Chipping Yips

There is Hope: How to Beat the Chipping Yips Fast

Are the chipping yips holding you back from playing your best golf? Are you terrified when you miss the green and worried that you’ll hit a terrible chip shot and sabotage your round?

If so, you’re in the right place. 

The yips – aka the “Y” word – is a frustrating issue that has plagued tons of golfers over the years. This issue can happen on the greens, around the greens, and even with full swings too.

However, fixing this issue is easier than you might realize. It’s about successfully diagnosing the issue and then creating a mental game plan to fix it fast. 

Keep reading to beat the yips and take control of your short game once and for all.  

Chipping Yips 

First off, what are the yips? 

Let’s clearly define them to make sure this is the issue you’re facing on the golf course. 

According to Golf Digest, “The term the yips was coined by the Scottish golfer Tommy Armour, who said it was a “brain spasm that impairs the short game. Versions of it have been known over the years by many names, among them ‘freezing,’ ‘the waggles,’ ‘the staggers,’ ‘the jerks,” ‘whiskey fingers,’ and ‘the yips.”

Key Takeaways

  • The yips are typically a mental game issue more so than mechanical issues.
  • This frustrating golf shot can happen on the green, around the green, and even with full swing shots. 
  • You can beat the yips faster than you realize with a good routine and practice. 
  • Some of the best players in the world have struggled with this shot, but with the right attitude, they persevered and beat them. 
Golf Yips in Short Game

Understanding the Yips 

First off, some of the best golfers in the world have battled this issue. 

We wanted to point this out to make sure you know that you’re not alone. Here are two examples of elite players battling the yips.

Ernie Els, a multiple major winner, hit the green in regulation at the first hole of Augusta National in the 2016 Masters. He had a birdie putt and walked away with a sextuple bogey. Yes, he made an eight, despite being on the green in two shots.

A six putt from three feet thanks to the putting yips (you can watch the footage on YouTube)! Watching it was so weird / painful, as Ernie is normally so good and almost nonchalant on the golf course. Luckily, he beat them in the coming weeks and months.

(We’ve got a bigger article on putting yips you should read as well).

Tiger Woods, arguably the greatest player ever and a short game wizard, had the chipping yips a few years ago. He had taken a lot of time off from injuries and when he came back to the PGA Tour, he had horrible chipping issues at the WM Open. It was hard to watch the “GOAT” look like an everyday golfer around the greens. 

However, like Ernie Els, he figured out the issue – which he said was based on a swing move not a mental issue – and is now back to being sharp around the greens. These are just two examples, but the list could go on. We wanted to share these stories to help you understand it’s not just you – tons of golfers, even the best in the world have had to beat this issue. 

Diagnosing the Yips

The first step is to determine if this is a mental or mechanical issue. Here’s how… 

Start by going to the chipping green and hitting some basic shots around the green. These would include bump and run, pitches, and longer chip shots. How is your performance… Are you hitting them good and leaving yourself decent putts to scramble?

If you’re hitting chips miserably in practice, it’s more of a mechanical issue. This is more about improper technique than having a mental game breakdown. You’ll want to check ball position, acceleration, short game tempo, and more. Or, hire a golf coach if you’re really stumped about what’s holding you back. 

How to hit a Chip Shot

If you’re hitting chips nonchalant at the short game area, then it’s not a mechanical issue – it’s on the mental side. But it’s typically not just something that happens under pressure, like a lot of golfers think. 

The same Golf Digest story mentioned above had this to say about it only happening under pressure. “Anxiety can exacerbate the yips—just as it exacerbates the tremors in Parkinson’s disease—but it’s not the cause, since the yips are usually present whether the yipper is nervous or not, and even when the yipper can’t feel them.”

Anxiety is not the cause, but it can heighten the issue. This is why it’s so important to have a good pre-shot routine with a regular breathing ritual so you can reduce nerves. Learn more about the mental attitude of golf here

Fixing the Yips 

Once you understand the issue, then it’s easier to fix and solve the problem so you’re solid around the greens. We have a few solutions below for more mechanical fixes, but let’s focus on the mental side. 

Short Game Routine

If you’re consistent in practice but struggling with this issue on the course, it’s mental. To beat the yips, the first thing to do is make sure you have a good pre-shot routine for your short game. So many golfers have one for their full swing, but have zero process in place for shots around the green.

