'Choke Up' and 'Choke Down' in Golf

Brooke Henderson of Canada hits driver on the 14th tee during round two of the Hugel-JTBC Championship at the Wilshire Country Club on April 20, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.
Brooke Henderson likes to choke up on her driver swings.

Harry How/Getty Images


In golf, "choke" usually refers to a bad shot caused by a golfer's inability to handle the pressure of the moment. But when "choke" is combined with "up" or "down" — choke up or choke down — it refers to the position of a golfer's hands on the handle of a golf club.

Did You Know?

The terms "choke up" and "choke down" were borrowed by golfers from the American sport of baseball, in which the terms refer to the position of a batter's hands on the handle of the baseball bat.

Choke Up/Choke Down

A golfer who chokes down — or on who chokes up, because golfers tend to use the terms interchangeably — on the golf club move his hands down the grip, farther away from the butt end of the grip. This might be done for one of several reasons: Doing so increases the golfer's control of the club during the swing, and it also takes some distance off the club being used. If a golfer is at a yardage that is too long for his 8-iron but too short for his 7-iron, he might choke down/choke up on the 7-iron.

A golfer might choke down on a driver to increase his control during the swing, hoping to improve accuracy. LPGA golfer Brooke Henderson, known for her aggressive driver swing, usually chokes up on her driver for this reason. Or it might be necessary to choke down due to the golfer's stance if the ball is above his feet.

One golfer might say to another on the tee, "If you choke down on the driver a little bit, you'll increase your odds of hitting the fairway."

However, the term "choke" when used by itself in golf typically carries the first meaning mentioned above: to misplay a stroke due to nerves brought on by the pressure of the moment; or, more generally, to play poorly in a round or over the latter portion of a round when the golfer was in position to win.

Original Meaning From Baseball

The terms choke up and choke down originated, in a sporting context, in baseball. And unlike in golf, where the terms are used interchangeably and usually mean the same thing, in baseball choke up and choke down have two different meanings.

In baseball, "choke up" means sliding one's hands farther away from the grip-end of the bat; "choke down" means moving one's hands closer to the end of the bat. Choking up on a baseball bat gives the batter more control but less power; choking down on a baseball bat gives the batter less control but more power.

So why, in golf, have to two terms become synonymous? Possibly because most golfers already place their hands on the golf grip with very little of the grip showing above the hands. We already grip our golf clubs very close to the top edge of the grip, so repositioning our hands almost always means moving them slightly downward.