The Dreaded C Word – Choking in Golf

Golfers tremble before the word “choke” the way characters in the Harry Potter novels tremble before Lord Voldemort, or He Who Must Not Be Named. Harvey Penick, in his classic “Little Red Book,” typifies the wary, superstitious attitude many have about the word. He insists that his students “grip down” on a club rather than “choke down” on it. “You should never use the word ‘choke’ in connection with your golf game,” he warns.

Tour pros can be especially testy about the word. Johnny Miller, in the first tournament he announced for NBC in 1990, sized up the shot his friend Peter Jacobsen was facing on the final hole — 225 yards to the green, from a downhill lie, over water — and said, “This is absolutely the easiest shot to choke I’ve ever seen in my life.”