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Mechanics and Feel

Mechanics and Feel


If you have been around the game for awhile, you have probably heard some golfers described as being “feel” players and others as more “mechanical” players.  These descriptions do have merit and will influence how golfers learn, practice, and play their best.

Feel players like to learn, practice, and play with a focus on general rhythm and simple sensations.  They are often quite creative with their shot making and ball flight patterns and many like to shape their shots in different ways.  Feel players often do not take much instruction, but when they do receive help, they like to learn with the use of simple sensations, rhythm and tempo keys, and drills.  Feel players often rely less on the use of video analysis.  Some great examples of players who would be considered more “feel” players would be Seve Ballesteros, Justin Leonard, and Bubba Watson.

Mechanical players like to learn, practice, and play with a focus on specific movements and detailed sensations.  They tend to shape their shots less than feel players, and many times like to play a similar ball flight on most shots.  Many mechanical players take a substantial amount of instruction and often times have strong relationships with their instructors.  When taking instruction, they like to learn through ingraining specific movements and improving positions.  Mechanical players enjoy the use video analysis in their instruction, and frequently like visual confirmation of their progress.  Some great examples of more “mechanical” players would be Nick Faldo and Justin Rose.

A large number of golfers use combinations of feel and mechanics in the way they learn, practice, and play.  Many players focus more mechanically on their movements in their practice and then play more by feel.  This can be an advantageous way to approach the game for many, as seen with numerous tour professionals, and is something I will discuss in more depth in a later.

Even though I mentioned differences between feel player and mechanical players, all players need to be careful not to get too mechanical in their approach to the game.  If you consider yourself a “feel” player, be very conscious of this when working on your golf movements, and especially while playing.

Patti Rizzo, a successful tour professional with 4 LPGA Tour Wins and 9 international victories, had a career that spanned over two decades and won over a million dollars on the LPGA Tour during the 1980’s and 90’s.  Patti gave a detailed presentation about her golfing life and career during a staff meeting one Monday at The Jim McLean Golf School at Doral.  I will never forget Patti’s presentation from that day, and especially the part of her story I am about to tell you.

Patti described how she began playing golf at around the age of 15 and learned the game very quickly.  By the time Patti was in college, she was one of the better amateurs in the country.  Patti then went on to become the topped ranked amateur in the country and even almost won a LPGA Tour event while she was still an amateur.  Patti told us that she always considered herself a “feel” player and had a tremendous amount of success playing that way as a junior, amateur, and early professional.  Patti then described reaching a point in her career where she wanted to improve to become one of the top players in the world.  She decided that improving her mechanics would be a way to help her achieve that goal.  That year in her career, Patti found a well-known and popular teaching professional and they began working extensively on her swing during the off-season.  Patti talked in detail about how she and her teacher spent hours and hours, and months and months, ingraining the movements of their envisioned new swing.  Patti had never worked in this mechanical manner on her swing before.  She gave it 100% of everything she had.

Patti’s first tournament of the season finally came around and Patti went to Asia to play in it.  Patti stepped onto the first tee with high hopes for the day and the season.  She then described how she teed up her ball and hit a shot she had never hit before; she actually topped the tee shot and the ball barely rolled off the tee box.  She went on to describe how the rest of her round was terrible and how she continued to struggle and struggle as she tried to take her new swing into following tournaments.  Patti painfully talked about how she had struggled more in those months than during anytime in her career, and how she lost touch with everything which made her great previously.  She went on to explain the way she got her game back, was to actually quit playing for awhile, and then begin again with a fresh clear mind.

This story illustrates how even very successful tour professionals can struggle if they become too mechanical, especially when they consider themselves to be “feel” players.  This is what happened to Patti and has unfortunately happened to numerous professionals and top players in the game.  Use this information to your benefit and be very cognizant of it when improving your movements, and especially while you play on the course.

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