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Experts in Sport – ‘Choking’ and performance under pressure in golf

Golf continues to dominate the news headlines following Europe’s thrilling Solheim Cup victory, and the Ryder Cup also turning heads in Rome. In a sport widely recognised for the pressures it presents, how can individuals adapt to play their best game?

This is just one issue discussed in the latest episode of the Experts in Sport podcast as host Martin Foster talks to Professor Karl Steptoe and Professor Denise Hill about the psychology behind the sport.

Karl is a psychologist with experience coaching in golf, studying a PHD around golf. He is now working as an applied practitioner, working with players on European and PGA Tours.

Denise has previously played golf at an international level, studying for a degree at Loughborough University with aspirations of becoming a physiotherapist. She now works across sports researching sports psychology, working with golfers.

Topics include managing efficient developmental pathways, being labelled by media as a ‘choke’ and the impact of these experiences on golfers throughout their careers. The issues with lab-based research are discussed alongside the effects of self-focus (monitoring own technique while swinging.)

The standardisation of monitoring ‘choking’ among research participants is questioned, along with some players being deemed as ‘susceptible’ to these blunders.

In discussion, Denise claims “choking doesn’t happen to everybody, all of the time. In terms of susceptibility, there does appear to be choking-susceptible profiles out there, but the work that’s gone into that has come up with nothing in terms of what the profile might look like.”

Professor Steptoe, Professor Hill, and Professor Jamie Barker have collaborated to publish a book titled: 'The Psychology of Golf Performance under Pressure'. More information can be found by visiting:

Listeners of the podcast can subscribe and download the latest episode by visiting iTunes, Spotify, and TuneIn. All subscribers will receive an alert once new episodes are published.

The Experts in Sport podcast is a regular series that brings together experts from across Loughborough University with external thought leaders to discuss the latest research and hot topics in sport and academia with new episodes launched regularly.

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 23/145

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2023 QS World University Rankings – the seventh year running – and University of the Year for Sport by The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2022.

Loughborough is ranked 7th in The UK Complete University Guide 2023, 10th in the Guardian University League Table 2024 and 10th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’, and in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 over 90% of its research was rated as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally-excellent’. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.