Firstly, what do we mean by “choking down” on a golf club? Choking down on a golf club simply means moving your hands further down the grip. Next time you watch the professionals on the TV, take note of how much and when they choke down on the club. You’ll be surprised.
There are many reasons why a golfer would choke down, so let’s consider a few.
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Choking down for a chip shot, for example, instantly gives you more control because your hands are closer to the clubface. Also think about the psychology of choking down – I’m sure you feel more confident using the shorter clubs rather than those long scary drivers. So simply shortening the club by choking down taps in to that feeling of greater confidence. And we all know how important that is.
Remember, Ben Crenshaw once said he was about five inches from being an outstanding golfer, “the distance my left ear is from my right”. I’m sure we’re all aware of the mental side of the game.
More control will almost certainly result in you hitting the ball more squarely, producing an efficient transfer of energy. The closer the ball is to the sweet spot, the better the shot.
Does your distance reduce?
Not knowing how hard or fast you swing, it is difficult to say categorically that you will get less distance, but it is generally accepted that choking down an inch on the grip will reduce your distance by 10 to 15 yards.
You can put this to good use when working out the yardage to a particular hole. If, for instance, the distance to the hole is 140 yards and you normally hit a 7-iron 150 yards, use the 7-iron but choke down a little, giving you more control and accuracy.
Hitting more fairways
Your next hole is a long par 4 with a narrow fairway bordered by trees and bunkers at 250 yards. Don’t panic, on this occasion what you need is accuracy. Stick with the driver but choke down an inch or so. You will lose a little distance, but your ball will have a better chance of hitting the middle of the fairway.
You might also try lowering the height of the tee, especially if you are playing into the wind. In this case, accuracy is the name of the game. Don’t abandon your driver, just choke down a little and, as always, don’t forget that smooth silky swing.
Avoid the trees in the rough
None of us will ever be as adept as Seve Ballesteros when escaping from trouble with an immaculate recovery shot, and the best option may be to take your medicine and get back on to the short stuff as soon as possible.
However, if you choke down on the club with less loft, an 8-iron say instead of your pitching wedge, you’ll improve your chances of keeping the ball lower than the tree branches which you might hit if you used your pitching wedge. You don’t need a full swing either. To get under those branches, use a club with a lower loft and reduce your swing.
Good learning technique?
For beginner golfers, it is a good idea to try choking down on the practice ground just to see and feel the increase in control and accuracy. Start off with your wedges, hit a lot of practice shots, working your way up to the longer clubs, choking down, say, an inch on every club. With slow, smooth practice swings, you will notice the extra accuracy and control you get. You will improve faster.
For shorter golfers
This is an obvious one but many golfers who are around 5’8” choke down to reduce the length of the club and have great results. No problem with that. If it works, go for it. But always remember to keep the swing smooth and silky.
Lee Trevino on choking down
He is regarded as one of the greatest players in golfing history and he has some clear thoughts on choking down.
“I love watching Anthony Kim play, but I’m not a fan of the way he grips down a good two inches on his full-swing shots. Choking down lightens the club’s swing weight and effectively makes the shaft stiffer. It also makes it difficult to hit the ball high enough for all situations. But the worst thing is, it gets you into the habit of hitting every shot with 100-percent effort: Instead of hitting a smooth 7-iron with a normal grip, the player who chokes down tends to shorten the 7-iron and hammer the hell out of it. I like the idea of gripping down on chips and pitches, because it can give you more control, but avoid doing it with anything longer than a 9-iron.”
So, there you go, thoughts from a master golfer. I guess it comes down to trying different shots and see how it affects your game.
Keeping the ball low
When you’re playing a shot into the wind, the last thing you want is a rising ball with a lot of spin. To keep the ball trajectory low, the pros will place the ball in the middle of their stance and keep their weight on their left side while punching down on the ball.
That’s what the pros do but us mere mortals must try methods that are easier to execute.
Amateur golfers can try this. Drop down 2 lofts, 9-iron to 7-iron, 8-iron to 6-iron, and choke down on the club so that your lower index finger is just touching the shaft. Swing smoothly and this technique will reduce backspin, and backspin will drive the ball higher in the air, which you don’t want.
Having better control of the club makes it more likely you’ll hit the sweet spot, which could lead to greater distance and accuracy, and you’ll possibly hit more greens in regulation; at least lower your scores.
If you’re plagued with a hook or slice, try choking down an inch or two. It may help.