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How to find your feel when you’ve completely lost it

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One of the most frustrating things in golf is to “have it” one day, just to lose it the very next. It’s scary to be on the golf course and have no feel whatsoever; you feel lost, and like you’ll never be able to play well again. Feel is the thing that helps you manufacture shots around the course and helps you to control your trajectory, distance, and landing angle… and when it’s gone, it’s difficult to get it back. That’s why I’m here to help.

In my opinion here are the top four areas where people tend to lose their feel:

  • Off the Tee
  • Iron Shots
  • Around the Green
  • On the Green

I will examine each and give you tips so you can find your feel once again!

Off the Tee

Yesterday it was simple to hit every fairway — long and straight — and today you can’t seem to even keep it in the treeline! In my opinion, this is one of the worst places to lose your feel because spending all day in the trees is going to kill your scores and psyche. But don’t fret, it’s a simple reason why you have “lost it”… you are simply out of sequence.

You have a certain kinematic sequence that you need to follow, but once you get the out of whack, you can’t hit the side of a barn! So whenever you lose it, try to begin your swing with your legs; the usual way people lose their feel is to use their upper body to begin the swing. You must reverse the process. So go to the range and hit a few balls making sure your legs START the sequence of events and let the arms follow, and I bet you’ll find your feel once again.

Iron Shots

You’ve hit great drives hole-after-hole, ready to attack the pin. But so far, you’ve only hit two greens through 12 holes and neither of them sniffed the flagstick. Losing feeling with your irons can come in two usual areas — hitting the ball solidly and/or losing your directional control. Regardless, both are a royal pain because you never know which one will rear it’s ugly head and cause you the next bogey on your card.

When this happens with the irons, it’s likely that you’ve “gotten too long.” Whenever I have a player who’s lost, I always get them to try and feel like they are making three-quarter swings with the focus on hitting the ball solidly. Usually when they shorten it up and begin to find the face again, good things happen. So whenever you find yourself in a bind on the course, just take a smaller swing with relaxed transitional tempo, and focus on hitting the ball in the center of the face. All will be right with the world once again!

Around the Green

Short game shots come in all shapes and sizes, and I could write an entire book on this subject. But lets make it simple. Losing your feel here, for the sake of this article, is when you just can’t control your distances on any type of short game shot. There is nothing that makes a golfer more frustrated than having a simple pitch shot and boning it to the other side of the green.

I know that each of you have done this from time-to-time… I mean who hasn’t? But here is a simple way to regain your distance control once again. Take your shag bag and your lob wedge and find some tall grass and a tight pin where you have little green to work with. Now hit flop shots trying to land the ball in the section of the green between the fringe and the pin. When you can do this consistently, you have found your feel once again! The longer grass and the tighter pin makes you focus a touch more and it only seems to take 50-100 shots for you to have it all under control once again. Go out and channel your inner-Phil by hitting these flop shots and you’ll find your feel (and look cool doing it!)

On the Green

I’m sure none of you have ever three putted or sent a downhill putt entirely off the green, right? Sadly, we have all lost it on the putting green, and it usually it happens when you have to play with your boss or n a big match or something, never when you’re just playing 9 holes alone.

Here is the simple solution: go to the putting green and hit super-long, big breaking putts… the most difficult putts you can find on the practice green. Once you have figured it out and you have some control of the ball again, try and do the same thing with the highest line possible until you have that under control. Now do the same thing with the lowest line possible… you will find that you have a low, medium, and high line to the hole. Once you can hit the ball close using all three, you will have your feel back again and be ready to go!

By this time, I hope you have a few better ideas as to how to find your feel. Remember, feel comes back just as quickly as it left, so don’t panic. Just follow these tips and everything will be OK once again.

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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction and Business Development at Punta Mita, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (www.puntamita.com) He is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, and has been honored as a Golf Digest Best Teacher and a Golf Tips Top-25 Instructor. Tom is also a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 15 people in the world. Punta Mita is a 1500 acre Golf and Beach Resort located just 45 minuted from Puerto Vallarta on a beautiful peninsula surrounded by the Bay of Banderas on three sides. Amenities include two Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses- with 14 holes directly on the water, a Golf Academy, four private Beach Clubs, a Four Seasons Hotel, a St. Regis Hotel, as well as, multiple private Villas and Homesites available. For more information regarding Punta Mita, golf outings, golf schools and private lessons, please email: tom.stickney@puntamita.com

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Ryan

    Jan 16, 2018 at 2:35 pm

    Check out my new blog on golf instruction!

    https://hgolfinstruction.wordpress.com/2018/01/16/the-mental-game/

  2. RBImGuy

    Jan 14, 2018 at 4:03 am

    Funny article, I never lost feel yet

  3. Edge Of Lean

    Jan 8, 2018 at 1:47 pm

    A little obvious at the beginning: “Where do you lose feel the most? Answer: everywhere.”

