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
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
Even 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.
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.