Golf Is Imagination With Hands

“Golf Is Imagination With Hands”, a quote from Michael Murphys classic fictional golf-philosophy book – “Golf In The Kingdom” (amazon link).

I first read this book about 15 years ago (originally written in the 1970’s). Murphy is an excellent writer. The book is about a young writer (him) who travels to India on a spiritual journey via Scotland (of course) –  the home of golf.

Other young thinkers (like Murphy) with stars in their eyes were traveling to India at the time, like the late Steve Jobs and John Lennon.

Murphy – an accomplished golfer – gives some excellent golf-wisdom wrapped in funny, thought provoking inspirational stories. Some of the wisdom comes out during a not-so-normal round of golf with a mystical Scottish golf pro (Shivas Irons) and his loyal student.

After an eventful and even “transformational” 18 holes at the “Burningbush golf club” (which is really St Andrews), Murphy winds up at a dinner party with a group of interesting guests, including Shivas.

Reading this book over the years has definitely added to my golf (and life) knowledge.

Back to “imagination with hands”… in my Automatic Golf System Training Course, I talk about and demonstrate by hitting shots, how visualizing your shots is the fuel that feeds your swing.

This vital connection (between your eyes, hands and swing) was highlighted for me during a particularly good ball-striking round on the weekend where I hit 14 greens in regulation including 4 iron-shots to within 6 feet (I have been in a very nice ball-striking groove over past month).

As I was walking around, creating all these pure shots, and yes – struggling a little with a hot and cold putter (I know, The Truth About Putting guy struggling with the putter!), the concept that excellent golf is really about how you use your hands – as a response to what you see and feel pre-shot, drifted faintly into my mind.

So, like in my putting chipping and pitching advice (products), the vision should be the start of creating a shot… where do I need to go, where do I not want to go and how will I get the ball there (straight, fade, draw, low or high)?

What I noticed on Saturday was that I didn’t look longer with my eyes at the shot, but I did make a decisive move to use what I was feeling (the swing) right away. (This feeling is transferred from the brain through the arms, body, hands, and club into the ball). It should be used without delay.

Once you decide on what shot you want to play, you should have a feeling for the shot you want to play and how your hands will work through back-swing, through impact and into the follow through.

Below are some real examples from this round on what I saw, felt and used to create some great shots


I drove it well, I have been driving very well for a while now. I made sure I imagined a nice low ball flight that would be linked to my flat wrist up the top of the swing. I try and link the low ball flight to a 3/4 style swing with a smooth transition (these are feelings, more than they are thoughts). The hands? I try and hit it very straight without letting my hands roll much. The ball flight is straight and sometimes has a slight fade. I never want to imagine rolling my hands. I imagine a low ball flight on a specific height level (trajectory).

3 Wood

I have been hitting this better nowadays because I recognize that – for me – it should be hit more like an iron with a descending blow and a little divot (if you struggle with a hook – not a pull – you are too flat, you swing too much from the inside with no divot; get a divot – a straight one!) So generally I like a straight to fade shot with this club.

I hit a beautiful strong fade from a big right-to-left lie on Saturday from about 220 yards into the breeze as a second shot to a par 5 into the middle of the green. Now to hit a shot like this – that goes against the way the land lies, requires a vivid feel for the shot and a manipulation – a big “hold off” through the ball with the hands. Don’t try this one at home folks!

P.S. Four days later on this same hole, from the same distance into a similar breeze, I use a slight descending blow with a 3-wood. A perfect little divot is produced; the ball has a tiny fade, and finishes about 15 feet from the pin. Better than sex! 🙂

60 yard half-wedge

This shot (as demonstrated in my pitching video) requires a good vision for the distance and then a “programming”  for how far back you want to swing your hands and arms. It requires a half swing that is stopped, restarted then moved through the ball with good speed and solid hands. It requires the right feel.

High Draw In To Par 3 5th

After a terrible pull left of the 4th green, I imagined a solid draw with a 9 iron (gripped down a little to take 5 yards off it). Again, another good shot which started with a vision and was then transferred into a feeling which was transferred into a the arms, body and hands. This particular shot triggered excellent striking for the rest of the day (after a poor approach into the fourth green).

Note: I hit many more good shots when I “take a few yards” off my maximum yardage with my irons, than if I try to hit the maximum distance with a club. Try it.

Amazing chip/pitch from downhill lie next to par 5 green

A downhill lie requiring a spinning ball hit with finesse yet, active fast hands (10 yards to the green then a further 6 yards to play with).

This is the part of the game that has improved a lot for me since I changed my vision, my routine leading into the shot and my “metal anchor” whilst hitting.

So the success of this shot came down to my first imagining the ball flight I needed to land the ball on the green; I would have to imagine the height the ball would travel at and how I would release my hands to make this shot happen.

Then it is a question of USING THE FEELING RIGHT AWAY, this is what is my mind, adhering to the feeling and my intention. “No fear, give into the feeling”.

Putting – the good and the bad

The bad

I missed a couple of short putts that where missed right, they were missed right because I didn’t hit through the ball with my hands – following a pendulum like stoke. Holing short putts comes down to picking your line and speed then keeping your mind quite so you can carry out a pendulm-like stroke, not hard not soft, back and through like the pendulum on a grandfather clock. Don’t corrupt the pendulum.