    • emil

      Jan 8, 2018 at 6:16 pm

      Physical feel? Mental feel? Or both?
      So how do you determine and isolate the reason for the loss of “feel”?
      Answer that!

  4. Joe

    Jan 8, 2018 at 1:38 pm

    I like this article. It’s simple. Though I don’t know if it will work as it’s about 5 degrees outside here in MN right now, my swing disappeared all Summer last year for the firs time in my adult life. It was crushing. Though I will try some of these tips when I get the chance. Thank you sir.

  5. just plain bill

    Jan 8, 2018 at 12:24 pm

    wish i had read this before yesterday’s round…

  6. taylor

    Jan 7, 2018 at 10:33 pm

    Stinkney never responds to questions. Hiding 🙁

  7. emil

    Jan 7, 2018 at 4:31 pm

    Is the problem “feel” or “feeelings” …. when you’ve completely lost it?
    There is kinesthetic feel … and emotional feeelings. So which is it because each solicits a different physical and mental reaction?
    How do you recover a physical “kinematic sequence” when the problem is because of a hormonal adreneline rush (or deficiency) into your brain?

  8. Speedy

    Jan 7, 2018 at 12:28 pm

    Good tips, and “don’t panic” reassurance, Tom

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Instruction

Walters: Avoid these 3 big chipping mistakes!

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Chipping causes nightmares for so many amateur golfers. This s mainly due to three core mistakes. In this video, I talk about what those mistakes are, and, more importantly, how to avoid them.

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Instruction

The Wedge Guy: The importance of a pre-shot routine

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I believe one of the big differences between better recreational golfers and those not so good—and also between the tour professionals and those that can’t quite “get there”—is the consistency of their pre-shot routines. It is really easy to dismiss something that happens before the ball is even struck as irrelevant, but I strongly urge you to reconsider if you think this way.

To have a set routine to follow religiously before every shot gives you the best chance to execute the shot the way you intend. To do otherwise just leaves too much to chance. Indulge me here and I’ll offer you some proof.

It’s been a while back now, but I still remember an interesting account on this subject that used the final round of the 1996 Masters—when Nick Faldo passed a collapsing Norman—as his statistical proof. This particular analyst reviewed the entire telecast of that final round and timed the routine of both players for every shot. What he discovered was that Norman got quicker and less consistent in his pre-shot routine throughout his round, while Faldo maintained his same, methodical approach to every shot, not varying by more than a second or so. I think that is pretty insightful stuff.

A lot of time has passed since then, but all competitive tour professionals pay very close attention to their pre-shot routines these days. I urge you to watch them as they go through the motions before each shot. And notice that most of them “start over” if they get distracted during that process.

While I do not think it is practical for recreational golfers to go into such laborious detail for every shot, let me offer some suggestions as to how a repeatable pre-shot routine should work.

The first thing is to get a good feel for the shot, and by that, I mean a very clear picture in your mind of how it will fly, land and roll; I also think it’s realistic to have a different routine for full shots, chips and pitches and putts. They are all very different challenges, of course, and as you get closer to the hole, your focus needs to be more on the feel of the shot than the mechanics of the swing, in my opinion.

To begin, I think the best starting point is from behind the ball, setting up in your “mind’s eye” the film-clip of the shot you are about to hit. See the flight and path it will take. As you do this, you might waggle the club back and forth to get a feel of the club in your hands and “feel” the swing that will produce that shot path for you. Your exact routine can start when you see that shot clearly, and begin your approach the ball to execute the shot. From that “trigger point”, you should do the exact same things, at the exact same pace, each and every time.

For me (if I’m “on”), I’ll step from that behind-the-shot position, and set the club behind the ball to get my alignment. Then I step into my stance and ball position, not looking at the target, but being precise not to change the alignment of the clubhead–I’m setting my body up to that established reference. Once set, I take a look at the target to ensure that I feel aligned properly, and take my grip on the club. Then I do a mental check of grip pressure, hover the club off the ground a bit to ensure it stays light, and then start my backswing, with my only swing thought being to feel the end of the backswing.

That’s when I’m “on,” of course. But as a recreational player, I know that the vast majority of my worst shots and rounds happen when I depart from that routine.

This is something that you can and should work on at the range. Don’t just practice your swing, but how you approach each shot. Heck, you can even do that at home in your backyard. So, guys and ladies, there’s my $0.02 on the pre-shot routine. What do you have to add?

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Instruction

6 reasons why golfers struggle with back pain: Part 1

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This article is co-written with Marnus Marais. Since 2011, Marnus has worked with some of the world’s best players on both the PGA Tour and European Tour, helping them to maintain optimal health and peak physical performance. His current stable of players includes Dustin Johnson, Patrick Cantlay, and Louis Oosthuizen, amongst others.

