How to stop choking on the golf course

Stuffing up the last few holes seems to be a common problem. Just this week I received an email from Julie who managed to lose the last four holes in her match to finish square. This type of thing can be incredibly frustrating and unless you have a strategy, it can keep happening time and again.

In this lesson I’ll give you my ideas for combating choking. In fact, the golf lessons below will make you bullet-proof and enable you to finish off every golf game in style. Before I get going check out Julie’s email below:

Can you help me with a specific problem I have just developed? My last 9 rounds are in my “top ten” cards all within one or so of my handicap. This is not a good thing cos the more it has gone on, the more I have noticed how I tend to tighten up on the last couple of holes (trying to protect a good score). I was willing to try and work through this but today I played the first pennant match of the season. I was dormie 4 up and ended with a squared match. Good grief… Cam, I know the theory.. play automatically every hole..shut the door on the opposition.. play not to to protect a good position but go all out to see how low you can score etc….

Any thoughts on a method I can work on to overcome this reluctance to get out of the comfort zone and play freely?

Here’s my best thoughts on how to stop choking on the golf course:

Understand the difference between choking and panic

This one is important. Many get the two confused and if you don’t understand it you’ll repeatedly stuff up when the pressure is on. Here’s the Cameron version.

Choking is when you think too much and panicking is when you don’t think enough. This might sound confusing but it’s really simple. The process for learning and then implementing it is outlined in full here. (it’s premium content and requires full membership).

Next is a brief rundown.

Know when to think and when not to

Sometimes you need to think – water, wind, trouble, and what club to hit. The thinking is done before the act of hitting the ball. Automatic golf is not about NOT thinking all of the time. It’s about learning to know HOW to use your brain and subconscious mind together to give you the results you want.

When you’ve done all of the thinking this is the time to “turn off” and play golf. If you’d like more detail then check this out, otherwise get out there and play.

Relax

Stop your wheels spinning is a term I use to calm the mind. When the pressure is on it’s normal for your little brain motor to go into over drive. Boy is this hard work and tiring. Learn to relax, slow down and I promise you’ll play better and find extra energy and enthusiasm.

This little step goes against the norm. Society wants us to think, analyse and try and work out every detail. It’s normal but it’s not going to help you swing a long stick and hit a tiny ball sitting on the ground when your heart is racing and you’re having trouble breathing.

Give yourself a break. Take it easy and you’ll do just fine.

Deal with reality

Don’t make up stories. These are lies that you tell yourself to justify poor (or good) golf. Your mum told you that lies are a bad thing and they are. On the golf course these little lies keep you from the moment and hide exactly what is in front of you.

Want an example?

You miss a small putt on the 1st and second green. Walking to the third tee you’re telling yourself that you can’t putt and that you’re the worst putter in the world. This is a story. The truth (reality) is that you’ve missed two tricky putts and everyone misses these from time to time.

Did anyone see Phil Mickelson in the third round of the Masters?

Repeat

This might be the most important. I’m pretty sure that winners in all walks off life don’t let any situation change them. They keep doing the same thing over and over again. The less experienced let a big decision affect them. A nervous golfer will change their approach at the worst possible time.

Don’t!

Keep playing the same way. Trust that you’ve got to play the same way that put you in the pressure situation. Changing over the last few holes because you feel a little uncomfortable or nervous is going to destroy your round.

This is a Pesky thing. Keep him at bay and you’ll reap the rewards of all your hard work and earlier stellar play.

The adult mind likes to take control and feel a part of your success. It’ll start writing the victory speech and prepare you for how you’ll feel at the finish line. Unfortunately this needs to be ignored – despite this feeling comfortable and the right thing to do.

Stuffing up when you least want it comes from not understanding your system. In most cases you’ll destruct when you stop hitting the shots you know you can hit successfully. You overload your system with too much and forget about the best part of the game.

Playing

As always let me know your thoughts and feel free to share this post with anyone who you think would like it.

