More Art, Less Science, More Feel

Have you ever wondered how great golfers acquire feel?  I’ve always tried to increase my feel but yesterday after reading an article in the June 2018 Golf Digest called “The battle of dumb versus smart,” I think I figured out how.   As you know, golf is an inherently mental game.  Most players are either artists or scientists in their approach.   The gist of the article was that unless you are extremely bright and have an analytical mind, like Phil Mickelson or Bryson DeChambeau, you shouldn’t try to play with analytics.

A few years back, I made a decision to go with more art and not think about my score as I played.  I wanted to get more process oriented and stay in the moment.  This worked for a brief period but I still couldn’t get the extra feel.  I realized that I was playing with too many statistics even if I was just counting greens in regulation and total putts.  Sometimes I’d start to worry about my stats during the round.  I was beating myself up instead of thinking about getting the ball in the hole.  Not good!

In yesterday’s round, I decided to play without stats, and noticed I was very relaxed.  I simply thought to get the ball in the hole in the fewest strokes possible.  Method didn’t matter.  I recalled my shots after the round and noted that I had hit eight of nine greens on the front, which had not gone unnoticed by one of my playing partners.   After I chipped in on #10, for the next two holes, this fellow had the questions coming hard and fast.  He wanted to know about club selection, handicap, equipment choices, set makeup, and fitting recommendations.  Finally on #13, he whipped out his phone and asked me if I tracked my ball speed like he did, as he had been introduced to TrackMan recently.  He wanted to show me this program but I wouldn’t have any of it.  I think he was a little disappointed when I told him I was playing old school and writing my scores down on a card with no analytics, and that my phone would remain in my golf bag for the round.

Photo from golf.com

Seve Ballesteros was the greatest feel player I ever saw.  His imagination and touch on and around the greens was incredible.  In 1990 he four putted #16 at the Masters and when asked to describe what happened he replied, “I miss, I miss, I miss, I make.”   No stats, no analysis, no paralysis.  Love the mindset.

Play well.

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About Brian Penn

Avid sports fan and golf nut. I am a lifelong resident of the Washington D.C. area and love to follow the local teams. Also worked as a golf professional in the Middle Atlantic PGA for several years and am intrigued by the game to no end. I love to play and practice and am dedicated to continual improvement.
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6 Responses to More Art, Less Science, More Feel

  1. Brian,

    I love it! I have been trying this approach as well — trying not to care about score or stats but just focus on hitting the next where I want to. I still find it difficult coming down the last 4 or 5 holes to avoid thinking about score, I can’t seem to help but know where I stand relative to par. Work in progress.

    Keep it rolling!

    Cheers
    Josh

    • Brian Penn says:

      Josh, I think we are learning that playing like you don’t care is not playing carefree. What you described was my exact round on Sunday. Was humming along at even par through 15. Pulled my drive a little on #16 but hit bark twice on the next two shots trying to be a hero and made double. Then tried a Phil on #18 with a punch 3-iron from under a tree limb over water – triple. Ta da! Problem was that I knew exactly where I was and was dreaming of a 68. Could have punched out twice and shot 72, but doped it up for a 75. Oddly enough, I still feel pretty satisfied with the approach. As you say, work in progress. Thanks!

      Brian

      • Definitely, Brian! Still a solid round and a lot to learn from and build on for next time you’re in that position. You’re right, we’re never going to “not care” how we do, I think it’s just how we frame it within in our minds.

        Cheers
        Josh

  2. Brian Penn says:

    Josh, Phil learned; I can too 🙂

    Thanks,

    Brian

  3. Brian

    BINGO! Your approach is exactly how amateurs should play golf. In the world I work, unanalysed stats is just information without any value. Like you, I am not knowledgeable enough to do more than surface analysis. The only think my stats are good for are pointing out areas I need focus on during practice time. Great round, and a great learning experience. Hope you achieve that 68 this year!

    Cheers Jim

    • Brian Penn says:

      Jim thanks. I knew something was wrong when I started to worry about getting a GIR dot on my card instead of trying to make the lowest score I could on the hole. Started to cloud my judgement, which was a bad thing. In the final throws of Myrtle prep; leaving Sunday and can’t wait to try and simplify down there!

      Regards,

      Brian

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