SEE IT, FEEL IT, DO ITBy: Jamie Mulligan, PGA
As someone who has known Jamie Mulligan for more than 20 years, I have had the pleasure of being able to closely observe him coach golf at the highest level. I am a witness to the golf culture he has created on a daily basis, and a concept that surfaces frequently in his discussions about golf is the eyes.
Jamie always talks about when he was young, how he learned to see and feel the game organically. He didn’t realize how much it was already a part of who he was. When he was learning to become a very good player, he was learning how to play from his eyes. At that time, most of the instruction he received went back to what he was seeing. The earliest mantra that Jamie developed was to “see it, feel it, do it.” After he hit a shot, he would ask himself if he felt and did what he saw. Fast forward to now and Jamie has been coaching for more than four decades, with 15 players having competed or currently competing on the PGA and LPGA Tours. What Jamie really feels he has been doing with his players since the very beginning is to educate their eyes. At the end of the day, golf is really the same as life: you are always picturing what you want it to look like. The more detailed your picture is and the clearer your mind is, the more effective you will be as a player.
As an example, here are some of his ideas about putting:
- Your eyes calibrate the technical components and lines of your stroke, so that you can repeat it with consistency. All the great players that Jamie has worked with have had a way to get their eyes, alignment, and stroke matched up so they can repeat it on a consistent basis. They also have drills to prepare for putts that they will see on a regular basis.
- Your eyes help you to picture what will happen. Although there are some straight putts, most putts are influenced by the surrounding topography. If you have a 21-foot putt, the most important part of that putt is all 21 feet of it. What happens to that putt and how will you see it and approach it?
- The magic happens when you are able to marry the technical side with rhythm. When you watch an effective baseball pitcher, he is seeing and hitting spots in a rhythm and with a routine. Great basketball players, tennis players, and quarterbacks are doing the same thing. Putting is no exception.
Coaching Tour Players, Jamie often refers to Sunday and Monday as “travel, rest, and reset” days. On Monday afternoons, he will usually go to the golf course to see and feel how his players are calibrating for the week. They will check out the green surfaces and then get into the preparatory part of the tournament routine. Jamie likes the idea of his players playing 18 holes before they start a tournament (sometimes only 9 at a time). Because the players are working so much on fitness, recovery, and nutrition, contrary to popular belief they are not playing 54 holes before they begin a tournament. Normally, they are playing 18 or maybe a maximum of 27 holes and doing their system in order to prepare.
With putting, we rely on the magical world of drills. For example, a drill for calibration would be putting a line down on the green that is perfectly straight and getting the eyes to see the line. Either coaches or caddies will check to make sure the stroke is on the line, the alignment is parallel to the line, and the player works on that feel. In listening to all the great putting coaches, from Dr. Craig Farnsworth to Phil Kenyon to Brad Faxon, they all talk about seeing and feeling the line. If you are at a PGA Tour event and you look around, every player has some kind of drill or contraption (a mirror, aiming aid, the “Perfect Putter” training aid, or some kind of club/chalk line) in order to calibrate the eyes. Using “see it, feel it, do it” allows you to blend the technical components with rhythm to execute the putt. There is a lot of routine work: standing behind a putt, picturing the way you want it to go, letting it go, and evaluating how you executed the putt and if you read it correctly. The beauty of a great stroke is that you only have to adjust the read rather than the stroke.
Jamie believes that you are not winning a tournament because of what you practice during the tournament. You are winning a tournament with the preparatory work and training that you are doing beforehand. When it is game time, good preparation allows you to execute your plan. In Jamie’s experience with his players that have won tournaments, the most valuable feedback does not come from the media interview. Usually players are either too emotional to talk about the win because of their hard work, or they don’t want to give away their secrets. In the post-win discussion that Jamie has with his players, you are more likely to hear observations like, “I really saw the line very well.” Jamie has had tournament winners in Las Vegas, Reno, and recently, Lake Tahoe. Following these wins, all the players have discussed how much the mountain affected the way the ball was rolling and how much they pictured the line, or how much they saw the speed, or how big the hole looked. You’ll notice a common theme in all of these observations: the eyes.
“See it, feel it, do it” is a mantra that Jamie has used with the players he coaches, players he has consulted with, and the numerous people he has talked to about the game of golf. It is a concept that can be applied universally to every golf game. One thing Jamie loves to do as a coach is to record the tournaments or watch golf and mute the volume. He won’t watch the ball; instead, he loves to look at the player’s eyes and head, watch the stroke, and predict the outcome before it happens. Was the player able to click in and marry the technical side with rhythm? This is something Jamie was able to do long before he became a professional, and now that he finds himself among some of the greatest coaches in the game, this ability allows him to “see it, feel it, do it” with his players.