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Golf Yips Cures – How To Overcome Yips & Anxiety To Improve Your Golf Performance

Last Updated: May 18, 2022

Golf, at higher levels, is a mentally taxing sport. You need to balance mental focus and calm with hundreds, maybe thousands, of physical variables that can all make or break your game. A common issue for many golfers is experiencing ‘the golf yips’, traditionally during the short game (pitch shots, chip shots and putts). Here we will look at what ‘the yips’ are, what causes them, and uncover five different remedies that you can use to overcome golf yips so that you can level-up your game.

The word “yips” was said to be coined by touring pro, and golf instructor Tommy Armour.

Nicknamed ‘The Silver Scott‘, Scottish-born Armour first experienced the golf yips in 1927 at the Shawnee Open. In that match, he first began having problems draining the short putts which he previously had no problem holing (he had previously won the French Amateur Championship in 1920 and the 1927 U.S. Open).

During that (in)famous tournament, Tommy Armour set a record that is still cited today. He made a score of 23 on a single hole [1]. In fact, he carded a 23 on the par-five 17th hole, a rather dubious single-hole score that has never been beaten since!

Tommy Armour said that the yips were “a brain spasm that impairs the short game.[5]

So what is the cause of these yips that seem to affect all levels of golf players, and even athletes in other sports (the yips isn’t confined to just golf; baseball yips, cricket yips & tennis yips are all related conditions)? Is the yips a psychological issue, a physical issue or maybe even a neurological issue? In this article we’ll put the golf yips under the microscope; understanding what causes them and offering up 5 proven golf yips cures for those who have been suffering and want to improve their golf game.

What Is the meaning of ‘Golf Yips’?

Mayo Clinic describes the yips as “involuntary wrist spasms that occur most commonly when golfers are trying to putt.

The description goes on to state that some people have the yips due to a neurological condition affecting specific muscles (focal dystonia) [2].

Studies at Arizona State University have attempted to show that the yips is not anxiety or nervousness — it’s a neurological condition where your arm or wrist muscles are operating against each other at the same time, resulting in a flubbed shot [3].

While the technical definition of the yips is referring to a neurological condition, it is commonly accepted among most golfers that ‘golf yips’ can also refer to severe performance anxiety affecting a players game.

While the golf yips can impact all types of golf shots, it is normally associated with the short game. Shots that require more finesse in the fingers, hands, wrists and arms tend to be the worst impacted by the yips. So primarily pitch shots, chip shots, and putts [4].

On the golf course, this usually translates into previously competent players seemingly forgetting how to make simple shots. Mentioning the term ‘yips’ is generally considered to be bad practice while on the green with other players… golfers are a suspicious bunch after all!

Golf Yips Symptoms

The symptoms associated with the yips are involuntary movements that happen during a live swing at a live ball. This is very different from other types of anxiety like glossophobia (fear of public speaking).

A typical scenario might be where a golfer performs one or two practice swings perfectly fine, only to see the live swing failing to reproduce the movements involved prior.

These symptoms during a short putt might be where a practice swing shows a smooth back and forth motion, but the live putt would see a jerky motion with the wrists flicking. The consequence is often a closing or opening of the club face and/or seeing the ball rolling off quite a distance past the flag [6].

The key to overcoming Golf Yips

A Yipping problem is commonly thought to have two components to it: a physical issue and a mental issue.

With the physical side, it is possible that golf yips are being caused by an insecurity towards the proper technique to master for a given shot.

So let’s say you are faced with a difficult pitch or chip shot with a uncertainty that makes you doubt how best to proceed. It is entirely possible that this doubt – however conscious – will translate into a less than confident strike at the ball [6].

The obvious solution is to focus on mastering the fundamentals of the type of shot that is most responsible for your yip-related misses. An example of fundamentals might be returning to basics and making sure you are using a proper golf grip.

On the mental side, it is entirely possible that yips are caused by performing a shot while under pressure. As we know, yips normally occur only in live shots at that ball and not during the practice swings that precede them. Consequently, it may be that the pressure of a difficult shot, during a high-pressure match can lead to yipping. In this scenario, you are suffering from performance anxiety that is affecting your game.

As this website is all about performance anxiety, we will focus on solving the mental side of your golf game, and leave the golf fundamental issues to be fixed by the reader through whatever method they think best.

The key to overcoming yips on the golf course isn’t to “try” and reduce the pressure artificially. Instead, the goal is to promote relaxation [7].

You can train your body to respond better to stress & high-pressure shots with the golf yips remedies we will discuss below.

5 Cures For Golf Yips – How to remain calm & focused on the golf course

Let’s look into five specific remedies that you can use both on and off the golf course to promote a calm, relaxed, but focused state the next time you get ready to tee up.

Golf Yips Cure #1: Increase your confidence

When developing more confidence around your golf game, it is only natural that you’ll feel less stressed and anxious about your performance. And of course, the best way to become more confident is through practice. But the practice and progress must be structured, planned, and measured.

I suggest making plans to visit the driving range or the course a certain number of times each week or month. Try to set goals in order to improve each week or month, and measure your progress.

If you’re not improving at all, consider hiring a trainer to help improve your game. The best golf players know how to control their anxiety because they don’t have to overthink their swing. It is like second nature to them. And you can only get to that level through relentless practice and persistence.

Golf Yips Cure #2: The navy seal breathing technique

Even after you have increased your confidence by strategically improving your golf game, you may still be experiencing some yips when it’s game time.

Around this time is when I suggest that my clients (and readers) take a page out of the navy seal playbook, and try tactical breathing to calm the nerves.

Tactical breathing” is a trick used by the Navy Seals to stay calm under pressure [8]. And there likely isn’t a more high-pressure job than that of a navy seal. I figure that if it works for them; chances are that tactical breathing will also help you on the golf course.

