Is Feel Real?
“Feel isn’t real” is a favorite cliche of many golf instructors who love to use video and measurement devices. While the merits of that concept are debatable, what is inarguable is that every golfer has swing feels that are very real to them. In this lesson, I’ll discuss how to use those swing feels to improve your consistency and add variety to your shot making.
This Lesson Is For You If:
You’re seeking consistency in your golf swing
You want to hit a variety of shots
Connect Feels to Shots
There are countless things we can focus on or feel during the swing. The next time you’re at the range, pick one element, experiment with it, and see what effect that has on your shots.
An example from my own game is the feel of pulling the grip toward my stomach as the club gets near impact. Most days, if I don’t actively pull the club, my strikes tend to be on the heel, and my shots tend to draw. With a small focus on that pulling feeling, most of my shots will fly straight. If I pull as hard as I can, I tend to hit the ball extremely high with a cut.
Another swing feel I use is turning the knuckles of my left hand toward the ground through impact. Depending on the day, I may need a small focus on this to hit straight shot or I may need none at all. Putting an emphasis on this move leads to lower shots, draws, or pulls when it’s overdone.
Other feels you can experiment with include the “release” of your right hand, pushing off your right leg, and the rotation of your forearms in the back or down swing. If you have a feel that’s helped your swing, please share it in the comments section.
Feel Isn’t Permanent
In the section above, you’ll notice that I said “most days” and “depending on the day” when talking about how certain feels affect my swing. This is because no feel is permanent. Your body is always changing and your swing is always adapting, so a swing feel that was absolutely necessary a week ago may be ruinous today.
When I’m warming up before a round, one of the primary things that I’m doing is finding a feel that will work for that day. If I can leave the range confident that I have a driver swing feel that will put the ball in play, I’m a happy golfer. But I always keep in mind that, even within a round, things can change. As your body gets tired, you may need more or less focus on a given element. Stay aware of your feels and be flexible.
What you feel may or may not be “real” in terms of video or 3D motion capture, but it’s real to you. Don’t ignore your natural sense of how your body moves and what you need to do to hit quality golf shots.
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“Feel is not real.” Basically, the instructor who tells you this is saying that what you think you are doing is not what you are actually doing. Golfers are unaware of what is really happening in their swing.
I don’t think finding a feel that works in the short run is the solution. It is going down a rabbit hole of disappointment and failure to improve. As stated, the feel that works today may be ruinous a week from now. It is an endless cycle of finding a short term feel, using it until it fails, finding another short term feel, etc. etc.
The long-term solution: make feel real. Work on your awareness. Correlate cause and effect. Play “if/then” on the range. If I do X, then Y happens. Focus awareness. The idea is not to find a temporary, unreal feel, but to really feel what is actually happening. The goal is to make feel real.
Video fits into increasing awareness. Instead of watching a video to see what is wrong and what is right, watch the video for surprises. Notice what you are doing and how it differs from how it feels. Use the video to increase awareness; once you are aware of what is really going on, changes become much easier to implement. How can you change what you don’t accurately feel?
Fred Shoemaker (Extraordinary Golf) covers this in detail in his books. Highly recommended for all golfers. This website recently recommended them as well.
While I like what you say about using video to build awareness rather than hunt for “flaws,” I don’t see any more value in correlating feel to video than to ball flight.
Also, the idea that any feel is going to be long term is inaccurate. Our bodies change, our swings change, our sensations change. Golf is a game you rent, not one you can own.
Great post, Matt. My most prominent feels are 1) My grip and 2) The start of my downswing. I know the grip is something you want to keep consistent, but for some reason I find it fluctuates just a little bit depending on the day. If it is “feeling” strong, I tend to hit rockets that start on target and draw strongly. With the longer clubs it gets worse, though, until the Driver is more of a hook. Slightly weakening my grip tends to straighten out my ball flight if I do everything else the same. As for the downswing, I have a baseball background where you are taught to send the hands straight to the ball as quick as possible, so I get in trouble if I do that in golf because I tend to hit things off the heel and hit weak push fades. If I focus on really pulling “out” and staying “Long” in the downswing, I make much better contact. All depends on the day though, and especially if I’m in a competition… the bad habits come out fast! Great post.
In the feels
I tend to throw the club so I focus on feeling the right elbow connected and swing from the inside. When I start hitting it thin from early extension I really need to exaggerate this feeling. I do agree with feel especially during a round. If I get to mechanical during a round it can be miserable. I will say that I used video to figure out the early extension and my over the top move. I will keep using video as a check on this but I now know when I am in the wrong position and fix it pretty quick.
I say use video to increase awareness and use feel to groove it. You wont have video on the course so you will have to rely on feel more than video.
Currently feeling my arms connected with my torso on iron swing. Tighter at the top and rotate through impact. Getting great strikes with power.
My main feel is making sure my forearms are relaxed. The other is to swing without manipulating the club head. When I do this, the club head is released at my maximum swing speed and will return to my address position square to the target naturally.
My golf swing .. just like everyone else’s, and especially those who have read this article! .. is the classic work-in-progress…
The current (again.. this evolves) feel that is helping me is (I’m RH’ed)… left shoulder down going back / right shoulder down coming through.
NOTE: this was not self-defined nor grabbed from an online vid, but after working with an instructor.