Does Choking Up on the Golf Club Cause You to Lose Distance?

Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard - Round One

All else being equal, choking up on a golf club will cost you some distance. By choking up you’re effectively shortening the club’s length, which lessens your swing arc, reduces your maximum clubhead speed and limits your potential power. Nevertheless, choking up on the club isn’t always a bad idea. Choking up is recommended on a variety of short game shots, and can be helpful on other shots as well, even off the tee.

Hitting the Driver

Choking up on your driver may not cost you much, if any, distance, simply because having better control of the club can help you to hit the ball on the club’s sweet spot. Golf writer Steve Newell recommends golfers try choking up 1¼ to 1½ inches on their drivers, then taking their normal swings. Just be certain your left shoulder tucks under your chin to assure you complete a full backswing. Newell adds that golfers “may lose a little distance” by choking up on the club, but players will likely be compensated with straighter drives.

Pressure Situations

Jack Nicklaus recommends literally choking up on the club to avoid choking -- figuratively speaking -- in a pressure situation. Nicklaus says that in a key moment in a match golfers typically grip the club tighter, swing faster and raise up off the ball a bit, creating a longer but not necessarily accurate shot. Choking up on the club and starting your backswing more slowly helps compensate for those typical reactions.

Wind at Your Back

A stiff wind blowing at your back when you’re in the address position can be tricky because the wind will be partially blocked by your body, but will swirl around you and potentially affect the club during your swing. Golf instructor Jim Flick recommends choking up on the club about an inch in those windy conditions so you can take a lighter grip, making it easier for your arms and wrists to square the clubhead prior to impact.

Short Game

Choking up can be an effective technique in the short game, since achieving maximum distance is rarely a factor. Newell says golfers should choke up 2 inches on the club for all their short game shots, including pitches and bunker shots, because choking up provides better control of the club. He offers the analogy of writing with a pen. If you hold the pen at the top you won’t write as neatly as when you hold it more toward the middle.

Tiger Woods sometimes plays chip shots with a 3-wood, if his ball is on the green’s fringe, or in light rough. He chokes up severely, holding the club at the bottom of the grip. Choking up makes the club lighter and more maneuverable and allows him to stand closer to the ball.

Anthony Kim

PGA Tour player Anthony Kim began choking up on his clubs at a young age because it suited his physique, which featured long arms and a short torso. He continues to choke up about 2 inches on all of his clubs. He acknowledges that choking up costs him close to 10 yards of distance. Nevertheless, Kim still tied for 68th among Tour pros in driving distance in 2011, averaging 294.2 yards per drive. Kim says he doesn’t mind sacrificing distance because his drives are more accurate. “It’s not very often you make a birdie from the rough,” he says.