A lot of people have the yips when they putt. But I don't think people realize that they can have the yips (or a flinch) with any golf shot, including full swings. I've been a victim of this, and you must really pay attention to yourself to catch it, because it's very subtle and insidious. It often occurs right at impact or anticipation of impact.
I call this full swing yipping phenomenon "the flinch." Yips usually involve just the hands and small muscles in the forearms, but the flinch can involve muscles in your entire body. I've flinched with my left shoulder. I even flinch with my legs--even to the point of lifting with my legs and spinning out my front foot, and part of me believes that this is left over from my tennis days. In reality, it's just tension that tries to release itself at the ball, and a flinch swing is really the opposite of a smooth swing. The tension can be due to a variety of reasons, including the effect that the golf course's hazards and obstacles have on the psyche (e.g., a long forced carry over a lake, etc.).
In a smooth swing, the small muscles of the hands and forearms don't activate. This means there's no conscious or unconscious attempt to add power to the shot, rotate the forearms, flip the wrists, or any number of other handsy movements. But a smooth swing also means a smooth lower body. The left foot doesn't spin open from its address position; the legs don't try to unconsciously add lift to the shot. It's a smooth, gradually accelerating motion of the lower body that should move passive arms.
There are probably other movements I'm missing. Heck, for all I know I'm probably gritting my teeth, flaring my nostrils, and raising my eyebrows at impact. All are signs of tension and denote a high potential for flinching at the ball and causing crazy mishits.
Ironically, a slower, smoother, rotational swing imparts far more energy to the ball than a faster yip swing that uses small muscles and causes mishits. It's like a lot of things in golf--the opposite prevails. The mind must learn that a smooth swing without small, jerky movements of the twitch muscles will give the ball it's best distance and direction.
I believe that part of beating these flinches is to first realize that you're doing it, and this requires an ability to be aware of yourself and body through the swing. If you mishit a shot, ask yourself immediately if you flinched or not. Chances are you probably did. When addressing the ball, remind yourself to relax and not flinch--especially in situations where you fear hitting the ball short or too far wide and into a hazard. Try different grip pressures, grip more in the palm with the left hand (and more in the fingers of the right) or even trusting your setup and not looking at the ball (something like this worked for Hank Haney's driver yips). Thinking of your swing as having perpetual motion (as Shawn Clement teaches) might help reduce flinching at the ball.
She recalls starting to flinch in her swing during her junior year of college, right after coming off of the U.S. Women’s Open. Following that tournament, she first noticed she was flinching through impact, better known to amateur golfers as the ‘yips.’ Instead of taking a step back and figuring out what was causing the flinch, she continued to play through it. She assumed it would solve itself over time. The flinch progressively got worse. It became mentally draining for Henderson, but she refused to stop competing.
In the latest Golf Illustrated was a good article called Quick Fix for the Yips by Stephen Aumock as he states that this word can cause a chill to go down your spine if they feel this is happening to their putting stoke. As the article states that most golfers don’t realize they have it and if they do they seem helpless in ways to fix it.
I know my son who is a great golfer has had this problem and he has tried everything from going to the long putter and tried different methods to help him to relax. This author attempts to give some suggestion on how to overcome this affliction. He mentions the Yips can happen in all sports, from baseball to basketball so it isn’t all in golf.
Many amateur golfers flinch at the ball at impact. They have a very free-flowing practice swing, but when they get up over the ball their swing looks completely different. I called this a hit impulse. The hit impulse is the moment you put a ball in front of you, you hit at the ball instead of take a full swing through the ball. A good friend of mine used to call this chopping wood. I don’t think I would consider a hit impulse full-blown yips with your swing, but is a very close cousin.
Small spasms or twitching of the muscles in the arms at impact causes an unpredictable clubhead movement, just as you see with the putting yips. When you suffer from the yips, the way your brain and muscles controlling your hands communicates is disrupted somehow, causing you to unintentionally move the club in anticipation of contact. As you would with the putting yips, you need to change the way you perceive the point of impact either mentally or physically.
Try different gripping styles with or without overlapping your fingers and see if this helps. Start by aligning your fingers onto the grip or squeezing the grip with your palms and then wrap your fingers around it for support. This can change the way your brain interprets the signals it receives from your hands. The simplest way to cure the driving yips is to change your preshot routine trigger. For example, one golf pro says that her trigger is to touch her golf bag and it mentally prepares her to swing. Try changing your key thoughts as you swing. These are thoughts you use to improve your swing; such as, keep your head down or make a full follow through. Most people watch the ball as they make contact and think: keep your eyes on the ball. One thing you could do is to start staring at your nose instead of the ball. This requires that you trust the way you set up to the ball and your swing. The benefit to this is that it reduces your anxiety or simply changes the way your brain interprets the swing in hopes to prevent the yips.
The technical name for the yips is focal dystonia—and changing where you focus your eyes can help solve the problem. Hansson had him hit balls with his eyes closed so he could focus on a different feel in his release.
However, Hank eventually developed the bane for his demons. He changed his grip, incorporated a bizarre pre-shot waggle and avoided looking at the ball. You read correctly, he found the ball to be distraction to his swing!