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Fighting the yips.

It’s competition day, you’re playing well and have put yourself into a strong position heading down the back 9, and have hit it close to within 6 feet on the 15th, perfect.

As you’re lining up a putt you’ve made hundreds of times without a second thought, but this is different…the pressure gets to you and the smooth stroke that’s treated you so well goes out the window and you stutter, leaving the putt a foot short and doubting your own ability.

The yips, as they’ve become known, can happen to anyone at any time and can be devastating to a golfer’s enjoyment of the game. Normally rearing their ugly head during high-pressure situations result in multiple negative psychical reactions including a high heart rate, a tighter grip on the putter, and less fluid, more jerky movements.

Despite their negative effects, they aren’t impossible to overcome, so what can you do to help yourself when the pressure is on?

Relaxation and centering
We’ve recently covered the ability to centre yourself however it is a skill that can be invaluable in pressured situations. By replacing negative thoughts with more positive, optimistic thoughts and being able to focus your attention you stand yourself in good stead.

When the pressure ramps up, take a deep breath and calm yourself down before focusing internally on how the swing and the shot will feel. Then move your focus externally, don’t overthink it, just focus on what will impact your shot, the speed of the greens, etc.

Positive self-talk
Don’t worry, I realise this might make you look a little mad, but as previously discussed it’s not as ludicrous as it may seem. When used properly not only can it calm you down, but it can also help you focus on your technique and also improve your performance.

If you’re suffering with the yips then all three types of self-talk could be used to help you prepare for your putt. Technique, motivation, and mood will all be beneficial when the pressure ramps up and it is down to you to understand what works best for you.

Imagery
I’ve covered this previously but being able to visualise the shot you’re about to play is an amazing skill to have and is something that can not only increase your confidence when standing over a putt, but also, when used correctly, can help with your performance.

If you’re feeling a little nervous before taking your putt, step back and in your mind make sure you see, feel and hit your shot. Make sure you visualise the putt and its breaks, the feeling of the shot, and then hit the shot in your mind with it going straight into the cup.

Closing thoughts
The yips is something that can impact any player at any given time and can be devastating to your golfing performance. However, this is not the end of your golfing career and can be overcome with the effective use of psychological techniques as we’ve discussed.

These aren’t a quick fix however and should therefore be given the time to bed themselves into your golf game before being thrust into highly competitive scenarios. Given time research suggests that the yips can be overcome.

To find out more
For more psychology resources visit psych-chek.

About the Author

Luke Vidler

An amateur golfer and recent graduate of Chichester University. I have both a BSc and MSc in Sport and Exercise Psychology and am keen to utilise my knowledge in practical situations, even if I can’t help myself!

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