just wanted you to know i haven’t laughed so hard in a long time after reading your post. My wife thought I was crazy and I read it aloud to her and couldn’t finish the sentences cause I was laughing so hard. And please don’t be offended because I was more laughing with you than at you because I know exactly what you feel in each situation. No one can appreciate it like a yipper himself, and I just wanted to let you know how great it is that you still play even with these issues. You learn a lot more about your inner strength and character through difficulties, and it takes a lot of courage to expose yourself to these problems. Hope you figure it out and find a way to get them completely under control. And if you do, please share!

  2. I’ve had full swing yips for 30 years and have tried everything many times over. I putt and chip well with no issues. my handicap has gone from 5 back to 12 then back to 6 during a period of remission. In the horrors again and would appreciate any new suggestions

    • How do the full swing yips manifest? In other words, what changes for you? Is it hard to start the club back or the downswing feels jerky or wrong?

  3. I am a 12-ish handicap. I consistently hover around breaking 80. I have been playing for about 10-12 years. I have had the full swing yips hit me twice. One time in a big time member guest and it was completely debilitating. I don’t know how I finished the tournament. The next time was in a club fitting and again I was totally worthless trying to swing the club. My instructor was there and worked with me for a couple of hours afterwards to try and fix things. I have had a number of mild episodes but usually if I change the club I am hitting and take half swings with my feet together I can manage it. My yips hit me when I have the club back about 6 inches. At that point I completely panic and can feel the face wide open as it approaches the top and at this point I have no hope of finishing the swing in any competent manner. This happened to me about one year apart and I am hopeful it won’t happen again. I used to laugh at Charles Barkley…I will never laugh at him again. It is a horrible feeling and if I were to ever quit golf that would be why. I am open to suggestions…before I have to play tomorrow!

    • Make sure you put you focus into something effective or positive, such as the target or one swing thought such as tempo.

      • john reynolds says:

        i have developed the yips when i have to hit over water,there is a dam on last hole i have put so many balls into it,only the dam gives me trouble the rest of the round no trouble at all,try as i might on the downswing it feels as if my right arm is bending and i hit the ball about 15=20 feet into the dam,any clues what to do cheers –john australia.

  4. I started having the Yips about a year ago. I was downstairs in my basement messing around with my clubs and I happen to have a ball on the floor and I set the club behind it and I was frozen….I thought what the heck is wrong with me. I just couldn’t move. I took the swing outside and said well I can make a normal free flowing swing with no ball but as soon as that white fella gets in front of me its all over. I noticed if I don’t sole the club its not as bad but its still bad…if I sole the club I have to sway away from the ball and lose a lot of distance. I will keep trying to figure this out buy all the lost I read. Each round I play I do manage to shoot mid to low 80’s which is not horrible but I just constantly have to think about the swing instead of just playing the game. I also noticed that I an take the club to the top of my back swing and come down on the ball hitting it so solid and straight. Its the first part of the swing where I cant get it together. Thanks so much for listening -Marshall S

    • Marshall: this is a form of the yips. You can try to hover the club and keep it moving at address and this can help. But it may only be temporary and then you will have to find something new. Eventually you have to slay the inner demons that are causing the fear.

      • Joe Medeiros says:

        I\’m 57 and have struggled mightily with the full swing yips to the point where I can no longer play. I definitely feel it is more psychological coupled with the inability to control emotions, particularly fear which causes extreme anxiety. My yips are almost identical to Barkley\’s. The club gets hung up at the top, followed by a few hitches and then a violent downward move producing terribly poor shots. It\’s an incredible tug of war between mind and body. Like others, a somewhat balanced, controlled practice swing vanishes with the inclusion of a ball. I\’ve had brief segments in my life when the yips have dissipated where I could play a round or two but they manage to return with a vengeance instilling a deeper fear to get back on a course.

  5. I have same type of yips that Mr. Cohen describes where the young player was frozen over the ball. Mine started with putting, when I lost the ability to start the takeaway. Prior to the yips, I started my stroke with a small forward press. After a year or two, it infiltrated my pitching and chip shots, and manifested itself the same way – unable to start the takeaway. About two years after that, it infected the remaining shots.

    For putting, I’ve tried everything but the belly and long putters – won’t do those. Nothing has helped.

    Just wondering if anyone has tried hypnosis? I am that desperate!

  6. Brett Fraser says:

    I have had the yips with my driver for the past few years now. I also have a fear of putting the ball on a tee when i hit a rescue and a 3-wood. i used to hit my driver straight and long but now i dont even carry my driver. i seem to tense up at the moment of impact and always hook the ball way left and very low. as for the tee thing i dont mind it i hit the ball ok without a tee. Any suggestions on how to overcome this?

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