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Between clubs? Choking up is always the best strategy

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What should golfers do when they’re stuck between yardages? Alter their swing? Hit their shorter club harder? Hit their longer club easier?

The answer is neither. I recommended that most golfers simply “choke up.”

Think about it: If you shorten the club by choking up, your swing will shorten, your clubhead speed will decrease and the ball won’t carry as far. It’s an easy solution to a problem that almost all of us make too hard.

Of course, there are situations when golfers must alter their swings or hit the ball differently, but thankfully these situations are limited. That’s why I recommend choking up 100 percent of the time for most golfers. At the higher levels there are a few other options, but choking up is the easiest, most consistent solution.

In efforts to help you understand what “choking up” does, I hit a few shots on my Trackman so we could look at what happens to ball flight when you hit a shot full, choke up 1 inch and choke up 2 inches. Here’s the data.

Stock 7 iron swing

Stock7

  • Club head speed was 82.3 mph.
  • Ball Speed was 113.4 mph.
  • Launch was 17.2 degrees with a spin rate of 6836 rpm.
  • Height was 103.6 feet and the landing angle was 55.6 degrees.
  • Carry was 152.3 yards. Given its spin rate, height and landing angle, this ball is going to sit on the green quickly.

Stock 7 iron swing (Choked up 1 inch)

ChokedDown1inch

  • Club head speed was 79.0 mph.
  • Ball Speed was 107.9 mph.
  • Launch was 17.2 degrees with a spin rate of 6477 rpm.
  • Height was 80.5 feet and the landing angle was 50.9 degrees.
  • The ball carried 139.7 when choked up 1 inch versus my stock carry of 152.3. That’sa difference of 12.6 yards
  • What is interesting to note is that even with the height going down by 23.1 feet the landing angle only went down by 4.7 degrees. That helped the ball only chase forward 3.5 yards.
  • It’s nice to see that the ball will sit rather quickly when choking down 1 inch and that the spin rate stays within 359 rpm’s of my stock shot.
  • The Verdict? When choking down 1 inch you will see a lower clubhead speed, a flatter launch, a shorter carry and shots will stop on the green almost as quick as your stock shot.

Stock 7 iron (Choked up 2 inches)

ChoedDown2inches

  • Club head speed was 77.4 mph.
  • Ball speed was 102.3 mph.
  • Launch was 13.5 degrees with a spin rate of 5592 rpm.
  • Height was 61.5 feet and the landing angle was 45.3 degrees.
  • The ball carried 152.3 yards with my stock shot, 139.7 yards choked up 1 inch and 131.2 yards choked up 2 inches. It’s obvious to see that choking up can alter your distance by over 20 yards.
  • The spin rate dropped from 6936 rpm to 5592 rpm, a difference of 1344 rpms and this greatly influences the release of the ball on the green. With this shot, I saw a roll out of 6.8 yards (20.4 feet).
  • The Verdict? As the launch, height and spin rate decrease you will see a flatter landing angle on this shot at 45.3 degrees, which will cause the ball to run out a touch more. So choking up more than 1 inch will cause the ball to chase a touch more on the green.
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Tom F. Stickney II, is a specialist in Biomechanics for Golf, Physiology, and 3d Motion Analysis. He has a degree in Exercise and Fitness and has been a Director of Instruction for almost 30 years at resorts and clubs such as- The Four Seasons Punta Mita, BIGHORN Golf Club, The Club at Cordillera, The Promontory Club, and the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort. His past and present instructional awards include the following: Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, Golf Digest Top 50 International Instructor, Golf Tips Top 25 Instructor, Best in State (Florida, Colorado, and California,) Top 20 Teachers Under 40, Best Young Teachers and many more. Tom is a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 25 people in the world. Tom is TPI Certified- Level 1, Golf Level 2, Level 2- Power, and Level 2- Fitness and believes that you cannot reach your maximum potential as a player with out some focus on your physiology. You can reach him at [email protected] and he welcomes any questions you may have.

