The yips are involuntary wrist spasms that occur most commonly when golfers are trying to putt. However, the yips also can affect people who play other sports — such as cricket, darts and baseball.

It was once thought that the yips were always associated with performance anxiety. However, it now appears that some people have the yips due to a neurological condition affecting specific muscles. This condition is known as focal dystonia.

Changing the way you perform the affected task might help you find relief from the yips. For example, a right-handed golfer might try putting left-handed.


The most common symptom associated with the yips is an involuntary muscle jerk, although some people experience tremors, twitches, spasms or freezing.


In some people, the yips are a type of focal dystonia, a condition that causes involuntary muscle contractions during a specific task. It's most likely related to overuse of a certain set of muscles, similar to writer's cramp. Anxiety worsens the effect.

Some athletes become so anxious and self-focused — overthinking to the point of distraction — that their ability to perform a skill, such as putting, is impaired. "Choking" is an extreme form of performance anxiety that may have a harmful effect on a golfer's or any athlete's game.

Risk factors

The yips tend to be associated with:

  • Older age.
  • More experience playing golf.
  • Tournament play.

March 05, 2024
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  2. Dhungana S, et al. Yips and other movement disorders in golfers. Movement Disorders. 2013;28:576.
  3. Berstein CJ, et al. Behavioural interventions for people living with adult-onset primary dystonia: A systematic review. BMC Neurology. 2016; doi:10.1186/s12883-016-0562-y.
  4. Lenka A, et al. Sports-related dystonia. Tremor and other hyperkinetic movements. 2021; doi:10.5334/tohm/670.
  5. Adler CH (expert opinion). March 2, 2023.


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