In the game of golf, the term ‘feel’ is a little bit hard to define.

Players with Good Feel are Able to Work the Ball Around Hazards, Over Trees, Under the Wind, and More

If you’ve played golf for any amount of time, you have certainly heard this term tossed around – even if you didn’t know exactly what it meant. It’s obvious that golfers consider having feel to be a good thing, but what does that mean? How does it help? And is there any way to improve on your feel moving forward? We are going to address these questions and more in this article.

For starters, let’s work on a definition of feel in the context of the game of golf. We aren’t going to be able to pile everything up into a single definition, simply because feel can cover a lot of different areas. For starters, controlling the distance of your short game shots is a major component of feel. When you are able to hit your long putts with perfect pace, or you are able to hit your chip shots with the right speed to bring the ball to rest near the cup, you are said to have good feel in the short game. Needless to say, this is a great characteristic for a golfer to possess and is one of the biggest differences between a professional golfer and the average amateur.

But that is not the end of the story as far as feel is concerned. Another big part of having good feel is the ability to create a variety of shots on demand, depending on the situation at hand. Golf is a game which throws an endless variety of challenges at the player, and it is up to each player to find a way to deal with those challenges. Players with good feel are able to work the ball around hazards, over trees, under the wind, and more. A golfer can have a technically beautiful golf swing and be able to hit excellent shots all day long on the range – but that doesn’t make him or her a good player. Only when the component of feel is added to that technical prowess will the player be on his or her way to success on the links.

Now that you should have a general understanding of what golfers are talking about when they talk about feel, we can move on to the objective of improving your feel moving forward. Much like most of the other things you learn in golf, this is not going to happen overnight. You aren’t going to complete one practice session and suddenly wake up the next day with great feel. Instead, it is going to take plenty of time and effort to make meaningful progress in this area. Stick with it and look forward to having your efforts pay off down the line.

All of the content below is based on a right-handed golfer. If you happen to play left-handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.

Not Found in a Book

Not Found in a Book

It is a bit ironic that we are telling you – in an article about feel – that you aren’t going to be able to learn the techniques of feel in a golf book (or an article). Yes, we can offer you some tips on how to work on your feel, and we hope those tips will help, but you need to do the work in order to reap the benefits. Feel is not about putting yourself in certain positions during the swing, so you can’t just copy technique you like and assume it will work for you. When it comes to feel, success is going to have to come from the inside.

So, if there is no template for exactly how you can find your feel for the game, what are you to do? The points below outline the basic idea of how you can tap into your natural feel.

  • Try things. One of the best ways to develop your feel is simply to try different shots during practice. Too many golfers get sucked into a rut of hitting the same basic shots over and over again on the range. Sure, that is useful in terms of fine-tuning your mechanics, but golf is rarely played with a series of stock shots. Instead, golf is a game which constantly demands that you come up with new ways to get the job done. Make sure a significant amount of your practice time is dedicated to learning new shots and exploring new ideas. You never know exactly what you will stumble on when you practice this way regularly. For instance, if you normally hit a draw with most of your swings, there is nothing wrong with practicing that draw. But you should also work on learning how to hit a fade. Even if you never wind up using the fade with any kind of regularity, that practice will at least help you learn a new way to swing the club and send the ball off into the distance. It’s likely that at least something you learn while trying to hit fades on the range will wind up paying off out on the course. This same idea can be applied just as well to the short game. When practicing your short game, go ahead and rehearse your basic technique to make sure it is sound and reliable. But also hit some interesting shots, such as chip shots from difficult lies or putts from the complete other side of the green. Test your skills and force yourself to adapt on the fly in order to get the job done. Again here, you will find that your improved ability to create shots in the short game will pay off during future rounds.
  • Increase your frequency. If possible, one of the ways you can work toward better feel is simply by playing more golf. That means playing more rounds on the course and hitting more balls in practice. The skill of playing golf is something that gets stronger the more you use it. If you don’t get out to play or practice very often, it’s unlikely that your skills will get better in any noticeable way. Many golfers notice that they feel ‘rusty’ when they come back after a long layoff, which is to be expected. If you would like to avoid that situation and work toward better feel round after round, your only choice is to increase the frequency of both your play and your practice. Of course, this point is easier said than done for most people, as real life tends to get in the way.
  • Watch other golfers. This one might be a bit surprising, but you can actually improve your feel over time by watching other players. Specifically, you should be watching accomplished, skilled players hit their shots. Obviously, the easiest way to do this is to tune in to the golf tournaments on TV from time to time. The players in those events are the best of the best, and you stand to learn a lot from simply watching them do their work. You aren’t trying to copy their technique, but rather you should just be watching how they go about the task of playing golf. How do they walk up to the ball? Where do they look before making the swing? You’ll be surprised to find just how much of this stuff can rub off on you in a positive way when you watch golf and absorb as much as possible from the top players.