The good

I hit a putt on the 10th hole which was by far the best putt I hit on that day, and really, won’t be beaten by any other putt I ever hit.

I was 25ft above and to the right of the hole. This putt had some SERIOUS speed about it, to go with about 7ft of break.

I did some serious reading on this putt; I showed the putt a lot of respect – as was required. I looked from the hole back to the ball, this is where I see the extremity of the slope and the speed of the putt, I look at he apex and keep my eyes on it as I walk the 30 ft back to the ball. Because this putt is so fast and has such a break I pick out a couple of spots. My putt has now become a matter of tiptoeing the ball to the apex. If I do that, the rest of the putt takes care of it self.

The stroke is not slow of soft it is back and through imparting enough speed to send the ball just over my apex. The ball rolled off slowly (I think my playing partners thought that I had miscued); it rolled out wide, slowly meandering down the green, on and on and on before gently tiptoeing into the middle of the hole. That called for a triumph raising of my arms!… and a 10A rating for the putt (I rate putts out of 10; sometimes me or others “make” putts that are a bit off center or traveling too fast, they will receive a 10B or 10C – much to my playing partners disdain!). High standards keep you honest and improving.

The missed 3-wood into a fairway bunker

The 11th is tough par 4 with out of bounds on both sides of the fairway, a tight neck at about 260 yards and a bunker on the right from 220 – 250 yards. I don’t like playing a big draw with the three wood (OB on the left). So without a vivid feel for the shot I hit a hold-off fade to nowhere in particular! The ball ends up dead in the fairway bunker to the right.

The right shot was a low running draw with my trusty 2-iron, which would left a longer shot into the green, but also a good chance at making a solid par. I didn’t have a solid feel for the shot being played. Make sure you know exactly the swing and shot you want to play before swinging.


Imagination with hands. As you can see from all the examples in this post, there is a vital link between what you see with your eyes, the shot you want to play, and the feeling that it generates through your hands – which are attached to the grip.

Go out and have a clear intention about the shot you want to play, then play it.

Leave your comment below, and feel free to share this article.



Useful Links:

  1. “Golf In The Kingdom” . A fun, enlightening golf adventure (costs a few bucks at Amazon)
  2. The Automatic Golf System Trainingfor a free flowing, creative golf swing (by yours truly)

P.S. Automatic Golf Success stories.

It has been over a year since The Automatic Golf System has been available (new Training – The Adults Golf Swing, is also available now). Look at how it helped 69 years young, 2 marker, Rico (he has also implemented Truth About Putting fundamentals):

David Rico MA shoots 67 part 1

David Rico MA shoots 67 part 2



Why this system works

What the Automatic golf System has done for Rico, mine, many others, and potentially your ball-striking, is, it frees you up to start playing with feel…less thinking and more reacting instinctively – the way the best players through the history of the game played the game. They morph good technique with feel. The results – as shown in Roco’s story above – can be quite special.

The Automatic Golf System is available here.


4 Responses to Golf Is Imagination With Hands

  1. John Healy August 8, 2013 at 1:09 pm #

    Hi Anthony,
    The more I understand the technical positions within the golf swing and the reasons for them, the more I understand the meaning of ‘feel’. When you watch low handicap players at their best, it is what stands out most. The way the body moves in reaction to a certain shot cannot be replicated in the brain and transferred to the limbs unless it is ‘felt’. It must be seen in the minds eye and allowed to respond if there is any hope of producing a smooth and delicate, or powerful shot. My handicap is yo-yoing all over the map, and has been for some time, but yesterday, after a typical mediocre start, I started ‘feeling it’ in my hands. My tempo slowed, and I took as you mentioned Tony, one more club, and started smoothing it out there. My putter came alive, and I completed the next 12 (and the harder part of the golf course) in 2 over par. What made the difference was the feeling of confidence I felt with my putter. All of a sudden I could see the breaks and there was no second guessing. I trusted it and felt the putter solid in my hands. It was a beautiful feeling, and one that reminded my why I continue to pursue this game.
    For all of you out there, stick with your routine and do the work that you know is required, but when you’re out on the course, do as Tony, and Shivas Irons says, and give into the feeling and trust it.

    • Anthony August 9, 2013 at 4:03 am #

      Good to hear from you John and an excellent comment. What you wrote is right on. Tweak here and there but when you are out on the course it is about trust and feel. Nice one John. 2 over par for the last 12, what is your handicap again John?

      • John Healy August 9, 2013 at 11:58 am #

        I can’t say exactly what my handicap is as I do not have an official handicap. I play once a week at different courses and have not taken the time to put in the numbers into a data base. Normally when I leave the course, my playing partner gives me the bad news and I try and forget the round. But don’t get me wrong, I love this game and am devoted to it. It’s just seems that my practice does not seem to pay off. What is frustrating is that I’m keeping myself in good shape by practicing yoga 3 times a week and can hit the ball further than ever. This I attribute to better flexibility and a constant thirst for knowledge of the fundamentals. I read a lot about the game – everything from Hogan (fundamentals) to Pennick (tips) to Rotella (mental) and everyone in between. I’m focusing much more now on my short game, and especially balance in the full swing. It’s funny how much more balanced you are when you’re not trying to kill it! Once again, thanks for your thoughts and teachings. Your insights resonate with my own beliefs in how to play the game better. Hopefully your Masters Champion will continue his fine form in round two of the PGA?


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