Developing Distance Feel

by Rolf Deming Head Teaching Professional and PGA Class A Member
at the Arnold Palmer Golf Academy at Saddlebrook Resort

How can we learn how far to take the club back to produce the appropriate distance with your go to clubs? How hard would you throw a golf ball to land it on a chair around twenty feet from you? I doubt that you could tell me.  An engineer might be able to give me a description of initial velocity, launch angle, and rate of spin, but this would be meaningless in giving me any kind of feel.  Yet we can undoubtedly toss a ball near to the chair if not right on it!  How can we do this? We have, in our subconscious mind, a “data bank” of information in a file probably labeled, “ Ball, Throwing.” We see the chair, we feel the ball, and our mind tells us, “this hard!”

How did we build this data bank?  Repetition. Observing. Trial and error.  Throwing again and again. The same process will work, is in fact necessary, to build up a similar data bank of information for our short shorts.

Practice is essential, however a few tip are recommended :

1. After each shot, hold your finish and watch the ball until it stops.  You will retain the kinesthetic feel of how long your swing was for a few seconds after impact.  During the period, you will visually observe the result.  Your mind will link the two factors together, and imprint it in your subconscious.  One more bit of information stored!  Look away, however, and you will not see the finished product.  Snap the backward at the finish and you will “mask’ and greatly dilute the feel of the swing.

2. When practicing, don’t simply plop down a bucket of balls and hit them to one cup.  This type of practice will be employed by your professional to develop proper mechanics, but to work on distance feel we need to make the ball go different distances.  If you practice on a green with several cups, put down your balls, and alternate between several holes of varying distances.  If you utilize a green with only one cup, take a half dozen balls and hit six from up close, six from far away, then six from in between. Start again, different club.

Rolf Deming spent four years as a member of the PGA Tour and two years as a member of the PGA Senior Tour. Rolf competed in three U.S. Opens and a PGA Championship. Rolf has 10 State titles and over 80 additional tournament victories. Rolf has dedicated much of the past two decades to teaching players of all levels including European LPGA player Paula Marti, and communicating the fundamentals to the game of golf.  Rolf has written articles for various golf publications, including Golf Tips Magazine and developed our current program workbook for the Player Development Program.

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