Golf Tips Newsletter
Issue 740 - November 30, 2022
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USGTF Class "A" Teaching Professional
WGTF "Top 100" Teacher
IGPA Certified Golf Psychology Coach


Master The Motion Before You Master The Shot.
"15 Minutes of Body Action Drills Are More
Important Than Hitting 200 Balls"

Tom's Featured Tip: How To Avoid Choking In Golf

Lesson Comments: What Students Have To Say
Sponsors & Affiliates:
Batavia Country Club
The Divot Board
The Impact Snap
The Rypstick
Club Champion

Buying a sponsored product through any of my affiliate links helps support this free newsletter, and I only affiliate with excellent products that I use myself.  Thanks, Tom

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2021 BCC Junior Golf Camp

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How To Avoid Choking In Golf

For simplicity, all advice on actual swings or drills is provided from a right handed perspective.

Two Great Training Aids For Indoor or Outdoor Practice

The Divot Board

This is the most useful ball striking development training aid that I own.
Don't have one yet? What's holding you back?
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Click here to buy now. Start using the ImpactSnap training aid indoors or outdoors to make you instantly aware of proper hand and wrist action, which is second only to low point awareness for great ball striking.

How To Avoid Choking In Golf

I devote a percentage of my golf study time each week to the mental aspects of the game. Most of today's content came from an article by David MacKenzie, who I follow regularly for his insight into coaching the mental side of the game.

I have added a few of my own thoughts to his, and I also wanted to mention an applicable concept that I read in the book "Atomic Habits" by James Clear:

"When you fall in love with the process rather than the product, you don't have to wait to give yourself permission to be happy. You can be satisfied anytime your system is running."

In golf, "the process" could be your practice routine, your fitness routine, your mental approach to the game, your playing routine, and the time you dedicate to studying the game.
  1. Have a process
  2. Trust the process
  3. Enjoy the resulting calmness
Performance Anxiety Management

One of the most common reasons that players fail to reach their potential is because their performances are sabotaged by a fear of failure. This fear can often cause what we know as choking in golf.

Such fears could be:
  • Not performing to the level you are capable of, or expect
  • What others will think (being embarrassed, losing status and respect)
  • Losing an opportunity to win or "choking"
  • Disappointing parents and coaches
  • Not making the team or losing a spot on the team
  • Mis-hitting certain shots (missing short putts or hitting poor chips)
What is fear?

Fear is a normal part of the human experience and it's not wrong to feel it. Simply put, it's the mind's projection of a future negative (or painful) event that impacts how you think and feel in the present.

Think of any scenario that would make you feel uncomfortable (a popular one for most is giving a speech in front of a large group) and immediately a movie will play out in your head and change the way you feel inside. We experience the stress or fear response to various degrees - butterflies, sweating, increased heart rate and possibly shaking hands.

Why does fear exist?

The purpose of fear is to help us survive and avoid pain. In the past, fear kept us away from large predators. In the present day, it's purpose is more so to keep us away from the threat of emotional pain, rather than physical. What we fear can vary from person to person, but it's our subconscious telling us that we should prepare ourselves for danger or try to avoid it all together.

Whatever triggers fear for you or causes choking in golf, to overcome it you will need to change your relationship with it and learn strategies that will help you control it, operate in its presence, and deal with the thoughts and feelings that can arise from it.

Strategies to reduce the fear of failure and avoid choking in golf.
  1. Accept That It Will Be Present If You Are To Grow

    "Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear." - Nelson Mandela

    Do you think that a professional golfer is "fearless" when they play the 18th hole of a major with the lead? That rush we get from fear is one of the reasons we play the game. The skill is to control it and not let it control you.

    The first step to controlling fear is accepting that it will be present and that you will feel uncomfortable many times on your journey. That discomfort is nothing to be afraid of - if you can push through it, you get to the gold on the other side - growth and fulfillment. The easy, more comfortable path won't lead to it.

  2. Change Your Perspective on Failure

    "Golf is insane. One day it's great, the next it's awful. What a sport I decided to play." - Justin Thomas

    Failure is possible in every round, accept it, don't fear it. Could failure be positive and nothing to be feared?

    To deal with "fear of failure", you need to develop a growth mindset.

    Growth mindset
    people have the belief that they can improve themselves and part of the process is taking on challenges that they might fail at. That belief alone helps them learn and grow more than someone with an ego or fixed mindset.

    For a player with a growth mindset, failure is seen as learning so there is less disappointment and less of a negative emotion attached to it. If you don't succeed, you learn something that is going to make you a better player in the long-term. For every player (including the best players in the world, like Justin Thomas), there are more failures in this game than there are successes. Having the perspective that failure is learning, and nothing is "wrong", is important in bouncing back and not creating scar tissue.

    When you can see and interpret failure as an opportunity for growth, you'll be more in control of fear and be able to give more of your mental energy to your intentions, and your best swing/stroke will appear more often.

  3. Change How You Respond To Failure and Choking In Golf

    To control the fear of failure going forward, you need to look at how your failure has been handled in the past. You might have had a bad experience and now have a deep memory of what that feels like. It's stored at a subconscious level.

    Fear of failure is less about avoiding an event, but avoiding the feeling that the event created. This is why our interpretation of events as they happen is so important. If past failures triggered a bad mood and negative self-talk, then the wounds from that event will be deeper and take longer to heal, making those same events trigger a stronger feeling of fear going forward.

