Choke vs. Chuck

In life, there are no absolute guarantees. There are, however, controllable steps to better set ourselves up for success. The mental game of golf is no different. In this month’s guest article, I outline two golf partners, Choke and Chuck, to remind us of all the controllable steps we can take on the course to be better set up for success.

Hey Chuck, old buddy, tee time is set for 10:15 AM Sunday.

I’ll meet ya there okay?

Chuck arrives to the course plenty early. He is well rested, well hydrated, and focused. Last night, Chuck visualized his mental highlight reel from this course, envisioning all the gutsy chip shots and dialed in putts he has sunk over the spring season. His shoulders and head are held high, body language screaming confidence.

Choke shuffles onto the course hung over and frazzled with thoughts of next week’s work trip blinding his focus. He shudders at the memory of yesterday’s awful drive from this same tee box, forgetting how one drive is merely a snapshot of an entire athletic career. Unable to take a moment to regroup, Choke forgets to execute his pre-shot routine and rushes over to address his ball.

Hey Chuck, what score do you have this morning?

I’m trying to do the math on what I have to shoot this last stretch here.

Chuck confidently glances down at his notes, which track his process goals for today’s round. To battle the inclination to feel overwhelmed with a long round, he creates a checklist of goals, which lead to success. Chuck’s confidence and self-satisfaction build as he assesses his more manageable targets, such as fairway percentage, number of two putts, and amount of well-executed pre-shot routines. Rather than getting hung up on future what-ifs, these process goals keep Chuck focused on the present moment.

Choke begins counting on his fingers, doing the what-if math, playing out the next few holes. His mind wonders. He focuses on outcome, rather than the process, which causes him to be oblivious to his clenched fists and rushed rhythm. After a few moments, Choke is completely flustered and now in total doubt.

Needless to say, Choke has no shot of competing with Chuck today.

Keep in mind, nothing above describes the physical strength of either player. The physical component does not matter in this example. Again, we all know who was successful.

Likely our biggest takeaway should be to control the controllable. People who consistently execute the controllable steps, like Chuck did, make it to the next level. And maybe more importantly, enjoy the journey more.

Choke vs. Chuck. Who do you want to be?

About the author:

Elliott Waksman, MA, CC-AASP
Sport Performance Consultant
Director of Portland Sport Psychology

Elliott Waksman earned his MA in Sport Psychology and maintains a private practice in Portland, Oregon, working with athletes and teams on the mental game of sport. He is the author of Waksman’s Sport Psychology Program. Check out his monthly mental toughness newsletter HERE or to schedule an individual session via Skype email him directly at

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