Choke down for control

Published 15/11/2008 10:53:23

The best and safest way to keep the ball under control - especially in a wind - is to grip down the club a little and use a shorter swing than normal.

Choking down naturally shortens the swing arc - you stand closer to the ball so you feel compact which leads to greater confidence. Your wrists also become stiffer, helping to keep the ball lower than usual.


Tacking the wind


Because you hit the ball low, the grip down shot is mainly used for playing in a wind. Most amateur golfers think of choking down only when firing into the wind, but it also has crucial uses in both a cross and downwind.

If you it your usual club for the distance in a headwind the shot towers and falls well short of the target. Take more club - up to four clubs in a strong wind - and grip down. Play the ball from further back in your stance. This produces more backspin and gives you greater control.


With your hands pushed ahead of the ball, make a three-quarter swing. Keep your hands ahead of the ball at impact and finish short. The ball flies low, boring through the wind, but still lands softly as it's held on the air.

When you're on the fairway and face a shot of of 3 wood distance into wind, it's sometimes best to hit a choked down driver with a shorter swing. The ball stays low and under the wind and reaches the target - a 3 wood climbs too high and falls short.


In a crosswind you can use the same iron technique. The ball doesn't drift as far on the wind as a normal stroke - this is most useful if there's trouble around the green. But if you do have to aim either slightly to the left or right of the target - depending on the direction of the wind - as the ball still drifts a little.

If you feel confident, try to hold the ball on the crosswind. Use a faint draw into a left to right wind, or a soft fade into a breeze coming in from the right.


Downwind too, the choke down shot has its advantages. When faced with an awkward length pitch - when you can't hit a full shot that stops - you have to play a pitch and run.

Instead of hitting a wedge you should play a straighter faced club - perhaps an 8 iron. Grip down and use a firm-wristed, half shot action. The ball flies low and pitches well short of the target but runs on landing.


It's surprising how much control and finesse you can apply when you play this shot. The type of action is also very useful for playing delicate chips round the green - the more you go down the grip, the easier it is to control the clubhead and the more your touch is refined.

The choke down shot is valuable asset when recovering from trouble. Often after driving into trees you have to play a low shot out under branches. Going down the grip on a long iron lets you keep the ball low and - most importantly - under control.


You can also choke down when the ball is above your feet. This helps you adopt a balanced stance and use your normal swing, and reduces the often damaging drawspin.


When playing from a fairway bunker it's easier to strike the ball cleanly with the stiffer-wristed and shorter swing of a choked down shot. This is essential when you must play safe, and an escape from the trap is the priority. Hitting a normal shot increases the risk of either thinning or fatting the stroke.

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