The chipping yips is a conditioned reaction of freezing and then moving in a very jerky and uncontrolled action whenever faced with a particular situation, in this case when having to play a chip shot.
It is similar to the reaction discovered by the Russian scientist Pavlov in the 1800’s when he was conducting an experiment into digestion with some dogs. During the experiment, every time he fed the dogs the dogs would salivate whilst eating and he rang a bell to indicate the experiment was beginning. After a while Pavlov discovered that he had conditioned the dogs to salivate whenever the bell rang, whether food was presented to them or not. If you are experiencing chipping yips, you have unconsciously conditioned yourself to react with a jerky, uncontrolled movement every time you are faced with a chipping situation.
This has happened as we all still have a fight or flight response within us from our caveman days. Whenever we perceived a threat to our lives back then, our brain got us ready to either fight or run. Nowadays, the perceived threat is not to our life, but the situation of having to play a chip shot in this case. However, we still experience the fight or flight response and our brain fires the neurons that quicken our heart beat and breathing and adrenalin surges around our body as our muscles tense and get ready to either fight or run. Due to this, you now freeze over the shot and then swing with a very jerky, tense, uncoordinated stabbing action.
To cure the chipping yips, you need to recondition your response and if you work on the following points after two months you will be back to hitting great golf chips.
Initially, you need to alter how you are viewing the situation of having to chip. Rather than viewing it with dread, look at it as an opportunity to alter and change your behaviour. Secondly, work on relaxing. Focus on breathing deeply and slowly and on controlling your breathing to maintain your relaxation. Now execute a great pre-shot routine that gets you to visualize playing the chip correctly, smoothly and in a relaxed manner with your focus on rhythm and tempo. Finally, judge this process and how well you follow these steps rather than the outcome of the chip. The result will come from following the process well.
The following drill will help you to focus on your rhythm and tempo whilst playing your chip shots. Place 10 tee pegs in a line directly in front and away from you. Place 5 or 6 golf balls on the final tee pegs. Set up to the first tee peg and work on having a smooth chipping action that clips the tee peg out of the ground. Now move forward and address the next tee peg immediately and keep the smooth chipping movement swinging back and forth. Continue down the line doing this whilst focusing on a smooth, relaxed tempo and rhythm to the movement until you have clipped all the tee pegs from the ground including those with balls on. Work on this and after a while when your confidence is increasing, remove the tee pegs but perform the same drill, working on brushing the grass in front of you when you swing the club.