How Kevin Na Battles The Yips

Tommy Fleetwood Yips

 How to Recover From The Yips

The unwritten rule about the yips is…

Don’t think about the yips… Don’t mention the yips… Don’t talk about the yips… Don’t admit you have the yips!

Most golfers refuse to utter the word “yips” as if they have a terminal disease that will ruin their game forever.

There is no doubt that the yips can drastically hurt confidence, stirring fear and fostering widespread negative emotions such as; doubt, anger, frustration, helplessness, hopelessness and anxiety.

There are several questions golfers have regarding the yips:

  1. What causes the yips?
  2. Can a golfer recover from a bout of the yips?
  3. What’s the most effective resolution to the yips?

What causes the yips and what keeps them in the forefront are two entirely different questions.

Many experts believe there is a physical cause to the yips such as injury, muscle twitching or a breakdown of motor skills.

Whatever the cause, the more important element is what keeps a golfer trapped in the yips cycle.

The yips have a strong mental component that makes the issue even more problematic.

Lack of confidence, increased anxiety, overthinking, over-analysis, fear, misplaced focus and negative thinking are huge contributors that keep the yips in play during a round of golf.

In essence, the yips may have started as a physical issue but it’s the mental factors that make the yips feel like an insurmountable obstacle.

The next question is: Can you recover from the yips?

YES! The misconception many golfers have is that once you have the yips you will always have the yips, almost like the yips are a dormant virus, a part of your physical makeup that, under the right circumstances, rear their ugly head again.

With the right tools, you can get past the yips.

The billion dollar question is: What is the most effective method to break free from the clutches of the yips?

A large majority of golfers even try to ignore the problem but burying the problem adds to the mystique of the issue and makes it even more problematic.

Many golfers tinker with their swing and elicit the help of swing coaches.

These golfers often feel better after a practice round but still find themselves troubled by the yips when the pressure is on.

With all these mental factors at play, a golfer would be remiss to solely search for a physical or technical solution.

The pressure aspect of a competitive round exacerbates the yips.

With effective mental techniques and strategies, you can beat the yips.

That doesn’t mean you won’t push a short putt a few inches wide from time to time or flub on a shot.

What it does mean is that you can swing the club freely again without the looming feeling that the worst will always happen.

Effective strategies include relaxation, re-focusing on the shot at hand, confidence building and employing more enhancing types of self-talk.

A recent example of the yips is Kevin Na.

Na is 34 years old and has been playing professionally for 17 years Na had a difficult time with the yips over the past few years.

Despite his many years as a pro, Na has battled with the yips for over five years.

Na’s yips troubles started at the 2012 Players Championship.

Na revealed how difficult the yips can be.

NA: “I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, ‘I can’t take the club back. People talked about it, ‘He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.’ I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”

Na sought out other golfers who experienced the yips in search of an answer.

NA: “It took time. I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy. All good now. I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”

Na’s improved mental game was the deciding factor in winning his second PGA Tour event, the 2018 Military Tribute at The Greenbrier, his first PGA Tour victory since 2011.

Even though there was tremendous pressure, Na finished strong, with no signs of the yips, carding and taking the title by five strokes.

What was the key for Na? What mindset helped him stayed focused on his game?

NA: “I tried not to think about winning. Obviously it seems like I’ve always tried too hard… What is the difference the fine line between trying too hard and letting it happen? Definitely thinking about that trophy. I was definitely thinking about winning. But I was trying to stay in the moment. I felt really good. I felt relaxed, and I tried [not to look at the leaderboard].”

Na’s post-tournament comment is insightful and provides great advice.

Overcoming the Yips is a Matter of:

  1. Staying relaxed – Tight muscles are a characteristic of yipping.
  2. Letting it happen – Second guessing is another contributor to the yips. You need to learn to trust yourself.
  3. Stay in the moment – Immerse yourself in the process rather than worrying about results.

Following this mental recipe will help you strengthen your game, overcome the yips and achieve more in the sport.

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