For a comprehensive approach to mastering your game and avoiding the nasty habit of choking, check out the premium content in The Golf Tribe

Comment using Facebook

29 Comments

  • Julie

    Reply Reply April 20, 2010

    Thanks Cam. I found myself in a slightly different position this week having to come from behind, 2 down with 3 to go. Won two holes knowing there was nothing to lose then was in “overdrive” for the last. My normal pre-shot routine went out the window and instead of being clear about where I wanted to hit the drive, “anywhere down the mddle” became good enough..to find the trees 😉 Still had a chance on the green but missed a tricky downhill put (thanks to the adrenalin rush that had me 30 feet past the hole). I have next weekend off to work on a new affirmation for those last few holes – “be decisive, committed and clear then relax and hit it”. Thanks for the great article, will let you know how I get on.

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply April 21, 2010

      @Julie: Please read the post again. The main concept is to keep doing the same thing over and over again. There is no need to change your routine (approach) because you are 3 up, 3 down or square. You keep playing the same way no matter what the situation.

      Why?

      Because situations will keep changing and you have no control over them. Inexperienced golfers change their mindset each time a different situation presents itself. This is tiring and ultimately ineffective.

      Master golfers keep trucking and don’t change their approach. If you’ve ever wondered how a golfer can play amazing golf under incredible pressure this is it. It isn’t rocket science – it requires a special kind of conviction to stick to your routine.

  • Tony Lucas

    Reply Reply April 20, 2010

    Cam
    This is a good post and I was just wondering whether or not you would apply this concept with actually tiring toward the end of the round (about 14 on).I will quickly add though this is not a story but actual fact and I tend to tire toward the end of the round.Played in the first round of our foursomes championships Saturday and found I was not tight and tense like previous years (trying too hard) and that auto golf really helped and I was quite relaxed.We are sitting just two off the pace and stand a bit of a show if we can repeat with a similar effort.Nice to see Cam you have settled back into your golf nice and easy.Will ring you in the next week with a proposition and see what you think.
    Cheers Lukey

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply April 21, 2010

      @Tony: Yes. Sure thing Tony. This might seem too simplistic but it is the only way I know that can help you navigate your way through to the finish line. Golf will throw a lot of mud at you – bad shots, nerves, playing partners, pressure shots. Unless you have a strategy for dealing with them you’ll be in a lot of trouble. Your routine is your rudder and windshield at the same time – it guides and protects simultaneously.

      If you’re getting tired after 14 holes then this is a wake up call. Either you’re completely out of shape and need to do some extra fitness or you’re wearing out your system by continual worry and panic. Give me a call to discuss.

  • Grayden Provis

    Reply Reply April 20, 2010

    When you find yourself in the “choking zone”, thats the time you will reap the benefit of having disciplined yourself to follow the Cam-routine over and over again during “normal” golf. The routine WILL carry you through and you WON’T choke. I proved this to myself only recently. You CAN’T choke if you’re following the routine. Its impossible because you’re on automatic and choking can only happen when you abandon automatic and revert to “manual”. If you’ve been lazy on the routine during the good times however, it WILL fail you when you most need it. Moral of the story: do the routine on EVERY shot in EVERY round. You’ll be glad of it when it REALLY matters. Thanks Cameron. Good lesson.

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply April 21, 2010

      @Grayden: This is an excellent point. When you’re automatic you don’t choke – it’s impossible. Your subconscious only knows one way to play (the good way) and that is what will be presented.

      And you touched on another good point. I believe that many golfers are lazy. They fumble around with automatic golf early on – giving it a go but still reverting back to conscious control. But, right when they need it they have not got a strong enough ownership of AG and they experience choking and failure. So yes, if you want to start playing better golf you need to start now – on every shot you play.

