Does Choking Down on the Club Affect Ball Flight?
I’m always interested to see what minor adjustments in the setup can be made to alter ball flight. Many times, these small changes can be made without altering technique in order to solve problems on the course like dealing with wind.
One experiment I’ve been interested in conducting is how much gripping down on the golf club can change distance and trajectory. So I decided to test it out on several clubs throughout my bag on my launch monitor.
As always, my goal in articles like these is not to provide definitive evidence for all golfers. I can’t possibly account for all of the variables in your golf swings. However, I would like to spur on your interest in doing some testing on your own. The more information we have, the better decisions we can make on the golf course. More importantly, having confidence in those decisions gives you a better chance of executing.
Based on the success I had going with a shorter driver, I was interested to see what kind of results I would get if I choked down a bit on my irons.
Sometimes you’ll see professional golfers gripping down on their clubs on TV. A few do it more than others, like Tommy Fleetwood and Brooke Henderson.
Using my launch monitor to evaluate my ball flight I was looking for the following:
- Overall distance – am I hitting the ball any shorter?
- Trajectory – is the ball flying lower or higher?
- Dispersion – do I have more distance control and/or a tighter dispersion?
- Spin rate – does my spin rate change that much, which could affect ball flight in windy conditions?
I hit a series of shots with my Sand Wedge, 7-iron, and 4-iron to get an idea of how much changes I can expect throughout the bag. I alternated between my regular grip and gripping down 1 ½”. I’ll summarize my key findings on each club.
All testing was done indoors using my SkyTrak launch monitor. You can check out my full review here, but this is a great product that will deliver accurate ball flight metrics for a test like this.
I’m looking at several pieces of information such as ball flight shape, data on my ball flight, and dispersion visualizations, which you can see in the images below:
Hitting full shots with my sand wedge surprisingly did not alter my ball flight all too much. Here were some of my key findings:
- I only lost 2 yards of carry distance (106 yards vs 104).
- My dispersion was almost exactly the same, but choking down seemed to center my shots over the target a little better. I had a tendency to pull my sand wedge a little left of the target with my normal grip.
- My ball flight was slightly lower (by only 3 feet) and I spun the ball a little more choking it down.
Overall, I felt the results were not drastically different. On the course, I can expect to lose a few yards of distance by choking down with the sand wedge and hit the ball slightly lower. I did seem to have a little more control over keeping my ball evenly dispersed around my target though, which is good information to have.
With my 7-iron I started to notice more interesting results:
- My dispersion was tighter in both directions. I had better distance control (8 yards between shortest/longest shot vs 13 yards). Looking at my dispersion left to right, I also had a tighter dispersion of about 10 yards.
- My average distance was only 2 yards shorter, but as I mentioned there was far less disparity. Overall, I can hit it much farther without choking down, but it was clear my strikes were more consistent gripping down.
- Choking down lowered my ball flight by about six feet, but had almost identical spin rates.
While gripping down limited my distance a little bit, I felt that it produced a more consistent, slightly lower ball flight.
With the longest iron in my bag I started to notice even more significant changes:
- I lost significant yardage, about 12 yards on most shots.
- My ball flight was 12 feet lower with less spin.
- My dispersion was slightly tighter it both directions while choking down.
Gripping down with my 4-iron reduced the amount of height I could get on the ball, which is why I lost so much distance. Because I’m launching so low with lower spin, the ball did not have a chance to rise up as much.
Just for fun, I did try to grip down on my driver. My shaft is already shortened down to 44”, which is about 1 ½” to 2” shorter than standard. It’s been one of the greatest changes I’ve made with my clubs. It has given me more accuracy off the tee without sacrificing too much distance.
However, when I gripped down on my current driver, which effectively made the shaft 42.5” – I did not see great results. I lost almost 20 yards of distance and actually saw decreased accuracy. I felt the weighting of the club changed too much, which is why I often suggest to golfers that if they are interested in shortening their driver shaft, they should work with someone who knows what they are doing.
Either way, it reinforced that my current driver setup is providing great results and there wasn’t any need to make adjustments.
How I Will Use This Information
After I had performed this test I had a bit more confidence over what I can expect when choking down on my irons. It’s not something I really ever did during rounds, but I tried it out several times on the course since then.
What I liked about my findings is that I knew I could take a little bit off each club when I needed to. For example, if I was between clubs on the course I felt more confident about choking down with the longer club and making a normal swing. In the past, trying to swing a little slower did not always yield the best results.
Additionally, I felt this was a more prudent strategy in the wind. As you know, I’m not a fan of trying to play too many different shots (especially a punch shot). I play a lot in gusty conditions, and there were a few instances when I was playing into the wind that choking down paid off.
For example, I was hitting into a very strong 2-3 club wind into a par 3. It was 170 yards, but I figured that choking down on my 4-iron would help keep the ball down and reduce spin. I almost made a hole in one, so the strategy worked (of course I don’t expect those kinds of results normally).
For me I think I’ll use this strategy more in situations where I am between clubs, or if I feel I need to keep the ball lower hitting into the wind (or under a tree).
What Can You Learn From This
I want to reiterate that not all of you will see the same results as me. However, doing tests like these helps remove question marks in your golf game. If I can get reliable data on how making these small changes will affect my ball flight, I’ll have more confidence on the course.
So if it’s possible, it might be worth experimenting to see what kind of changes you will see in your ball flight by gripping down on the club. It could be a worthy alternative to trying to make different swings to reduce distance or keep the ball lower hitting into the wind.
If you are interested to read some other tests I have done, you can check out the following articles:
You Don’t Have As Much Control Over the Golf Ball As You Think
How Often Should You Change Your Wedges?
How Does Golf Ball Position Affect Your Ball Flight?
How I Practice With My SkyTrak Launch Monitor
Modern vs. Classic Equipment Tested: What Has Changed?
Steve Ruis says
I have only been fitted for clubs one time but I do not remember any part of the fitting that focused on club length. The lengths of clubs in a set have been standardized and they seem to adjust everything else around that. The longstanding argument about driver length shows this. Clubs were made longer and longer by the manufacturers to support claims of increases ball speed and distance, yet most amateurs can’t handle the longer clubs as well as shorter ones. Similarly, the lofts of irons were changed substantial in the 1990’s to add distance (while making them harder to hit), again to support marketing claims.
So, how does one find the right shaft lengths? Hit clubs with various degrees of choking down until the affects become acceptable and then back off slightly is the only thing that comes to mind.
Steve – I believe the best way to find the correct shaft length is to work with an experienced clubfitter.
Mark Lindon Fajardo says
Very well thanks for idea. This also help me to improve my skill in golf. bit.ly/2Kc7yP5
Curious how you set up your SkyTrak for driver and 3w testing. I seem to get different reads from the shots I hit with longer clubs. Thanks!
I haven’t seemed to have an issue reading the driver or three wood as long as I’m near the laser. Some people with faster ball speeds noted that placing the ball a little behind the laser marking helps give the camera a little extra time to see the ball.