    Some golfers take failure in golf personally, as if it says something about them as a person which makes it even worse. Remind yourself that you are great no matter what score you shoot. The times we feel the disappointment of a poor performance are the times we need to be self-compassionate, not self-critical.

    A key factor in reducing fear and choking in golf is dealing better with failure as it happens, which is accepting it, learning from it, and moving on from it quickly. Don't allow those experiences to have much influence over your future success.

  4. Expand Your Comfort Zone

    "That was by far the most uncomfortable I've ever felt on a golf course" - Shane Lowry after winning The Open Championship

    Learning how to control fear is progressive. If the size of fear is proportional to the size of what we perceive we could lose, then it makes sense to gradually increase the amount we have at stake and learn how to successfully manage the thoughts, feelings and discomfort that come at each level.

    If you have a fear of public speaking that you want to overcome, you wouldn't want to do it by speaking in front of a thousand people. Instead, you would gradually "expand your comfort zone" by speaking in front of smaller groups and work your way up to larger ones. At each level, you can learn how to deal with the mental and physical changes that occur when fear is present.

    It's the same thing in golf - you can't learn how to overcome that feeling of discomfort of leading a Major Championship when you've never even played in a PGA Tour event. Jack Nicklaus said that it took him a lot of second place finishes to learn how to win.

    Another way to think about it at more of a local level is that to get comfortable playing in tournaments, you need to play in a lot of tournaments.

    A lot of decent players choke at their club championship because it's the only tournament that they play all year. Play more tournaments and there will be a discernible difference in your nervousness. Play more - fear less.

    By expanding your comfort zone, you can actually influence what you perceive as "uncomfortable" changes. The amygdala, which is the part of the brain that controls the fear response in humans, can actually reduce in size, so what might have triggered fear in the past no longer does.

    In the documentary "Free Solo" about the free solo rock climber Alex Honnold, we learn that after risking his life daily, his ability to feel fear had diminished to almost zero. Neuroscientists were shocked to learn from an MRI scan of his brain that his amygdala had shrunk to the smallest they had seen.

    Obviously this is an extreme case, and you are not risking your life playing golf. However, by putting yourself in situations (risk) that make you feel uncomfortable, your fear response will reduce to more manageable and performance enhancing levels.

    In golf, this can be accomplished to a degree with challenging range practice sessions - or by making small wagers with your playing partners when you have a challenging shot.

  5. What Are Your Sources of Fear?

    "Know Thyself" - Socrates

    Working on your inner game requires being able to take an honest inventory of yourself, knowing your strengths and sources of confidence, and your weaknesses and sources of fear. Self-discovery and getting to know yourself better is key to knowing how to improve your mental game of golf.

Try it, you'll like it.

Email Comments: to

"Clear Intentions Simplify Execution"
Mike Bennett and Andy Plummer, The Stack and Tilt Swing

Love your practice, own your swing, own your health,


Golf Lessons

I am now conducting lessons at The Batavia Country Club

Lessons are available for all ages and skill levels, please contact
me - Tom Tucker - at (716) 474 3005 or email me at
for more information.

Outdoor Lessons Details and Rates:
Outdoor Lessons Details and Rates

Indoor Lessons Details and Rates:
Indoor Lessons Details and Rates


Sponsors and Affiliates

Buying a sponsored product through any of my affiliate links helps support this free newsletter, and I only affiliate with excellent products that I use myself.  Thanks, Tom

Batavia Country Club   (585) 343-7600
Great rates, the best greens in WNY.
Golf Digest Four Star rating for public courses to play in New York State.
Tee times online or by phone in season.
FISH FRYS AT BCC and other delicious dinner specials with soup and salad bar - Fridays, 4pm - 9pm

Train with a Rypstick to improve your swing speed and gain more distance off the tee. If the versatility of three different swing weights in one club appeals to you, this is your swing speed training aid of choice.

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Use your club or hand to re-set the board after your strike
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BONUS: when you buy through the newsletter link above, you'll also receive free access to my Putting Lesson Videos ($50 value) which cover: The Elevated Aimline Drill, The Squareness Awareness Drill, The Aimline Accuracy Drill, The Stock Putting Stroke Drill, The Barrier Drill, The Short Putt Channel Drill, and more.

Train with the Impact Snap training aid to improve your hand and wrist coordination for a powerful strike. A Golf Digest 2021 Editors Choice Training Aid

Click here to buy now and start using a great training aid that can be used indoors or outdoors.

Click here to buy this swing speed training aid and increase your distance off the tee. Buy now and get to work on increasing your swing speed now.

Club Champion Don't waste another dollar on clubs until you've gone through a fitting at Club Champion, 1669 Pittsford Victor Rd., Suite 400, Victor NY 14564. Call Master Fitter & Builder Jeff St. John. PGA work: (585) 978-8513, cell: (585) 831-2292 to schedule your fitting today1 Mention my name and you'll get special attention.

All the best,

Tom Tucker
Teaching Professional, Batavia Country Club
WGTF ' "Top 100 Golf Teacher"
USGTF Class "A" Teaching Professional
IGPA Certified Golf Psychology Coach
Cell: (716) 474-3005

"There are no substitutes in the quest for perfection1"
~ Ben Hogan