  • Tony Lucas

    Reply Reply April 21, 2010

    Cameron
    You are right the fitness is not what it used to be and it just a matter of staying auto to the end regardless.I probably have to take care I am not letting playing partners affect what I am doing as well.I agree with both yourself and Grayden if you stay auto through out it will conquer tiring or whatever.
    Cheers Lukey

  • David Pryde

    Reply Reply April 22, 2010

    Tony,
    Re tiredness.
    Check that you are not diabetic. If ok eat low GI foods before play and take higher GI food(glucose) to eat when the tiredness kicks in.
    The pros eat throughout their rounds if you watch closely – esp. Tiger.
    Auto under pressure worked again last week.
    3 ball Ambrose – 2 partners dead off the tee – went ‘double’ auto – swing felt crap at the top but result was
    excellent. Say no more just do it!
    Thanks again Cam.
    DP

  • Tony Lucas

    Reply Reply April 22, 2010

    David
    Thanks for your kind thoughts and I will take them on board.I think the major part is I need to pick up my fitness that has been a bit slack of late.
    Cheers Lukey

  • Grayden Provis

    Reply Reply April 23, 2010

    DP said: “Say no more, just do it”
    That is possibly the most profound thing thats been said on this forum.

  • Tim

    Reply Reply April 24, 2010

    Hi Cam and Fellow Tribers,
    I wanted to share a recent experience with you and get some of your thoughts about where I may be going wrong. Firstly I do have a tendency to get far to techincal especially on the course but it is something that I work hard to imrove everyday.

    I recently played at a golf course for the first time (Squire Creek and it was superb). I focused very strongly on my routine thoughout the round. I was making sure that I was counting all the way through the shot, ensured I was settled before hitting, and had a “good” walk to the ball. Was 1 under through nine holes on quite a tough course and was playing very solid…….THEN made 2 “soft” bogeys on 10 and 11 and this started the landslide. Ended up with 7 bogeys in 9 holes…..Was looking at a really good score and finished with a [email protected] one…..LEFT wondering why i keep blowing my good starts. Am i working too hard (conciously) when actually going through my routine (i felt a little worn out by the end of the day) ? My own summation…..I tried to hard, got a little lost in the past (anger at poor bogeys) and future (possible good score)….or are these just stories?

    The post’s and Cams advice have been perfect so far and any other suggestions would be much appreciated….

    Thanks

    Tim

  • Bernie

    Reply Reply April 24, 2010

    Hi Cam & all
    Tim, I would love to help you, however, my golf hopefully has currently peaked “at the crest of a slump”. Yes, I am thinking positively. Unfortunately I am “lost”. In the past during times like this, I have gone for a lesson or two. However, I am determined to stay “auto”. I realise I am trying TOO HARD. However, it is “hard for an old dog to learn new tricks” but I am determined.
    Tim, “hang in there”. Somewhere there is a “rainbow”. Cam is our “rainbow”.
    happy weekend all.
    Bernie

  • Grayden Provis

    Reply Reply April 24, 2010

    Hi Bernie
    Do you have anyone who could video you playing a few shots and put it on a USB for you? If you could do this and post it to Cameron to have a look I reckon this will help you a lot. You can ask Cameron to not put it on the blog if you don’t want others to see although I would hope you would so we can all learn something. I’m about to re-shoot some more footage of myself and let Cameron have another look because his comments on the first one was so helpful. We ALL really should be taking advantage of this opportunity.

  • Bernie

    Reply Reply April 24, 2010

    Grayden
    Many many thanks for your comments. Our younger son sent us a Flip Video recently. However, am currently heavily involved with Anzac Day events, health challenges etc. Am proposing to get my wife to video me ASAP. Am more than happy for Cam to put my video on the Blog. Again many many thanks for your kind thoughts. You are a “gem”.
    Bernie

  • grayden Provis

    Reply Reply April 25, 2010

    Bernie
    There’s something I only just started to realize recently: playing on auto over a period of time actually changes your swing. This might sound a little obvious but let me explain……

    When you first start playing the Cameron way the process he teaches allows your natural swing to come to the surface [ it had previously been covered up with layers of fear, muscle tension, conscious attempts to manipulate the club and so on] But I’m now realizing it doesn’t stop there. As you continue with the process EVEN YOUR NATURAL SWING STARTS TO CHANGE. If I look back now to when I started this journey I realize my swing has changed a lot.

