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Golf: Can you cure pitching yips and anxiety?

If ever you have had bouts of anxiety or the yips with short shots near and around the green, you know what a devastating effect it can have on your score and your confidence generally.

In this article, I will guide you on something you can explore in your technique which has the ability to quieten down your mind as well as improve your shots.

Whilst you may think your pitching and chipping woes are more mental, it is possible the way you’re going about your technique has created an overactive mind which leads to confusion and anxiety.

I’m going to explain and demonstrate some essential mechanics that will get your mind and body working together again, which will lead to a confident short game.

I’m going to demonstrate with a 40-yard pitch shot, but the principles I share are relevant to most short shots around the green.

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To play these shots well, we obviously need to control the distance and trajectory of the ball. This comes down to having a precise strike, meaning you need the clubhead to arrive at the ball at just the right point and from just the right angle.

Providing you have a reasonable set up, the sole of your club will be sitting fairly flat to the ground; this will mean the shaft angle is pre-set to its natural plane (image 1).

To pitch well, the golf club needs to turn upside down around its original angle (image 2).

To swing up and down in this way, our body needs to support that through how we move our joints, especially in our lower limbs.

Most people immediately think of using their hands and wrist to do this job. However, if the joints of your lower limbs are not working properly, there will be a conflict, making it difficult to coordinate and create the precise strike we are after.


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This brings up a very important point and something that you may think is controversial. Very often, we think of turning or rotating our body to pitch the ball well, but this can be misleading! If the body rotates too much, your joints will be going round too much rather than up and down; this places more emphasis on the hands and wrists to get the club to go up and down. This will likely lead to a disconnection with what our hands and arms are doing compared to what our body is doing (image 3).

Over-rotation of the body can change the orientation from being at the ball to a point away from the ball. Although you may not be aware of this consciously, your brain picks up on this and knows it has to make a compensation to strike the ball well. This compensation invariably is done through the hands and wrists; this leads to an out-of-control feeling and what is often referred to as the yips, i.e., a panic trying to hit the ball (image 4).

The good news is this is fairly easily fixed.

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To get the feeling of how your lower limbs should move, get into your posture and put the heel of your hands into your hips (image 5).

Now, let’s first practice the move we don’t want … turn/rotate your hips … notice how both hands follow and are now no longer pointing at the ball (image 6).

Now, let’s make the right move … initiate the move by feeling that the arch in your lead foot (left for me) lowers to the ground, like you are gently sinking into this arch; this will allow your left knee to gently bend forward. This slight lowering of the left side will create a slight hiking of the right side. You can see my hands have changed height, but they are still orientated towards the ball (image 7).

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This is the movement we want from your lower limbs. This creates the foundation for the rest of your body to move on and keep your orientation at the ball (image 7A).

This is a far better movement and structure for your hands and wrists to work and turn the club upside down. Now your body and hands will be working in synchronisation (image 8).

This whole move is often simplified down to one feeling … allow your left foot to naturally sink to the ground, almost losing any arch you have in your foot. This will help the knee gently bend forward.

Yes, it may feel like your weight has stayed towards your left foot (lead foot). This is absolutely fine.

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Have the feeling you’re going nice and deep into your lead foot and then let your natural mechanics bring you back out as the club swings back to the ball (image 9).

The move described above is something you can practise at home before trying at the course.

Good luck and I would love to hear how it works for you.

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By Scott Cranfield
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Scott Cranfield is a PGA Master Coach. For over 30 years, he has dedicated his life to helping golfers achieve their goals through a natural approach that embraces the true laws of how the human mind and body work. Scott’s unique approach has led to the creation of multiple training programmes, and the experience of coaching every standard of golfer from complete beginners through to Ryder Cup players. As well as enjoying a long TV career with Sky Sports and Setanta TV, in 2011 Scott was honoured with the award of PGA Master Professional and Coach.