Ivan Morris: Choking happens because we want to win too badly

Ivan Morris

Reporter:

Ivan Morris

Ivan Morris: Choking happens because we want to win too badly

YOU’LL have to put up with the 'discomfort' of reading some 'golf pornography' today. If you are squeamish about any of the golfing terms in the headline above - you'd better turn the page.

Choking is not a pleasant experience but it is positive in so far as you have to be playing well and in contention to put yourself in a choking situation in the first place. Choking only happens to those who have practiced long and hard enough to automate a skill.

Training yourself to this point of perfection involves a frame of mind that can put you right on the edge of choking. Thinking of how to do something when you are far beyond that level is the point where the choking switch is 'flicked.'

Why would you want to do it? Choking happens because we want to win or achieve a goal too badly. Golf is a slow game that attracts the 'control freak' in us. Golf gives us too much time to think.

If you find yourself wondering about how to do something you had long since perfected, you are putting yourself right in line for a good choke when, perhaps, you least expect it. It's best to keep on doing what you are doing - play golf the way you drive a motorcar - automatically.

Concentrating solely on where you going will ensure avoiding the potential hazards lying in wait. It takes three, full years to learn the basic techniques of how to play golf.

It takes another three years to entrench what you have learned but then it takes a further 3-years to forget everything and just go out and play the game because if you don't stop thinking of technique and concentrate on just playing you'll never be able to play passably well.

I was reminded of this truism recently when I was on the practice ground testing a handful of different wedges.

There I was without a care in the world playing every shot in the book - full ones, half-power ones, high soft butterflies, low skidders - you name it and all executed with a variety of different brands and lofts.

Then out of the blue, I began thinking about my technique. How much shaft lean was in my set up? Where exactly my hands were positioned in relation to my body? Were my hands doing this or that?

Was I turning my body towards the target sufficiently? That was when, out of the blue, I got a severe slap in the face.

An ugly shank suddenly infiltrated its way into my repertoire. In next to no time I was producing a whole string of them! I couldn't stop it. I walked away, put my clubs in the boot of my car and got out of there pronto.

I came back the following day with my mind cleared of all technical thoughts to concentrate solely on visualizing the shot and the target, there were no more shanks and I was back on track. Thinking too much is bad for my golf!

To be honest, I did allow myself two simple swing thoughts, which of course can be transferred to the 'big game' as well as the pitching game: 1)- Keep my chin up, don't drop my head or sag. 2)- Don't slide. Stay behind the ball.

The yips are golf’s worst unmentionables. I don't even know why I would write about such a horrible, scary condition. The yips are worse than shanks.

Shanks usually come and go but the yips tend to linger - once you've got 'em, you've got 'em as Henry Longhurst used to say. There is no cure.

Scientists have studied the condition, which fall into a class of misery called “Focal Dystonias.” Musicians suffer from the yips. Surgeons, too, penalty-takers in various field sports - the yips can occur in many areas of our lives because they are entirely 'mental.'

The yips cannot be cured by practice. You can hole endless putts on the practice green, pouring the ball into the hole from all angles with a smooth and oily stroke.

On the course, at any time when faced with a 2-footer for par the hands freeze, the mind races, anxiety erupts and it is all quite uncontrollable.

The once smooth practice stroke develops a discernible twitch or flinch. The better the golfer the more agonising and dramatic the yips become.

The better the player the harder it is for them to find a lasting cure. The yips are practically impossible to deal with it. Who can forget Ernie Els's 6-putt 'yip' on the first green at Augusta last year?

Bernhard Langer is one of the most famous yippers of all time. Langer has gone through, off and on, 'torments.'

The yips sent him scrambling for the long putter. (I don't understand how gets away with continuing to use it within the current rules but that's not my call.)

It’s not easy to think of a golfer who has irrevocably conquered the yips. Many golfers have quit because of the yips. If you want to read more about them — really, are you that desperate or mad? Don't come to me. I don't want to go there. I don't even want to think about the yips.

Words of the Wise

Winning at golf doesn't happen very often no matter who you are.