So the weather across most of the country is finally starting to act like spring, golf course superintendents are beginning to mow their greens down to mid-season levels, and golfers are starting to turn up at the first tee, ready to put their games on display. At my own club, New Seabury on Cape Cod, this weekend's tee sheet is jammed full, and our Saturday morning group has more players than ever.
But what if you're one of those golfers coming out for the first time this year, and you feel like, as Dan Jenkins once said, the golf club feels like a parking meter in your hands? That's where this column will help you. Here are three tips, from some of the game's top feel players and teachers, to get your touch back fast. The last thing you want to do is three-putt all day, or take extra shots from just off the green, or snap-hook your tee shots.
1. Feeling your hands. When you haven't played in a while, your hands feel weak. So it's only natural to grip the club tighter to compensate. Resist that and do the opposite. As Davis Love Jr. and Bob Toski wrote in How to Feel A Real Golf Swing, with Bob Carney, "Your hands generate clubhead speed. They control the face. They shape the path of your swing. But nothing can sabotage a good grip or good swing quicker than excessive or inconsistent grip pressure. Tension is the enemy of the swing, and it emanates from the grip. Pick up a pencil and write your name. How tightly did you hold the pencil? Just tightly enough to accomplish the task at hand. Which is how you hold your steering wheel, how you hold a book, how you hold your sweetheart's hand. For most golfers, holding a golf club only as tightly as enables the club to swing will seem much lighter than normal." So remember to hold the club lightly, and you'll regain your feel in no time.
2. Feeling the putter. Gain control by giving up control. Sport psychologist Dr. Bob Rotella once told Paul Azinger that he could see tension and artificiality in his stroke. In his book, Putting Out of Your Mind, Rotella recounts how he told Azinger to putt like he hit bunker shots. "I just look at where I want it to go," Azinger said, "splash the sand, and it goes there." Rotella told Paul he had to become relaxed, even nonchalant, at the moment of truth in putting as well. Try it and your stroke will free up and become more natural. You'll regain your stroke very quickly.
3. Feeling your feet. When you've had a long layoff, usually your feet and legs are a little slow; you've lost some agility. Get that footwork back by trying this piece of advice, from Tommy Armour's book How to Play Your Best Golf All the Time. "In simplifying footwork, I'll give you one little tip that probably will greatly improve the hitting portion of your swing. Have the right knee come in fast at the right time. The knee action in a good golf swing is practically identical with knee action in throwing a baseball."
So give these thoughts a try and good luck with your game this weekend. I'll be pulling for you (unless I'm playing against you).