    This is very exciting. I had assumed that automatic golf would just allow me to play to my natural ability. And it does. But it does much MORE than that. It actually starts to IMPROVE your natural ability.

    I’m realizing now that this is because Cam-golf is about more than just the routine itself (walk to the ball, counting etc), important as that is. Its a holistic approach he is subtly teaching us with every post he makes. Its about calmness and present-ness and trusting and relaxing and giving up worrying about what others thing of you and so on and so on. And its all these things (which you are learning even though you don’t realize it ) which eventually start showing up in the way you swing the club. My swing is now much looser, calmer, quieter than it was a year ago but this has kind of just crept up on me so that I haven’t really even noticed it happening.

    I guess what I’m saying is to stay the course even if you don’t think anything is happening. It is! But the key to how fast it will happen is how much your prepared to trust the system. Give up “trying too hard”. I was like that too. It just prevents automatic from weaving its magic. I was even trying too hard to “stop trying so hard”. Go figure! Warning: when you finally give up trying hard you need to accept that you might even go backwards for a bit until you go forward. I did – but I kept going because by that stage I was prepared to accept anything that came along I was that cheesed off with the “try hard” approach. Just remember that going backwards for a bit is just the body’s way of working out what its doing. Don’t worry about it. Your natural learning system figures it out and starts moving forward again after a while. Thats why DP’s comment earlier – “Say no more, just do it” – really is THE summary of all this.

    Golf is such a great game. It tests if you have the COURAGE to trust. Sounds to me like you have Bernie. Good on you mate.

  • Tony Lucas

    Reply Reply April 25, 2010

    Tim
    I am a convert of Cams auto approach and whilst I like yourself was very technical in my approach to golf I have found that if like Grayden you try to get lost in the auto approach things do improve.I have been at auto now for a good twelve months if not more and have found along the way that it has been very hard for me to ditch the technical but now I am nearly there and my golf is improving steadily.Suffice to say mate you need to ditch the technical crap and focus on going auto expecting to hit the occasional shit shot, not worry about what others think ,stay in the present ,and believe me it WILL WORK .I hope to be able to send Cam a video to assess my game and will encourage him to place it on the blog for all to see.
    Cheers Lukey
    PS Grayden great post and very inspiring keep it going.
    Lukey

  • Gregor McCulloch

    Reply Reply April 25, 2010

    Recently I have noticed that I try too hard over the last part of a round, but because I have become aware of it I have been starting to cope with it a bit better than I was. Sticking to auto is essential for me now and in yesterdays round I also learned that sometimes you just have to completely let go to get what you want. I actually picked my ball up on purpose in a medal round on the 4th green because I had a really bad start to my round and decided I wasn’t enjoying my game. The round just got better and better once I had relieved myself of pressure I wasn’t really aware of and my playing partners asked me how I had changed my play so quickly. At the end of the round I did still feel the nerves of the last few holes as I had put together a low last 9 holes, even finishing with a birdie. Relax, let go, enjoy – and don’t change what you’re doing

  • Tim Hardman

    Reply Reply April 26, 2010

    Tribers,

    I have no doubt that Cameron’s Method for learning and improving are the best ways to go about it but I suppose I find it easy to get into old habits as well as being influenced by those around me. It is difficult to take such a “layed back approach” when one has been taught to work really hard and when those around you are all working technically. I still need to learn more about the auto way from Cam so that I can feel like im working hard still, but making sure it is on the correct things. FEAR of failure is definately holding me back. Cam or others…….any suggestions of how to overcome this?

    Tim

  • Grayden Provis

    Reply Reply April 26, 2010

    Tim

    There IS no “failure”, only learning.

    “Failure is only the opportunity to more intelligently begin again”
    [Henry Ford]

    GP

  • tim

    Reply Reply April 27, 2010

    Thanks Kindly Grayden,

    That is a very good way of looking at the opportunities presented when we do not achieve our goals. I am confident that through “Cams Way” I will be able to enjoy more success than “learning” in the years to come.

    Cheers

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply April 27, 2010

      Timbo,

      I put some thoughts down on the latest post. Check it out here. More to come.