Developing your feel is actually one of the exciting ways to make yourself a better golfer, because the sky is the limit in this category of golf. Sure, improving your mechanics can help you play better, but the improvement you can realize in that area is limited. Once you iron out any mechanical flaws in your swing, that will be that. The story is different with feel. As you continue to grow and develop in this area, you should be able to shoot lower and lower scores as a result.

Feel on the Greens

Feel on the Greens

If we are being honest, most golfers have lousy feel on the greens. It is common to see amateur golfers three putt multiple times in the same round simply due to poor speed control. If you are going to be a good putter, the one thing you must do above all else is control the speed of your putts. Without the ability to feel how hard you need to swing the putter in order to send the ball to the hole, it’s going to be virtually impossible to reach your goals.

So, how can you become a better putter with regard to speed control? Let’s take a look at some possibilities.

  • Hit a lot of long putts. When you visit the putting green for a practice session, what do you spend most of your time doing? If you are like the majority of other golfers, you stand within a few feet of a hole, trying to make putt after putt. There is certainly a place for short putting practice, but that should not make up your entire session. A big part of the time you spend on the practice green should be focused on long putts. Really long putts. Try to find a stretch of green where you can hit long putts back and forth without bothering anyone else trying to practice. The more long putts you hit on the practice green, the better you will be at controlling your speed from distance out on the course. It is common to encounter long putts during rounds, yet many golfers completely neglect this important part of the game. Add this element to your putting routine and you are almost certain to improve.
  • Work on precise distance control from mid-range. If you are facing a short putt – say, inside of five feet – you are obviously trying to make the putt. You will very rarely leave this kind of putt short of the hole, because it is such a short putt to begin with. On the other end of the spectrum, when facing a particularly long putt, your only real goal is to lag it up close so you can tap the next one in. You’d love to make it, but that probably isn’t going to happen. As long as you get the speed right and set up an easy second putt, you will be happy. But what about the putts in between those two extremes? That’s where speed control can be a bit tricky. You don’t want to race the ball past the hole, obviously, but you also want to give your putt a chance to fall in. During practice, you should work on hitting these putts with enough pace to roll the ball a foot or two past the cup. This is the sweet spot where you will have a chance to make the first putt, but the second putt will still be pretty easy if you miss. If you can dial in your feel from this mid-range distance, your putting results are going to move in the right direction.
  • Close your eyes. During practice, try hitting putts with your eyes closed in order to force yourself to feel the movement of the putter back and through. This is a great drill, and it is one that you can mix in anytime with your standard putting practice. Set yourself up to hit some mid-range putts from roughly 15’ or 20’ away from the cup. Do everything just as you would for any other putt but close your eyes right before you start the putter in motion. Once you have made contact with the ball and the putt is on its way, feel free to open your eyes back up and see how you’ve done. You certainly don’t need to go through your whole practice session this way but hitting a few putts like this from time to time can do wonders for your feel.

