4 lessons to learn from Bubba Watson

Lessons from Bubba Watson

For all his quirks and eccentricities, I've always had a soft spot for Bubba Watson. The two-time Masters champion has had a quiet couple of seasons, so I was happy to see him return to the winners' circle at the weekend, cruising to victory in the Genesis Open at the famous Riviera Club in LA. Bubba has never had a lesson and his home-made swing is certainly far from the machine like techniques many players seek. Yet, for all its moving parts and apparent care-free abandon, Bubba's swing produces impressive tee-to-green stats season after season, far better in fact than many players held up as examples of "text-book" technique. Yes, it's easy to dismiss Bubba as a one-off, but I believe that there much to learn from his approach and here are 4 Bubba inspired lessons that will help your game.

  1. Forget chasing consistency and get creative: So many golfers are searching for an elusive perfect swing, with exact positions and clockwork like consistency. However, this is at odds with the ever-changing challenges we face on the course, where every shot is a one-off. Therefore, what we should instead develop is our feel and understanding for how to use the tool (the golf club) to create shots, just as Bubba does.

Applying the club to play a high pitch

Learning how to use the tool (the golf club).

Developing your ability to apply the club to create the shots you wish to play is at the heart of becoming a more skilled golfer. Here I am varying how I apply my 54 degree wedge to play a high pitch and then a low pitch. It all starts with having a clear mental picture of the flight of the shot you intend to play. My body then reacts and organises itself to fit that picture. The key variable here is loft, so I set up and swing to apply more or less loft accordingly. All this is being done largely subconsciously, not by following a "how-to" checklist of technical details.   

Applying the club to play a low pitch

2. Golf balls want to curve so learn to control curve rather than eliminate it: We’re hitting a ball using an arcing swing, therefore we can expect curve on our shots. In fact, hitting a perfectly straight shot is virtually impossible. The best players rarely hit the ball dead straight, but nobody curves their ball more than Bubba. He favours fading his driver and drawing his irons. Most pros, however, will generally shape the ball one way, for instance Jack Nicklaus always played a fade while Tom Watson favoured a draw. Work out which shot shape fits you best and then use that as your “go to” shot on the course.

3. The golf swing is an athletic motion: And nobody exemplifies this more than Bubba , although we see it in motions of all great players who combine power and control, Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy being other obvious examples. Their swings are flowing, dynamic, fast: athletic. And yet athletic instincts are often coached out of golfers; "Keep your head still", "keep your left arm straight", "restrict your hips", "swing slower", "swing the club on-plane", "tuck in your elbows" etc. No wonder so many golfers look awkward and scared stiff when swinging a golf club! So be like Bubba and unleash the inner athlete in you.

4. Golf is a game to play, not a subject to study: With technological advances, golf is now studied at a scientifically level like never before; Trackman, 3D motion capture, force plates, and, of course, the ubiquitous video camera, once an expensive bit of kit but now available to any golfer with a mobile phone. I enjoy learning the science behind the game but, as a golfer and as a coach, I also know that thinking about detailed technical information during the 2 seconds it takes to swing a club isn't helpful. Sadly, I think that is often forgotten in modern instruction, and golfers frequently get "paralysis by analysis". I don't think Bubba Watson is ever going to suffer from that affliction: stick to simple thoughts and feels and neither will you.

Developing as a golfer goes far beyond trying to get your backswing plane just-so, or eliminating every little movement your head makes, or striving for machine like consistency. Rather it's about taking an approach that embraces the inherent inconsistencies in the game so that you develop your skills to be able adapt, alter and vary what you do to meet all the challenges you'll encounter on the course. And, just like Bubba, remember golf is a game, so use your athletic instincts, be creative, play and have fun! 

If you'd like help to develop your golfing skills then please contact me directly to arrange lessons.

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