The Real Cause Of The “Yips”

Overcoming Golf Yips

The Yips According To Research By Debbie Crews

You probably know what it feels like to have the yips. You also understand how the yips can ruin your golf game.

But you, most likely, have no inkling as to how the yips appeared, seemingly, out of nowhere–and why they are so hard to shake.

Understanding the development of the yips can provide insight into overcoming the pesky problem.

In an article in The New Yorker, “What’s behind the condition that every golfer dreads?” David Owen explores the cause of the yips and, interestingly, concludes it is not anxiety.

Owen interviewed sport psychology consultant Debbie Crews to gain a better perspective as to the origins of the yips.

Crews believes the difference between those golfers experiencing the yips and composed golfers was not the level of anxiety they felt, but how successful they were at remaining focused on the task.

In essence, you can be nervous and still sink putts! In fact, every golfer experiences some level of “nerves” prior to a shot, but the yips occur when you focus on potential outcomes of the shot.

Crews differentiated choking from the yips. Crews believes anxiety causes choking but a lack of focus leads to the yips. Crews believes that anxiety can worsen the effects of the yips but it’s not the cause.

Sports psychologist Christian Marquardt agrees with Crews’ assessment that the yips are a result of a misplaced focus. Marquardt stated the yips are caused by thinking about the future.

Marquardt uses a tennis example to prove his point about how focus leads to the yips.

MARQUARDT: “In tennis yipping is possible only with serves and with shots like the return of a high lob, because, unlike other shots, both leave lots of time for thinking. While you are in the game, you will normally not have a chance to develop the yips, because you just need to react.”

Try these tips to manage the yips:

  • Tip #1: You need to be aware where you put your focus. If you are not, when your focus drifts to future outcomes, you will be unable to counter the yips.
  • Tip #2: You should stay focused on your preshot/preputt routine: select club, align your shot, image your shot, commit to your shot, perform the set up routine, and then hit your shot. Following a routine helps keep your mind focused on what you are doing and not the ‘what ifs.’

Golf legend Jack Nicklaus once said, “If you set up correctly, there’s a good chance you’ll hit a reasonable shot, even if you make a mediocre swing.”

If you are struggling with the yips, a mental game coach can help you get back on track and help you improve your golf game.

Related Golf Psychology Articles

Overcome The Yips and Enjoy Golf Again!

Breaking the Yips Cycle

Breaking The Yips Cycle Video and Workbook program is ideal for any amateur, collegiate, junior, and tour professional golfer who wants to break out of the putting, chipping, or pitching yips.

Golf coaches and instructors would also be wise to teach Breaking The Yips Cycle principles to their players who struggle with tension in their swing or the full-blown yips. This program is perfect for any golfer who wants to improve performance by swinging freely again!

3 thoughts on “The Real Cause Of The “Yips””

  1. Putting used to be a strong part of my game until a playing partner tave me some unsolicited advice and now I jab short putts and also follow the ball with my eyes/head thereby putting offline

    I’m having at least 7 to 10 x 3 putts per round and have lost my confidence

    I need help, please


    • You would start by working on your distance control or touch. Does not solve the jab, but easier to make a 1 ft putt compared to a 4 ft putt.


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