A qualitative exploration of choking in elite golf

Denise Hill, Sheldon Hanton , Nic Matthews , Scott Fleming

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This study explores the antecedents, mechanisms, influencing variables, and consequences of choking in sport and identifies interventions that may alleviate choking. Through the use of qualitative methods, the experiences of six elite golfers who choked frequently under pressure were examined and compared with five elite golfers who excelled frequently under pressure. The perspectives of four coaches who had worked extensively with elite golfers who had choked and excelled, were also considered. The study indicated that the participants choked as a result of distraction, which was caused by various stressors. Self-confidence, preparation, and perfectionism were identified as key influencing variables of the participants’ choking episodes, and the consequence of choking was a significant drop in performance that affected negatively future performances. Process goals, cognitive restructuring, imagery, simulated training, and a pre/postshot routine were perceived as interventions that may possibly prevent choking.
Original languageEnglish
Article number4
Pages (from-to)221-240
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Clinical Sport Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2010


  • pressure
  • stress
  • paradoxical performance
  • distraction
  • self-focus


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