You find more information on Marnus and his work at marnusmarais.com

 

Back pain is by far the most common complaint among regular golfers. It is estimated that up to 35 percent of amateur golfers endure lower back injuries. And in our experience working with tour players, the prevalence is even higher in the professional ranks! 

Back pain can affect our ball striking and short game, diminish our enjoyment of the game, or even stop us playing altogether. It can make us feel anxious about playing (and making the pain worse) and just generally disappointed with current performance falling way short of our expectations. 

There is certainly no shortage of information on the topic of back pain, and with myriad back pain products and supplement options available, confusion about the best path to pain-free golf is one of the main reasons we don’t actually do anything effective to alleviate our suffering! 

We aim to present in this article an easy-to-digest explanation of the common causes of back pain, alongside some simple and practical ways to address the underlying issues. 

The recommendations we make in this article are generic in nature but effective in many of the low back pain cases we have worked with. However, pain can be complex and very specific to the individual. You should seek the personalized advice of a medical or exercise professional before undertaking any form of remedial exercise.

Reason 1 – Lack of mobility in 2 key areas

Certain areas in the body need to be more stable, and others need to be more mobile. The lumbar spine falls into the stable category, partly due to its limited capacity for rotation and lateral flexion (side bending). We know the unnatural golf swing movement imparts both rotational and side bending forces on the spine, so it’s an area we need to keep stable and protected. 

In order to avoid excessive low back rotation in life and especially in the golf swing, it’s very important that we try to maximize the range of movement in other areas, most notably the joints above and below the low back, where the majority of rotation in the golf swing should take place:

Area 1 – Hips

We need sufficient range of movement to turn into, and out of, both hips. For example, if we can’t turn and load into our lead hip due to a lack of internal rotation mobility, we tend to compensate with excessive rotation and side-bending in the lower back.

Suggested Exercises – Hip Mobility

Foam roll glutes, you can also use a spiky ball

90 90 hip mobility drills, fantastic for taking the hips through that all important internal rotation range

90 90 Glute Stretch – great for tight glutes / hips

Area 2 – Thoracic Spine (mid to upper back)

Having sufficient rotation in our thoracic spine to both left and the right is extremely important. The thoracic spine has significantly greater rotational capabilities compared to the lumbar spine (low back). If we maximise our mobility here, we can help protect the lower back, along with the cervical spine (neck).

Suggested Exercises – Thoracic Mobility

Foam rolling mid / upper back

 

Cat / Camel – working the T-Spine through flexion and extension

 

Reach backs – working that all important T-Spine rotation

Reason 2 – Alignment and Muscle Imbalances

Imagine a car with wheel alignment issues; front wheels facing to the right and back wheels facing to the left. Not only will the tires wear out unevenly and quickly, but other areas of the car will experience more torque, load or strain and would have to work harder. The same thing happens to the lower back when we have body alignment issues above and/or below.

For example, if we have short/tight/overactive hip flexors (muscles at the front of the hips that bend our knee to our chest) on one side of the body; very common amongst golfers with low back pain. This would rotate the pelvis forward on one side, which can create a knock-on effect of imbalance throughout the body.

If the pelvis rotates in one direction, the shoulders naturally have to rotate in the opposite direction in order to maintain balance. Our low back is subsequently caught in the middle, and placed under more load, stress and strain. This imbalance can cause the low back to bend and rotate further, and more unevenly, especially in the already complex rotation and side bending context of the golf swing!

Below is a pelvic alignment technique that can help those with the afore mentioned imbalance

Reason 3 – Posture

Posture can be described as the proper alignment of the spine, with the aim of establishing three natural curves (low back, mid/upper back and neck).

 

The 3 major spinal curves – 1-Cervical, 2 – Thoracic, 3 – Lumbar

Modern lifestyles and the associated muscle imbalances have pushed and pulled our spines away from those three natural curves, and this had a damaging effect on our spinal health. Our backs are designed to function optimally from the neutral illustrated above, and the further we get away from it, the more stress we put on our protective spinal structures. 

Aside from promotion of pain, poor posture also does terrible things for our golf swings; reducing range of motion in key areas (hips, mid back and shoulders) and creating inefficiencies in our swing action, to give us a double whammy of back pain causes.

Fortunately, re-establishing good posture is really simple and you can combine the information and exercises featured in the videos below with the mobility exercises featured in the Reason 1 section above. The equipment used in the videos is the GravityFit TPro – a favorite of ours for teaching and training posture with both elite and recreational players.

 

In the next installment of this article, we will cover reasons 4, 5 and 6 why golfers suffer from back pain – 4) Warming Up (or lack thereof!), 5) Core Strength and 6) Swing Faults.

 

If you would like to see how either Nick or Marnus can help with your golfing back pain, then check out the resources below:

Marnus Marais – marnusmarais.com

Nick Randall – golffitpro.net

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