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Have the chipping yips? Here’s a drill to help

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Note: If you don’t have the chipping yips, hit the back button right now on your browser. You don’t need to hear this stuff! But if you do have them, or are really struggling with your short game, read on. 

Oh man, the chipping yips. They are such a horrible thing to watch, yet you can’t look away. It’s like watching a wreck at an Indy Car race.

Recently, I was asked if the chipping yips are curable, and unfortunately I have to say it’s very doubtful. I have never seen an amateur cure them in my lifetime on the lesson tee. Tiger Woods is the only player I’ve seen who has seemingly conquered them, but I will withhold my verdict until he comes back to play in 2017.

Generally, the chipping yips start as a mechanical issue, leading to chunks and skulls, or just poor chip shots overall. Eventually, these poor shots erode confidence, and your brain starts tell your body you can’t handle the shot at hand. This inner doubt leads to some involuntary action as the club nears impact, making it very difficult to hit the golf ball properly. From there, unless you cross the wires mechanically, you are often left to struggle forever.

While I don’t think chipping yips can be cured, I do believe they can be suppressed, and that’s what the rest of this article is about. I can think of a few players off the top of my head who have battled this very issue:

  • Brock Mackenzie, a Web.com Tour player, now chips with one hand.
  • Chris Smith, a PGA Tour winner, chips cross-handed.
  • Doug Barron, a former PGA Tour player, also chips cross-handed.

Let me get you to understand how the yips are often created, and give you a drill that will help you combat them if and when when they show up. Hopefully, you can make a mechanical change before things get too bad.

How a chip shot should look

Screen Shot 2016-10-25 at 11.15.27 AM

On the backswing, there should be some type of loading of the club to create a slight bit of lag on the way down. This can be done with a quick setting of the wrists, which you see in Rory McIlroy’s move, or with the change of direction at the top, as Steve Stricker does. But either way, there needs to be a bit of load.

It’s this lag that must be maintained into and through impact in order to maintain solid and consistent contact around the greens.

Screen Shot 2016-10-25 at 11.15.44 AM

Next comes the rotation or pivot of the body through the shot, which keeps “lag pressure” on the club shaft through the impact zone, and pulls the clubhead into the ball with solid impact alignments. This is mainly a function of the rear shoulder maintaining a constant velocity through impact. When it slows or does not rotate toward the target, the hands take over. And when the hands take on too much of a role, the golfer is left very vulnerable to the yips.

What a yip looks like

The main problem with chipping-yippers is their inability to keep the pivot moving through the shot. Of course, there are different types of yips that occur for various reasons, but this is by far the most common.

Screen Shot 2016-10-25 at 11.16.00 AM

Here you can see this player has the club lagging, but notice the right shoulder. You can see it is staying too far “back,” and thus the shoulders are not opening up as quickly as they should at this point in the downswing.

An bad shot is about to occur. Yikes.

Screen Shot 2016-10-25 at 11.16.13 AM

You can this see this shot was hit fat, and the right shoulder has moved forward very little from the last frame above. When the pivot slows, the player tends to fall backward, moving the low point rearward. And from there, you are in trouble.

So how do you stop sticking your pick in the ground?

The One-Hander

Screen Shot 2016-10-25 at 11.16.29 AM

Set up with your rear hand on the grip as shown. Note that the handle and forearm form a letter “V” of a certain angle, and I don’t want to see that angle change.

The only way to achieve this is to use the pivot of your body to transport your arms, hands and club into impact, instead of flipping or blocking with your hands.

Screen Shot 2016-10-25 at 11.16.42 AM

At impact (above), notice how far forward the rear shoulder has rotated! You can also see that the rear wrist is bent and the “V” is still intact, as it was during address.

Screen Shot 2016-10-25 at 11.17.11 AMEven in the frame above, the right shoulder is still moving forward and the lag is still intact. This is the way to pitch the ball like a pro!

Still have doubts that the pivot of the body or right shoulder controls lag pressure? Check out this photo comparison below. There’s significantly more rotation in the right frame.

ChippingYips

So take your time and understand that if you slap at the ball it’s not a problem with your hands; it’s a reaction to your pivot slowing down. Try the one-handed pitching drill and I promise you will improve.