70 Comments

70 Comments

  1. Sodapoppin

    Sep 23, 2014 at 2:32 am

    Hi Tom,

    What exactly do you mean with “chokin up”? The logical explanation will be to “grip down” on the club, and would also make sense.

  2. Kevin Russell

    Sep 6, 2014 at 11:31 am

    A quick question on your article about choking down an inch with your stock 7 are you starting at the butt end of the club or how far down do you grip for a stock shot?

    • Tom Stickney

      Sep 6, 2014 at 3:29 pm

      Yes from the butt end. I grip it just on the edge of the grip personally

  3. Mike

    Sep 5, 2014 at 2:55 am

    Hi,

    Nice data with your story. How you manage the Lie-angle change when choking up? With 2″ the lie-angle is so much different which should turn the ball more fade.

    Thank’s for your good story.

    • Tom Stickney

      Sep 5, 2014 at 9:03 am

      You need to practice a touch to manage the length changes.

  4. Jack F

    Sep 4, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    Tom… interesting and helpful article. One thing that may need to be emphasized (which you already eluded to) is the importance of the quality of ball striking and how it relates to all this data and your test. Every experiment requires assumptions to be made. This experiment assumes equal quality of contact at impact, which many may not have. Some may actually INCREASE the quality of impact which could provide opposite results. For me, early in the season or after an extended break, thus method wouldn’t work, as my ball striking is lacking. I’m sure this happens to a lot of you.

    • Tom Stickney

      Sep 4, 2014 at 11:45 pm

      Centered impact for different players can be length dependent.

  5. Stewart

    Sep 4, 2014 at 5:42 pm

    I enjoy going down the shaft on shots but for me they end up going the same length and often even further into the wind.
    This is due to me being a sweeper of the ball with my full swing and have around a 0* AOA but when I go down the shaft I tend to keep my weight towards the left and have around a 3-4* downward AOA which ends up a great flight for the wind but tricky to judge at times.

    • Tom Stickney

      Sep 4, 2014 at 6:09 pm

      The downward aoa shifts path to the rt and this coupled with more shaft lean can cause some distance control issues.

  6. Fore!

    Sep 4, 2014 at 1:38 pm

    So when choking up, I should still try and replicate a full swing as if I was hitting it with a normal grip? I’ve gotten in the mindset that if I’m choking up, I swing easier too. But really it should be just a normal full swing and ‘shortening’ the club is what alters the club speed, not me?

    • tom stickney

      Sep 4, 2014 at 4:19 pm

      The swing will naturally be a touch tighter due to the shorter club

  7. slide13

    Sep 4, 2014 at 12:42 pm

    Nice article, very useful, especially as I consider going out with a half-set in a Sunday bag for some casual rounds. I’ll experiment to see if this holds true. Great to see the numbers.

    I wonder how the yardage changes will hold consistent as one moves through the set. In other words, does choking down 1″ on a 4 iron yield a larger or smaller change in distance than doing so with a 7 iron.

  8. David Smith

    Sep 4, 2014 at 11:30 am

    Isn’t it choking down? I’ve actually never heard someone say “choking up” in this context. Either way, great tips! Always a pleasure seeing what 1-2 inches can do 😉

  9. Jacob

    Sep 3, 2014 at 10:44 am

    Isn’t the standard gap between clubs 10-15 yards? If so, by choking up 1″ and hitting it 12.6 yards less, why wouldn’t you just hit a full 8 iron?

    • Tom Stickney

      Sep 3, 2014 at 11:05 am

      Not everyone has all standard gaps

      • Jacob

        Sep 3, 2014 at 7:01 pm

        Good point. This would be handy if a player has a large gap between wedges. I myself have a 50* and 56* only and can think of a few occasions in my last round where I might have done well to choke up an inch on the 50* rather than hit 56*

    • eric

      Sep 4, 2014 at 1:41 pm

      Choke up 1/2″

  10. Desmond

    Sep 3, 2014 at 9:32 am

    By the way, commend you for the subject, condensed presentation, and showing the stats. Appreciate it.