      CS

  • Julie

    Reply Reply April 27, 2010

    Thanks for the great advice guys. Just a question on “keep on truckin”. When I hit a few bad drives I get tempted to revert to the 3 wood (which I hit 160 to 180) for awhile even though most holes call for a driver (which I hit about either really badly, 180 on an average good hit and 200 about 1 in 10). My mates always say to persevere with the driver. Is there are point where you accept you haven’t bought your best game out that day and consider the law of averages or does the keep on truckin method equate to persevere?

    Cheers
    Julie

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply April 28, 2010

      @Julie: This is a brilliant question. It probably needs more discussion and I’d be interested in hearing what others think. But here’s my take:

      You should hit the longest club you fill confident with. I’ve also noticed with my game I play as well – if not better – when I take a conservative approach from the tee. I think it’s because I swing with more enthusiasm and confidence. A slightly longer shot into the green doesn’t make the game too much harder. A poor drive into trees, water or worse makes the game impossible.

  • Julie

    Reply Reply May 2, 2010

    Thanks Cam.

    I learnt a couple of things today. Playing golf my way means a 3 wood off the tee is always a great option. I also learnt when I soften my mind, my 3 wood actually goes 200m and my putts go where I’m aiming.

    Why battle a driver when golf is way more fun cracking a 3 wood past my opponent’s ball!

    Thanks again – something really started to gel out there today 🙂

    Cheers
    Julie

  • Cameron

    Reply Reply May 4, 2010

    @Julie: Congratulations. This is remarkable golf. If I told you that it is possible to hit your 3 wood as far as your driver you probably wouldn’t have believed me. But it is possible and you’ve experienced it first hand. This is more important than reading it in a book or thinking about it. Well done.

    BTW: You can learn to hit the driver the same way – it requires the same mindset as the 3 wood.

  • Matthew

    Reply Reply August 7, 2012

    In my last three tournament rounds I haven’t Played well but have been trying to put together a decent round. The first two I was 5 and 7 over with four holes (handicap wise weren’t ranked as hard) and both rounds played them four over. Then my third I was two over after nine and finished at 84. What advice do you have for holding together a bad round and finish with a respectable score? I play varsity for my high school, practice everyday and skill is not the problem

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply August 7, 2012

      Hi Matthew: Thanks for posting. I’m convinced you need to play more instinctively and automatically. When the heat is on, and it doesn’t matter if you’re playing like a champ or having a shocker, you need to rely on your subconscious to get you home.

      Tiger and Nicklaus are masters of this. They keep trucking and do the same thing over and over. Where everyone else loses the plot, gets nervous and changes their style, real winners play their game and repeat. They do the same thing.

      In my opinion this is the hardest thing for good golfers to learn. There is a tonne of noise out there. The distractions will have you changing your swing, thinking too much and trying new clubs. This is getting away from the real issue.

      If you play everyday then you have the potential for great scores – it’s no guarantee. You need to learn to master your game and the automatic process. When you do that you’ll become the best player you can be. Some things for you to consider,

      1. Read all my golf blogs.
      2. Get my book. This will give you better insight and show you a quicker path to success.
      3. Contact me for some private coaching. I’m working with a mate of mine at College in the US and he’s getting some great results. This takes more commitment both financially and time wise but may work well for you.

      Thanks again for writing.

      Cameron

  • Matt

    Reply Reply August 1, 2013

    Cam
    I just finished the first round at TPC in a tournament, and I shot 34 (1 under) on the front. I thought I was going to play even better on the back but instead I shot 48 on the back with a 3 putt triple on the last hole. Tomorrow is the second and last day of the tournament. Is there any way you can help me out? I read the lesson and it’s pretty much what I do. I can’t stop messing up after a good nine.

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply August 1, 2013

      Matt: This is common and all I can suggest to you is check out my Simple Learning System. It contains real information on why this happens and what you can do about it. There’s no quick fix here, but it may offer enough to get you on track and keep you away from those “blow up” rounds.

Leave A Response

* Denotes Required Field