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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction and Business Development at Punta Mita, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (www.puntamita.com) He is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, and has been honored as a Golf Digest Best Teacher and a Golf Tips Top-25 Instructor. Tom is also a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 15 people in the world. Punta Mita is a 1500 acre Golf and Beach Resort located just 45 minuted from Puerto Vallarta on a beautiful peninsula surrounded by the Bay of Banderas on three sides. Amenities include two Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses- with 14 holes directly on the water, a Golf Academy, four private Beach Clubs, a Four Seasons Hotel, a St. Regis Hotel, as well as, multiple private Villas and Homesites available. For more information regarding Punta Mita, golf outings, golf schools and private lessons, please email: [email protected]

8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Keith W.

    Oct 29, 2016 at 7:01 am

    The CHIP YIPS ARE REAL! At one time I had a +2.3 handicap and my short game was so good that I was described as “being able to get up-and-down out of a ball washer”…not a bad compliment, and true. Things changed, and for 10 years my short game became a total liability. But I found a fix that worked for me that eliminated the need to think about technique and built trust in my chipping again.

    Rather than thinking about the swing or manipulating my wrists, hands, club face or anything else I remembered something I had told and taught to junior golfers…”the club is smarter than you are”. Translation: the club has plenty of loft, and has bounce to accommodate the lie conditions…all it needs is a pilot.

    The FIX…instead of letting the hands, arms, and shoulders dictate the results, let the club dictate the shot. This is accomplished by addressing the ball in a slightly more upright position, taking the club back to what is appropriate for the length of the shot and once the backswing is in place simply drop the club from the top of the swing and allow the weight of the head to do its magic on the downswing. I could really feel the head and it works because the club has no fear, no doubt, and no brain. If you try this you will find that the club will do its job as manufactured.

    After applying this logic (and a couple of extra pieces of lead tape to and L wedge) in practice for about an hour on a chipping green, I found that I was no longer guiding the club to avoid errant shots, but instead releasing the head again and thereby curing the mechanical failures. After practicing this for a couple of days I took it to the course and had ZERO fat or skulled shots, and in fact reclaimed 90% of my proficiency with my lob wedge.

    Fast forward 3 years…since putting this into practice I have cured the chip yips and my confidence in my short game has returned. I don’t even think about it anymore…except for today, writing this advice.

  2. Steve S

    Oct 28, 2016 at 9:48 am

    Yips are a mental problem that CAN be cured. Confidence cures the yips. Confidence is gained by a lot of successful practice. Successful practice comes from good fundamentals. This applies to all sports and physical activity. A strong willed person can overcome almost any physical problem(pertaining to sports). A weak willed person needs to work on their personality.

    • tom stickney

      Oct 28, 2016 at 2:55 pm

      Steve– ever taught someone with the yips before? It’s easy to help them overcome them in practice but when the light comes on during the tournament all bets are off.

      • Scooter McGavin

        Oct 28, 2016 at 4:54 pm

        Sorry, Tom, but Steve is mostly right. “Yips” is just a name people made up to make an excuse for their poor performance at something. When the “tournament light goes on” the golfer needs to have put in the appropriate preparation (slow fundamental practice) so they can rely on that. Calling it “the yips” only perpetuates the problem because it makes it sound like a disease that is out of the golfer’s control (“Oh noes, I got de yips!”). Honestly, I think golfers would be much better off if everyone stopped calling it the yips and just said “Hey, I’m having some problems chipping (putting, driving, etc.). I need to go to the chipping green and sort them out with basic, patient fundamental practice”. As a teacher, if someone tells you they have the yips, the best thing you can do for them is tell them there’s no such thing, and that they’ve just developed a flaw they need to work out.

  3. Double Mocha Man

    Oct 27, 2016 at 10:52 am

    Interesting that you didn’t go on to mention the skulled shots. But, as is obvious, they are the mental (faulty) correction to hitting fat shots. So they go together.

  4. Charlie

    Oct 27, 2016 at 8:27 am

    Tiger comment in 3…2…1…

    • The dude

      Oct 28, 2016 at 6:08 am

      He is set to retire after 17’….I promise

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Learn a proper grip. I see so many recreational golfers who just do not hold the club in such a way that allows proper rotation and release of the hands through impact. The great golfers before us pretty much nailed that part of the process very early in their own learning curves and have shared that with us for decades. While you might prefer an overlap, interlock or ten-finger (not baseball) grip on the club, the fundamentals do not change much from one to the other. The club has to be held in the fingers, not the palms, in order for it to move properly through the swing. It really is that simple. Learn a proper grip and make it instinctive and you are taking a giant step to better golf. There are lots of good guides to a proper grip that can be found online, and even some great training grips that guide you to the correct hold on the club.

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