Not having a routine can increase nerves and anxiety, which, as mentioned, can make these shots happen more often. Here are the steps needed for a good short game routine: 

  • Assess the lie and where you’ll need to land the ball on the green (or fringe) to get it close to the hole.
  • Pick the right wedge and right type of shot you’ll need.
  • Standing next to the ball, take several practice swings from a similar lie to the one you’ll face.
  • Once you’re confident with the shot and visualize it, scoot up, look at the target 1-2X and go. 
  • One of the biggest mistakes most golfers make is standing over the golf ball too long. Studies have often shown that an efficient routine (eight seconds or less) leads to more consistent results. 

A good routine will get your mind and body ready for the shot. Don’t skip this crucial step! 

Subconscious Mind and Golf

Countdown Method

Another solution is to add a secondary task – such as counting down or singing – in your head while you hit the shot. This is a unique strategy to help your conscious mind stay busy and let your subconscious mind – the more powerful side – take over and hit the shot. 

Here’s how it works… as you take your practice swings, picture your target or landing spot. Then, as you get ready to hit the shot, start counting down from 100. As you step up to the ball, you’re counting down 100-99-98-97, etc. This will keep your conscious, analytical mind busy and let your unconscious mind react to the shot with ease. 

FAQs

Do you have more questions about overcoming the yips once and for all? If so, keep reading through the most commonly asked questions and answers now. 

How do I get rid of the yips in chipping? How do you fix pitching yips?

One solution is to try out a different grip. In this YouTube video, the instructors suggest trying out using your putter grip vs. a normal grip. This will help eliminate wrist movement and have a more straight back, straight through motion.

The instructor also suggests trying the chip with one hand only (your dominant hand). This helps you learn how to use the bounce of the golf club properly. 

Or, you could even try out cross handed chipping (like Matt Fitzpatrick). This also takes out excess wrist movement that leads to a lot of mechanical issues around the greens. 

Cross Hand Chipping

Is there a cure for the yips? 

Scientific studies say no but from what we’ve seen, yes you can overcome them. Whether it’s fixing a mechanical issue or overcoming it mentally, you can beat them with the right attitude and work ethic. 

How do you combat the yips? 

One of the best strategies is a good pre-shot routine. This will help you pick the right club while preparing your mind and body for the shot. Then get over the golf ball, trust your landing spot, and execute the shot. 

Are the yips physical or mental?

They could be one or the other, and sometimes both. For example, Tiger Woods had the yips a few years ago and said it was a mechanical issue based on his full swing changes.

Other golfers have this issue only in competition and never in practice. Which would suggest it’s 100% mental and sometimes heightened under pressure. 

My Experience

Golf is always testing us, sometimes a lot more than we’d like. 

Thankfully, I haven’t had this issue before (knock on wood) but, like every golfer, has struggled with certain shots. Not to mention, these nerves are exponentially greater under pressure.

Whenever you’re struggling with a shot – whether it’s a pop-up or case of the shanks – don’t personalize it. Countless golfers have all faced adversity on the golf course, when you say “I’m just a terrible chipper or putter” you’re only making things more difficult. 

I once had a coach say, get curious, not furious after a bad shot. An inquisitive mindset will help you solve the problem much faster than getting negative and down on yourself. 

Lastly, my biggest piece of advice is to make sure you have a consistent pre-shot routine. A good routine will help you master your mindset and have more confidence over the golf ball. Which should lead to less lingering and a better shot with full commitment. 

Pitching Tips Golf

Final Thoughts on Beating the Yips

You can beat the yips, I don’t care what science says because we’ve seen so many golfers do just that. With the right technique and mental game, you can play great golf and overcome issues.

Use the tips above, stay patient, and put in the work in practice so you can scramble like a pro around the greens. 

Have you struggled with this issue before?

Let us know in the comments below in case you have another solution to help fellow golfers beat them for good. 

Go here for our favorite chipping drills.

Picture of Michael Leonard

Michael Leonard

Michael is an avid golfer of 25 years who played in high school, college, and now competes in Arizona amateur events. He is a full-time writer, podcast host of Wicked Smart Golf, and mental golf coach.