  11. Don

    Sep 3, 2014 at 8:10 am

    Tom, a very useful and straight forward article. Thank you! So if we keep this conclusion in mind and we apply it to a driver, can you help me with a conundrum. I am trying to find the optimum driver. My swing speed is between 95-98 mph. When I try to increase my launch, my spin jumps up to high and when I try to lower my spin the launch gets to low. I am considering trying a driver shorter than 45 1/2 inches, but if your conclusion holds constant than my launch will get lower and my speed will decrease. I am a scratch golfer and center impact is pretty consistent. I would love to know your thoughts.

    • Tom Stickney

      Sep 3, 2014 at 9:46 am

      It sounds like a vertical impact problem. Hitting it low in the face gives you low launch high spin and vice versa in the upper part if the face. I’d schedule a fitting with a TrackMan and some dr scholl’s ASAP.

  12. Pingback: Between Clubs? Choking Up is Always the Best Strategy | Golf Gear Select

  13. CD

    Sep 3, 2014 at 6:03 am

    Nice, simple article, no need for all these technical questions, or to delve into the ‘why’, I just I liked the fact that interestingly you get to a point and it releases more, and I’m looking forward to feeling and seeing different shots.

    Amazing how often something simple you learn as a beginner gets over-looked with time.

    Thanks

  14. John

    Sep 3, 2014 at 5:04 am

    You guys kill me sometimes … Tom offered a very good tip and i thought it was worded very well and easy to understand and instead of just thanking the man for his work and very helpful advice you want to chastise him for the way he said it .. good grief can’t anyone just say thanks or say nothing at all??

    Thanks Tom for a very good tip that is very helpful !!!!

  15. B

    Sep 3, 2014 at 1:10 am

    Great article, thank you! I play with a lot of spin. I’ve been trying to reduce it through equipment changes, but ultimately, I know that a conscious effort to change course strategy is going to be the only effective solution. Basically, I can’t hold an 8I (and under) on greens that have a slight incline, due to the ridiculous amounts of backspin. This article has got me thinking… maybe the solution is to take two clubs extra (i.e. 6I instead of 8I), grip down 2″, take an extra 1000RPM spin off, and HOPEFULLY hold the green.

    • Joe

      Sep 3, 2014 at 1:30 am

      How about you play a lower spin ball…until the time when you plan on buying new clubs, at which point you can get fitted for lower spin shafts?

    • Tom Stickney

      Sep 3, 2014 at 9:49 am

      You have too much spinloft at impact hence the reason why it’s spinning too much. Hit your shots a touch lower without digging down any deeper and the spin should come down.

  16. james

    Sep 2, 2014 at 8:47 pm

    My regular swing already incorporates quite a bit of choking down (ala Anthony Kim) and doing so has never altered my distance. In fact, distance has increased due to more consistent sweetspot-striking. Would you recommend I further choke down or would you recommend some other tip? Thank you for your articles, they have been wonderful for me.

    • tom stickney

      Sep 2, 2014 at 11:30 pm

      Thank you…experiment…I’d say if you choke down further you might find that yardage comes off as well.

  17. Brian

    Sep 2, 2014 at 8:36 pm

    I have been trying to improve my course management and making intelligent decisions this year. I tried this on Sunday whereby the pin was towards the back but if I hit my nine iron the proper distance I was flirting with back edge on a green where you do not want to go over the back. However the pitching wedge would be at front of the green and no way would get back there. I decided to choke down one inch and I nailed it pin high. Was wondering how to go about figuring out an approximate choke down yardage subtraction. Perhaps a simple rule of thumb for myself. Time to hit the simulator/good winter project.

