Background: Putting represents one of the most important components of golf. However, associated with it is the ‘yips,’ which is involuntary motions of the body of a presumed psychological and physiological nature that adversely affect performance. Many golfers are afflicted with the yips, especially those with long-term experience in golf. In the current study, selected body movements and physiological functions, as well as perceived stress level, were monitored under conditions that modulated the golfer’s stress level.
Methods: Five young-adult, visually-normal students who were experienced golfers participated in the investigation. Putting was assessed for 6-foot and 3-foot putts, with a reward/penalty system that favored the former but not the latter, to create a sensation of ‘stress’ as would be found in a real golf tournament. Eye, head, and putter movements were assessed objectively, as well as heart and breathing rates. In addition, a 5-point subjective rating scale was used to quantify the perceived level of stress during the test conditions.
Results: Heart rate significantly increased for the stressed 3-foot versus the unstressed 6-foot putts, while breathing rate remained unchanged. Also, eye movement variation increased in three of the five subjects under the more stressful putting condition.
Conclusions: The results suggest that the increased stress level imposed by the different putting conditions was reflected in changes in both physiological and psychological states. It is hypothesized that the yips is produced by the corruption of the central command motor control signal by the avoidance reflex associated with the shorter putts under pressure conditions.
Keywords: breathing rate, eye movements, heart rate, putting, yips