Using the putting drills above is a great way to work your way toward better feel on the putting green. You shouldn’t necessarily plan on making more putts in your next round after doing this work, but the results here may show up sooner than when working on other parts of your game.

Play Unusual Rounds

Play Unusual Rounds

The idea we are going to present in this section might be a little unusual, but we think you should consider giving it a try when you get the opportunity. Basically, the idea is to play a round of golf – or, maybe, several rounds of golf – in an unusual manner. In other words, you are going to play the round by making club selections that you would not usually make when playing to shoot your best score. These rounds should not be tournament rounds or any other situations where you care about the score you post, since making odd club selections will likely lead to a higher score when all is said and done.

So, why would you try playing this kind of round? The goal is to challenge yourself to think ‘outside the box’ while coming up with new shots on the fly. If you aren’t just picking the obvious club and swinging away, you’ll have to work much harder than normal on the mental side of things. You will need to be creative, you’ll need to put your skills to the test in terms of producing new ball flights, and you just might wind up seeing the game in a whole new way.

The list below includes some examples of how you can make odd club selections in order to place yourself in unusual circumstances.

  • Use short clubs from the tee. The first thing to try when playing this kind of round is using short clubs from the tee rather than your driver and fairway woods. So, for instance, when playing a 380-yard par four, you may decide to hit a seven iron from the tee and then a long club for your approach shot. Or, you might make your way up to the green with nothing but short- and mid-iron shots. Starting a few of the holes off by playing an unusually short club is going to put you in some unfamiliar circumstances and will test your shot making skills as a result.
  • Turn your ball flight around. Don’t allow yourself to rely on your usual ball flight during this kind of round. If you are normally a golfer who turns the ball from right to left, try hitting the majority of your shots from left to right. This is obviously going to make the round much more difficult, but it can work wonders for the advancement of your feel. You’ll gradually learn how to get the job done even when you aren’t exactly comfortable with the shot at hand.
  • Play the wrong short game shot. When you find yourself needing to play a shot from around the green, there is usually one type of shot that is a relatively obvious choice. Of course, that’s the shot that you are going to go with in a regular round, but not during this kind of round. Instead, you are going to go the opposite direction of what you would usually do with the shot. So, for example, if you think a bump-and-run is the right shot for the situation, try playing a rather high chip or pitch instead.

You are only going to be able to put this idea to use if you have an opportunity to get out on the course for a round where you don’t care about your score. If you do get this chance, we hope you will find that playing the course in an entirely new way helps you improve your overall feel on the links.

Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts

To wrap up this article on ways to improve your feel, we’d like to highlight a few final points.

  • Be patient with yourself. If you are trying to improve your feel and you are pretty new to the game of golf, cut yourself some slack. Developing feel is one of the last pieces of the puzzle to come together for most golfers, so don’t feel bad if you seem to be lacking in this area. Simply by playing golf regularly you should be able to improve your feel, and you may be able to speed up that learning curve a bit by using some of the suggestions in this article.
  • Read the course. One of the parts of feel that we haven’t mentioned yet in this article is the role that the golf course plays in the speed of your shots. You can’t simply assume that the course is going to play the same speed from one day to the next, because it probably won’t. During your warmup session before any round, pay particular attention to the speed of the practice putting green and the firmness of the turf, as well. This information is going to pay off in a big way when you are out on the course.
  • Focus matters. Some amateur golfers don’t do a very good job of focusing before each shot, especially on short shots. If you are going to feel your shots successfully, and if you are going to be consistent, it’s important that you focus your mind on the task at hand. There is nothing wrong with chatting with your fellow players during the round, but always get down to business when it is your turn to play.

Playing good golf requires excellent feel. There really isn’t any way around that fact, so you’d be best served to get down to work on bettering yourself in this area. We hope the advice we’ve provided in this article will help you make gradual progress toward better feel as you continue to move forward with your game. Trying to develop feel can be frustrating along the way, but it is rewarding when you start to see it pay off. Good luck!