    • tom stickney

      Sep 2, 2014 at 11:31 pm

      Everyone is different….it’s a feel thing

  18. John

    Sep 2, 2014 at 7:17 pm

    Something I noticed when you do this is I get a bit of a fade as a result of the club being held a fraction more toe down. Something to keep in mind. At first I thought I was putting a different swing on it, but it was happening too consistently to put down to anything else. It’s not a huge difference, but definitely a few yards.

    • tom stickney

      Sep 2, 2014 at 11:31 pm

      It can hang a touch if you are not careful

  19. John

    Sep 2, 2014 at 7:09 pm

    I have found recently when I choke up on the club a 1/2 to 1 inch and take my stock swing, I almost always hit the ball more solid and consequently farther! The whole smash factor thing. Now I am consciously aware that I am taking my stock swing so I definitely believe your advice to be quite sound. So, I’ll either shorten my clubs (duh) or choke down a little farther and allow a smoother, shorter swing to happen. Thanks for the article. Simple and easy implement.

  20. Ken

    Sep 2, 2014 at 7:08 pm

    Great article. Personally, I like to use the term ‘Grip Down,’ rather than ‘Choke Up.’ Just hate that “C” word.

    • tom stickney

      Sep 2, 2014 at 11:33 pm

      The word “choke” has no power unless you allow it to conjure up bad thoughts

  21. Peter Klemperer

    Sep 2, 2014 at 6:01 pm

    I’ve been doing this with my wedges on the advice of the Pelz book. Now I’ll do it with all my irons. Might even mark the yardages on the shafts!

    Thanks for doing this great work.

  22. Teaj

    Sep 2, 2014 at 4:51 pm

    Great idea for those back pin placements that want the ball to roll out a little more. need to go find me a launch monitor to compare the choked down swing to the stock.

  23. kevin

    Sep 2, 2014 at 4:24 pm

    when you do choke down, you will have a tendency to hook the ball if adjustment to tempo and swingweight isn’t made. i usually open up the clubface just a touch.

  24. Jason

    Sep 2, 2014 at 4:16 pm

    Thanks for the information, it’s pretty enlightening since I seem to struggle with those in between shots. I’m fairly inconsistent with my decision as to how to hit that in between shot. Sometimes, I’ll play a draw/fade to adjust a couple of yards, and other times I’ll use an easier swing. The easier swings never works of course!

    Did you notice anything while you were performing this test around the swing weight and lie angle of the club? I know the clubhead would feel quite a bit lighter when choking down–did it have a noticeable affect on the swing? Also, I think the lie angle would get out of whack when choking down. Did you notice any issues with that?

    • Tom Stickney

      Sep 2, 2014 at 5:46 pm

      Not really

    • Desmond

      Sep 3, 2014 at 9:28 am

      If you are inconsistent with your decision, your shots will show it. You see Touring Pros grip down all the time without negative effect.

      Be confident, maintain a good rhythm.

      • tom stickney

        Sep 3, 2014 at 12:09 pm

        It’s all about practice…after a few shots you will easily be able to control the face a touch

  25. Jeremy

    Sep 2, 2014 at 3:59 pm

    Semantics aside, the data you’ve provided is great and will definitely help the decision-making process in the future. It’d be interesting to see the results of “going for it” with an 8-iron as well. Thanks!

  26. Mike

    Sep 2, 2014 at 3:58 pm

    Glad to see I’m making the first rational comment/question…

    Tom, do you recommend people actually marking up their grips so they grip in the same location every time?

  27. Dan

    Sep 2, 2014 at 3:34 pm

    I think the term “choking down” makes more sense here. I know it’s arguing semantics but I honestly clicked on your link because I thought you might have been introducing some new swing thought. You choke down on an iron/wood, with your hands becoming closer to the club head and moving down towards the ground. You choke up on a baseball bat because of the vertical position of the bat in your normal stance, completely opposite of the starting position of your golf club.

