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From PGA Professional Marc Solomon

Choke On the Golf Course

How many times have you been on the verge of playing your best round ever only to “Choke” on the last couple of holes? What happened? Why’d you do it?

This is kind of a loaded question because we’ve all done it. Everybody “Chokes”. Now the funny thing is that I’ll most likely get an email from someone saying “No Marc, I’ve never choked before. I’ve seen people do it, but I’ve never choked.” And if you’ve never “Choked” on the last couple of holes, you’ve never lived! “Choking” on the last couple of holes could be one of the best things you can do for your golf game.

“Huh, what the heck are you talking about – Marc, have you finally lost your marbles?”

Not at all. It just seems to me that when I see someone playing a great round of golf and “Choke” on the last couple of holes, it’s because they start to think about their score or they start to think about how well they’re playing. The golfers that do finish strong are the ones that keep playing with-out any thoughts. It’s like when a Pitcher in Baseball is throwing a no-hitter. If that Pitcher is throwing a no-hitter after the 5th inning and his team is up to bat and the Pitcher is sitting in the dugout – he’s usually sitting alone. And this usually isn’t because he wants to – the other Players are scared to speak with him and “jinx” him or say something that will take him out of his “zone”.

Yet Golfers are always getting in their own way and taking themselves out of the “zone” by thinking too much. So what are you thinking about when you “Choke” on those last couple of holes. Are you thinking about your score and starting the “Now if I can Par 16, 17 and 18, I’ll have my best score ever” talk to yourself. Or could it be that even though you might not be adding up your score, you might be starting to think about it too much. Or instead of making a PLAN for the shot you’re about to hit to the 15th green, you start to think about the tough tee shot on 16 and end up pushing your ball right into the water and having to take a penalty.

But, see, there’s nothing wrong with this happening, it happens to everybody – the key is to learn from your mistakes and not let it happen frequently. Learn to understand what happened so that you can avoid making the same errors in judgement the next time you’re in that situation.

Here’s a great example – 2-weeks ago, we had a Gentleman who was with us for a 5-day Program go on the golf course on the 5th day and get on a “good streak” or I should say – “He was on a very good streak”. He was even par after 4-holes. Now think about this – he’s not a single digit handicap (yet). He’s a golfer that wants to get better and will get better – and he’s not used to being in that position. But, how many people do you know that get in that position and then screw-it-all-up? So then he bogeys the next hole to go 1-over par after 5-holes – which isn’t bad when you’re goal is to become a consistent 80’s shooter. What was most impressive was that bogey didn’t affect him – he kept going on that “good streak” and made Par the next 2-holes. So now he was only 1-over Par after 7-holes – this now constitutes being in the middle of a “wonderful round of golf!”

Who would like to be 1-over Par after 7-holes?

This is not a bad place to be. First we have to understand how he got here. #1 – he was hitting the golf ball really good. He hit his first 3-greens in regulation. #2 – he had his wedge working as he got “up-n-down” for Par on the 4th hole, 6th hole and 7th hole. #3 – he was putting pretty good because when he needed to make a putt, he did. And #4 – he had a PLAN and stuck with it!

All 4 of those reasons are equally important – but the 4th reason was the “glue” that held it all together on those 7-holes because how many times have you ever been playing well and then all of a sudden you make a bogey and then another bogey and then a double bogey and then …. you’re back to shooting the same score you usually shoot? This gentleman made bogey and he reacted the same way as after he had made his first 4 pars. Almost like he didn’t even realize he made bogey. And he backed this up by making Par on the next 2-holes. This is precisely how you get to the next level. Yes, you have to be able to hit the golf ball better to score better, yes your short game needs to get better to score better, yes you need to putt better to score better – but if you don’t have a PLAN for the golf course – I don’t care how much better you hit the ball or how much better your short game is or your putting is – you won’t score any better.

How do I know this?

We see it every week! Every week we get people hitting the golf ball better on day 1 of our Program and then when we go onto the golf course, the scores don’t get better the first day. Why? Because the Golfers don’t have a PLAN yet. On the golf course that first day, they’re working on finding out what their PLAN should be, but they don’t have one yet. Then on Day 2 their PLAN gets a little better and on Day 3 it gets even a little better than the previous day and then when they get home to play on their home courses and have a chance to play with their PLAN some more – their SCORES IMPROVE!

Another reason I know that just hitting the golf ball better doesn’t automatically improve your scores is because of a game I was taught a few years back that proved this to me. The game is called the 250-Yard Down The Middle Game. And how you play this game is that you don’t need to hit a tee shot. Instead of hitting your tee shot, you get to drop a golf ball 250-yards down the middle of the fairway on each Par 4 and Par 5. Then from there you play normal. So your shot from the middle of the fairway would be your second shot. Now the interesting thing about this game is that not one person I’ve played this game with has ever scored their best score while playing it. Think about this – I’m giving you the perfect Drive on each Par 4 and Par 5 and yet not one person has ever had their best score playing this game.


Because what is equivalent to you hitting the golf ball better than you ever have off the tee doesn’t help your scoring as much as you think it would because if you’re used to scoring certain scores, you’ll always score those same scores if you don’t have a PLAN on the golf course to finish the hole. Golfers that do not have a PLAN – find ways to mess themselves up. It can be that 3-foot putt that you should’ve made or that skulled short game shot that you hadn’t done in 2-years, but all of sudden happens out of nowhere. Golfer make errors and excuses when they don’t have a PLAN.

Why was this mid-80’s Golfer able to overcome making a bogey on the 5th hole and then make Par on the next 2-holes to be only 1-over after 7? Because he had a PLAN. He wasn’t focused on his score. He wasn’t focused on how he was playing. He was focused on his PLAN! How do I know this? Because his Instructor asked him before every shot – “What are you going to do here?” And he would answer by describing to his Instructor what his PLAN was for his next shot. Then his Instructor would ask him after his Rehearsal Swing (or as the Monkeys say – his Practice Swing) “How’d that swing feel?” And if he answered “Good or Excellent”, he hit his shot. If he answered “OK or Not Good”, he took another Rehearsal Swing until he felt the swing he needed for the shot he was about to play. And he played the best golf he has ever played!

So how did his round end – he took a peak at the scorecard as he rode from the 16th green to 17th tee and finished double bogey on 17 and bogey on 18 to shoot 40. Not a bad score for a 90’s golfer that wants to start scoring in the 80’s. And although we were rooting for him to finish strong – We’re kind of happy that he did “Choke” because next time – when it really counts – he knows how to handle the pressure and he knows that he needs to focus on his PLAN for 9-holes instead of only 7-holes.

How long does your focus last on the golf course?


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