Done right, “tactical breathing” can switch your nervous system back to a relaxed mode. You will feel your heart rate slow down back to normal, and any jitteriness should disappear. You will be actively lowering your chances of suffering from golf yips.

Try tactical breathing at the driving range, or the next time you’re about to break eighty. Here are the simple steps:

  • Step 1 – Take a deep breath into your stomach to a count of four
  • Step 2 – Hold your breath and count to four
  • Step 3 – Exhale slowly to a count of four
  • Step 4 – Repeat the process until you feel calmer and in control.

Golf Yips Cure #3: Yoga for golf yips

Golf and Yoga; two activities that are commonly thought to be on opposite spectrum of the sports and fitness world.

However, if you stop and really think about it, golf and yoga have more in common than what might first come to mind. Serious golfers are seeing how practicing certain moves in yoga can help their golf game, as well as their mental states. Tiger Woods is famous for regularly practicing yoga, so it’s clear there’s a link (or at least a correlation) between the two activities [9].

Yoga will improve your mobility, posture, core strength, as well as functional movement and strength. All of these improvements can translate to a better and more powerful swing.

But beyond the physical benefits, yoga can also help you when it comes to better stress response for golf anxiety. According to Harvard Health, yoga improves your heart rate variability (HRV), which is the variation in the time interval between consecutive heartbeats [10].

An improved HRV essentially means that your body responds better to stress [11].

A regular yoga practice can help you maintain your composure and focus in golf by being better equipped to handle any jitteriness while controlling your physical response to stress.

Golf Yips Cure #4: Visualizing the perfect shot

Elite athletes like Michael Phelps, Lindsay Vonn, and many others have routinely used visualization to improve their performances [12].

Imagining the perfect golf shot before you actually take it can have positive effects.

Using visualization, it is possible to switch your focus from the negative and destructive thought patterns that might be contributing to your golf anxiety.

Instead of worrying about how everyone will laugh at you if you sink the ball in the lake one more time, you’re switching your focus to what you really want to accomplish. And the more you practice visualizing, the more that you will find your brain and body naturally falling into the right swing with just the right amount of power to accomplish what you want.

Needless to say, visualization will only have a positive effect as long as you also put in the hard work and practice. But hard work, along with mental imagery, can be a powerful combination for both your golf swing and performance anxiety.

Golf Yips Cure #5: Natural performance supplements

Some dietary supplements contain a mix of ingredients that support focus, calm and cognition, which may counteract the negative side-effects of golf anxiety and the mental part of golf yips.

One example that I personally like and recommend to clients is PerformZen [13], which contains GABA, L-theanine and Magnesium, as well as cognitive-enhancing ingredients Ginkgo Biloba, Vitamin B6 and Theacrine. These ingredients have been shown to help induce a calming effect on the body, as well as keeping the brain as sharp as it needs to be on the golf course. Update: I reviewed PerformZen in this new article & interviewed the founder (as well as secured a limited-time discount for PerformanceAnxiety.com readers). See the review here.

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Can Golf Yips Really be cured?

The short answer is yes! Golf yips can be cured, but it is not an easy process if it has been a reoccurring or persistent issue. Try some of the tips mentioned in this article, like tactical breathing, visualization, and yoga for improved core strength and heart rate variability. Get back to the fundamentals of your golf game, and you can pull through this.

Some of the greatest golfers of all time have suffered from the same issue and have pulled through, let them serve as inspiration for you! For an added cognitive boost, be sure to check out the PerformZen supplement review.


Golf Yips Frequently Asked Questions

I received some emails from readers who had more specific questions about the ‘Golf Yips’. I’m publishing my responses here to refer people to in future. If you have your own questions, leave a comment down below or get in contact here.

  • Q: Why is it called The Yips?
  • A: The word “yips” was coined by touring golf pro and instructor Tommy Armour. He first experienced the golf yips in 1927 at the Shawnee Open, where he began having problems draining the short putts which he previously had no problem holing. Tommy Armour told a reporter afterwards that The Yips were “a brain spasm that impairs the short game.”
  • Q: What are the yips in golf?
  • A: Mayo Clinic describes the golf yips as “involuntary wrist spasms that occur most commonly when golfers are trying to putt.”
    Some people have the yips due to a neurological condition affecting specific muscles (focal dystonia). But it is commonly accepted among most golfers that ‘golf yips’ can also refer to severe performance anxiety affecting a players game.
  • Q: How do you get rid of yips in golf?
  • A: A Yipping problem is commonly thought to have two components: a physical issue and a mental issue. On the physical side, it is possible that golf yips are caused by an insecurity towards the proper technique to master for a given shot. So a solution is to focus on mastering the fundamentals of the type of shot that is most responsible for your yip-related misses, getting ‘back to basics’. On the mental side, it is likely that yips are caused by performing a shot while under pressure. The key to overcoming yips then is not to try and reduce the pressure artificially. Instead, the goal is to promote relaxation through increasing your confidence, breathing exercises, yoga, visualization, etc.

Take a look at our other guides

Glossophobia or the Fear of Public Speaking
How to overcome extreme golfing nerves
What is Performance Anxiety? What causes performance anxiety, what are the symptoms, and can you overcome performance anxiety?
The Science of Stage Fright - how to understand & conquer stage fright
How the singer Adele manages her stage fright
How to overcome stage fright - a complete guide

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PerformanceAnxiety.com Owner & Lead Writer

Anita is the owner and lead writer for PerformanceAnxiety.com. A seasoned musician and public speaker herself, she is no stranger to the very real fear and anxiety that can strike right before a high-pressure situation. That's why Anita is passionate about writing content that helps people learn about and overcome their anxieties & social fears so that they can perform at their best when it counts and live anxiety-free lives.