    • Tom Stickney

      Sep 2, 2014 at 3:49 pm

      Whatever. Just enjoy the tip.

      • Knobbywood

        Sep 6, 2014 at 10:21 am

        Haha Tom maintain your dignity like the professional we all know you are… There will always be people like this and they don’t merit a response from a respected instructor like yourself… Keep up the good work you are my favorite writer on this blog

    • sebastian

      Sep 2, 2014 at 8:08 pm

      ….that guy

    • Joe

      Sep 3, 2014 at 1:33 am

      Dork.

  28. Desmond

    Sep 2, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    The term should really be “grip down”.

    You do not want to use the term “choke” in any endeavor… especially golf.

    “Grip Down” also makes sense.

    • Tom Stickney

      Sep 2, 2014 at 3:14 pm

      I make sure I choke the club…tells it who’s the boss!

      • Jeff B

        Sep 2, 2014 at 7:29 pm

        This comment wins.

        • Desmond

          Sep 3, 2014 at 12:39 am

          Funny, I think “choking up” is confusing when you’re gripping down. I prefer the “golf whisperer” approach with my clubs, instead of violence against them.

          • Tom Stickney

            Sep 3, 2014 at 9:51 am

            Ha ha.

          • Knobbywood

            Sep 8, 2014 at 10:05 am

            Man I’d hate to work for you Desmond! Never satisfied… First it was don’t say choke, now it’s say up not down… Obviously you understand the concept so just shut up and go play… No need for your semantic criticisms

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Instruction

Wedge Guy: Short iron challenges — and a little insight (hopefully!)

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In my experience, almost all golfers could benefit from better short iron play. The ability to hit it closer to where you are looking with your 8-, 9- and P-irons will do more for your scoring than most anything else you can do. So, why is it that so many golfers just don’t hit the quality shots with these clubs that they do and should expect?

I chose this topic in response to an email from Phillip S., who wrote:

“I’m hitting straight and consistent most of the time but I’ve got a big problem between my 8-iron and everything else below.  I can hit my 8-iron 140-145 fairly consistently every time.  I hit my 9-iron somewhere between 110-135.  My pitching wedge is a mystery….it varies between 85 -125 yards.  No matter how “hard” I swing, I can’t seem to hit my short irons consistent distances.  It’s maddening to hit a great drive followed by a pitching wedge short of the green from 110 yards away.  What am I doing wrong?

Well, Phillip, don’t feel alone, because this is one of the most common golf issues I observe. It seems that the lion’s share of technology applied to golf clubs is focused on the long stuff, with drivers and hybrids getting the press. But I firmly believe that the short irons in nearly all “game improvement” designs are ill-suited for precise distance control, hitting shots on the optimum trajectory or knocking flags down. I’ve written about this a number of times, so a little trip back in Wedge Guy history should be enlightening. But here are some facts of golf club performance as applied to short iron play:

Fact #1. Short irons are much more similar to wedges than your middle irons. But almost all iron sets feature a consistent back design for cosmetic appeal on the store racks. And while that deep cavity and perimeter weight distribution certainly help you hit higher and more consistent shots with your 3- or 4- through 7-iron, as the loft gets in the 40-degree range and higher, that weight distribution is not your friend. Regardless of your skill level, short irons should be designed much more similar to wedges than to your middle irons.

Fact #2. As loft increases, perimeter weighting is less effective. Missed shots off of higher lofted clubs have less directional deviation than off of lower-lofted clubs. This is proven time and again on “Iron Byron” robotic testers.

Fact #3. It takes mass behind the ball to deliver consistent distances. Even on dead center hits, cavity back, thin-face irons do not deliver tack-driver distance control like a blade design. In my post of a couple of years ago, “The Round Club Mindset,” I urged readers to borrow blade-style short irons from a friend or assistant pro and watch the difference in trajectories and shotmaking. Do it! You will be surprised, enlightened, and most likely pleased with the results.

