Mayo Clinic doctor researches the science behind the golf 'yips'

Golf can be the ultimate test in sport and one that can emotionally swing one way or the other. 

A game of some relaxation, which is often countered by a frustration called “the yips.”

“A lot of people get the yips,” said Joe Greupner, head golf professional at Braemar golf course. “It’s amazing how that happens.”

The “yips” are routinely thought of as an ailment caused by being caught up in your own head on the course, but Dr. Charles Adler of the Mayo Clinic has found a link between the links and a golfer’s neurologic make-up.  

“It’s our belief that a small percentage of golfers have an involuntary movement,” Adler told FOX 9. 

The study is an almost 20-year long dedication for Adler, a neurologist focusing on what’s called “dystonia.” Adler describes the issue as an “involuntary twisting, turning or jerking.”

Adler monitored 27 golfers who said they were suffering from a case of the “yips.” Using video cameras, he filmed each golfer’s hands while putting and monitored their movements. Five of the golfers showed consistent signs of a neurologic cause for their golfing ailment. 

The study found that golfers with a neurological cause had more putts with the “yips”.

“The golfers that we categorized as having a dystonia had very stereotyped movements,” Adler said. “They had the same twitch or jerk any time they putted.”

“The golfers that didn’t have dystonia, they as we looked at the videos looked like they were pushing (the golf balls),” Adler added.

His science is revealing an undiscovered diagnosis and one that could differentiate treatment in golfers that could include medicines to deal with the causes. 

However, Adler’s finding is not a cure all. 

“Less than 20 percent of the golfers we suspect have a dystonia,” Adler said. “That makes sense because dystonia is not a tremendously common disorder.”

For the other 80 percent of golfers having trouble on the course, Adler says to try a different course of action: like letting a pro to help get your game back.

“Find a way that’s different than what you’re doing,” said Greupner. “If you continue to do it the same way, you’re going to continue to get the same results.”