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Yips and Other Conditioned Responses

Yips and Other Conditioned Responses

“It’s the darnedest thing I’ve ever seen”, said Gene Littler, referring to his short chips from the fringe around the greens. “It only seems to happen during a tournament. I know what I want to do with the ball, but when I get over it I freeze up and flinch. It’s like a yip with the chip, and it’s embarrassing!”

 

How Do You Become Conditioned?

Conditioned responses usually start when a player makes a bad shot while under extreme pressure to perform, which is typically in competition. The greater the perceived importance, the stronger the reaction to the mistake. The stronger the reaction to the mistake, the more one will fear or dread the circumstances which become the “bell” that triggers strong mental and physical reactions. The player then makes the experience worse by mentally replaying the negative circumstances in repeated reflection. Thus establishing the conditioned response.

The Most Common Conditioned Response is Putting Yips.

Some possible explanations include that putts: (1) allow less margin for error, (2) require lower tension and greater use of fine motor skills and (3) must be made to score on each hole, increasing the tendency to think about score and results instead of simply the process of executing the putt.

Sometimes we are conditioned to fear or dread putts within a certain distance. I have had students tell me that they would rather have a ten foot putt than an 18 inch putt.

Dr. Deborah Graham and Jon Stabler, the founders of GolfPsych, have found that certain personality traits have a strong influence on conditioned responses to putting.

  1. Abstract thinkers, or more intelligent golfers, who have a tendency to over-read greens and over-think mechanics when under pressure.
  1. Tense individuals who tend to become more anxious instead of more relaxed as they approach the greens. You are less tense on the teeing ground and the closer you get to the green the more tense you become. You are getting close to your objective.
  1. Perfectionists whose high expectations allow little room for error. Most golfers have way to high of expectations. Remember, the best players in the world on hit 60% of fairways, 65% of greens in regulation.
  1. Players who regularly consume alcohol in amounts that can eventually inhibit the use of fine motor skills.

 

Bob Shirey, PGA, is a certified GolfPsych instructor at Hunter Ranch and La Purisima. For help with your mental routine/development contact Bob at 805-286-2590 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..