Fact #4. The 4.5-degree difference between irons is part of the problem. The industry has built irons around this formula forever, but every golfer who knows his distances can tell you that the full swing distance gap gets larger as the iron number increases, i.e. your gap between your 8- and 9-iron is probably larger than that between your 4- and 5-iron. Could there be some club tweaking called for here?

Fact #5. Your irons do not have to “match.” If you find through experimentation that you get better results with the blade style short irons, get some and have your whole set re-shafted to match, along with lengths and lie angles. These are the keys to true “matching” anyway.

So, Phillip, without knowing your swing or what brand of irons you play, I’m betting that the solution to your problems lies in these facts. Oh, and one more thing – regardless of short iron design, the harder you swing, the higher and shorter the shot will tend to go. That’s because it becomes harder and harder to stay ahead of the club through impact. Keep short iron shots at 80-85 percent power, lead with your left side and watch everything improve.

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Clement: Easily find your perfect backswing plane with this drill

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When you get on one of these, magic will happen! You can’t come too far inside or outside in the backswing, and you can’t have arms too deep or shallow at the top of the backswing nor can you be too laid off or across the line either! SEAMLESS!!

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Wedge Guy: The top 7 short game mistakes

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I’ve written hundreds of articles as “The Wedge Guy” and I’ve made it my life’s work to closely observe golfers and their short games. So, I thought I’d compile what I see into a list of what I believe are the most common mistakes golfers make around the greens that prevents them from optimizing their scoring. So here goes, not in any particular order:

  1. Tempo. Maybe the most common error I see is a tempo that is too quick and “jabby”. That probably comes from the misunderstood and overdone advice “accelerate through the ball.” I like to compare playing a golf hole to painting a room, and your short shots are your “trim brushes”. They determine how the finished work turns out, and a slower and more deliberate stroke delivers more precision as you get closer to the green and hole.
  2. Set Up/Posture. To hit good chips and pitches, you need to “get down”. Bend your knees a bit more and grip down on the club – it puts you closer to your work for better precision. Too many golfers I see stand up too tall and grip the club to the end.
  3. Grip Pressure. A very light grip on the club is essential to good touch and a proper release through the impact zone. Trust me, you cannot hold a golf club too lightly – your body won’t let you. Concentrate on your forearms; if you can feel any tenseness in the muscles in your forearms, you are holding on too tightly.
  4. Hand position. Watch the tour players hit short shots on TV. Their arms are hanging naturally so that their hands are very close to their upper thighs at address and through impact, but the club is not tilted up on its toe. Copy that and your short game will improve dramatically.
  5. Lack of Body/Core Rotation. When you are hitting short shots, the hands and arms have stay in front of the torso throughout the swing. If you don’t rotate your chest and shoulders back and through, you won’t develop good consistency in distance or contact.
  6. Club selection. Every pitch or chip is different, so don’t try to hit them all with the same club. I see two major errors here. Some golfers always grab the sand wedge when they miss a green. If you have lots of green to work with and don’t need that loft, a PW, 9-iron or even less will give you much better results. The other error is seen in those golfers who are “afraid” of their wedge and are trying to hit tough recoveries with 8- and 9-irons. That doesn’t work either. Go to your practice green and see what happens with different clubs, then take that knowledge to the course.
  7. Clubhead/grip relationship. This error falls into two categories. One is those golfers who forward press so much that they dramatically change the loft of the club. At address and impact the grip should be slightly ahead of the clubhead. I like to focus on the hands, rather than the club, and just think of my left hand leading my right through impact. Which brings me to the other error – allowing the clubhead to pass the hands through impact. If you let the clubhead do that, good shots just cannot happen. And that is caused by you trying to “hit” up on the ball, rather than swinging the entire club through impact.

So, there are my top 7. Obviously, there are others, but if you eliminate those, your short game will get better in a hurry.

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