How to Improve Your Short Game, Part 3: Causes and Cures for the Chipping Yips
All too often, teaching professionals tell golfers to “react to the target” so that your mental and physical states can work together, just like you were tossing a baseball to someone. If only it were that easy. Golfers get the chipping yips when they constantly hit chips fat or thin, never really getting the ball close to the hole. It becomes such a confidence killer that a golfer loses all faith that he’ll be able to hit a good chip. Fear builds and the chances of making an easy, rhythmic swing are all but lost.
What causes the chipping yips?
We believe that there are a few reasons that could cause your problems with the chipping yips. First, poor setup and alignment could cause your body to have to make severe adjustments to hit the ball solidly and on the correct line. This could include poor ball position, poor posture, faulty alignment or other setup issues. Your mind is trying to react to the target but your body cannot execute the correct stroke without getting lucky to time everything up perfectly. Check out our previous posts on chipping and pitching fundamentals. It’s important to get those correct before you can move on to the next step of improvement.
Second, your mind may just lack confidence given your poor chipping history. You may have too many bad memories and not enough quality, successful practice to put them in the past and to build confidence. Go practice doing it right and build up that confidence.
Third, even if you practice well and have the right fundamentals, too often when we’re reacting to the target, we still don’t have a great feel for how far we should take the club back. Consider chipping to be nearly identical to putting in that you will use a shoulder stroke with no wrist break. If you take the club back too far, you’ll need to decelerate to get the right speed for your ball to stop near the target. Unfortunately, deceleration can cause you to stick the club in the ground and hit the shot fat. This is very common among amateur players. Of course you may also take the club back too short, which then you have to accelerate too much to hit the shot the right speed/distance. This can cause you to catch the ball thin and blade it across the green. Neither of these outcomes is good, and they can both destroy your confidence on future chips.
What’s the answer for the chipping yips?
First, getting the basic fundamentals right is obviously a key component. However, the mental part will take care of itself when you get the fundamentals right and create a repeatable stroke that can be executed in both practice and in tournaments. You may think you have a mental problem, but in reality, your problems lie in your judgment of how hard to hit the shot. Mess up the back swing and you’re left trying to adjust on the downswing.
Thus, the key is to create a single tempo for your chips (just like your putts). A longer backswing will result in a faster overall swing. The opposite is also true. Chipping is all about knowing how far your ball will fly in the air and then estimating how far it will roll once it hits the green. Thus, your goal is to build a repetitive, fundamentally sound chipping stroke and then learn how far each back swing will carry the ball in the air. For example, we know exactly how far our sand wedge chips will fly in the air before touching the ground. Practice taking various length back swings and then match the length of your follow-through to your back swing. Once you know this information, you can accurately select landing targets on the green and choose the appropriate club for which to pitch it there. Landing the ball in your desired spot is over half the battle. Then, you just need to learn the speed and firmness of the greens so you can decide whether to chip with a PW or a 9-iron (or some other club). The art of chipping gets demystified when you take this approach. Golf is all about choosing targets and hitting the ball there. You can do this with your chips and turn a problematic part of your game into a strength.
The result is that you no longer take the club back too far or too short, so there is no need for any adjustments (acceleration or deceleration). This should cure your chipping yips and keep them away forever. Plus, you’ll enjoy the act of chipping as it becomes a much more manageable challenge. Also, you can practice your chipping stroke in the comfort of your own living room, knowing that a certain length stroke will produce a 4, 8, or 12 yard ball flight before the ball starts rolling.
Good luck with your improvement! We hope these golf chipping tips work for you.