Bubba Watson leads the way

I’ve been a fan of Bubba Watson for years now (see an earlier post here). It also came as no surprise that he won The Masters yesterday in a playoff from Lois Oosthuizen.

I’m not sure how true it is that he has never had a golf lesson – but I’m certain that he doesn’t let thoughts of technique get in his way. He might be the most uninhibited golfer in the pro ranks right now and he absolutely is more fun to watch than many other of the robotic pros.

So what can you learn from Bubba?

While it’s unlikely you’ll start hitting 375 yard drives by letting go, you’ll definitely start hitting the ball further. Conscious control (and worry about your swing) only tightens your mind and muscles. When you truly let go you’ll find some extra distance for sure. This is perhaps the only thing you can do to find more power – all of the tips and tricks you read in golf magazines do not work. Even a new driver is unlikely to give you too much distance.

Practice like Bubba. “Practice” might be the wrong word here because Bubba doesn’t like to practice. When he’s on the fairway he’s either warming up or playing the game. Rumor has it that Tiger Woods has watched him during these warm up sessions and marveled at how he maneuvers the ball with every club in the bag. While most of the pros (and every other golfer on the planet) are aiming for perfection and trying to fly the ball exact distances, Bubba is hitting shots that feel good to him. Anyone for a 176 yard pitching wedge?

Next time you’re on the practice fairway, take a deep breath and explore a little. How far can you hit your nine iron? Or how high can you hit a 6 iron. Or how low? This is playing the game and is helping you learn better technique. It’s better than the normal way too because you’re not going to get bogged down with the thought of doing something wrong. It’s actually fun. When was the last time you had fun during a practice session?

The real fun comes when you’re out on the course and you can try these new shots you’ve learned. The golfing world stood in awe as Watson hit that low and hooking 160 yard wedge into the 2nd playoff hole, but the truth of the matter he does this kind of stuff all the time. It’s nothing new (or special) to Bubba because that’s the way he plays the game.

Bubba’s big advantage is his ability to do things his way. He doesn’t worry about his swing or the fact he is a little different. He embraces it. And this to me is going to be the future of golf instruction. We have potentially reached the limit of how much we’re ever going to know about swing mechanics and technique – but there’s still plenty to learn about coaching and human performance.

I’m positive that Bubba Watson would have failed if he was accepted into certain golf programs around the world. The well meaning golf coaches would have shortened his swing, squared his stance and told him not to move his feet. He would have been told to practice more and work on these things until they were natural. The problem would be that they never would have felt comfortable and the golfing world would have missed out on a real golfing genius.

Learn to ignore those that try and change the things that feel good to you. Is squaring your stance really going to help you? Is that curved ball flight really that bad? Is rebuilding your golf swing going to help you or hinder you?

There’s a lot to say about having a good stance and swing. But it’s more important that you’re not afraid to play golf the way you really want – and if that means breaking a few rules then so be it. The world needs more golfers like Bubba Watson.

If you enjoyed watching Bubba play yesterday then I challenge you to “be like Bubba”. What can you do that challenges the norm but makes golf more fun?

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  • Lukey

    Reply Reply April 10, 2012

    I too have been like you Cam and have enjoyed Bubba playing Bubba golf and the fact he has never hit a straight shot. As stated he has no inhibitions and plays his way and he is a breath of fresh air.I’m thinking what have I got to lose to actually try something different (hfr)
    Cheers Lukey

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply April 10, 2012

      Lukey: go for it. You have nothing to lose and I can promise you that you’ll only get better. The first step is the hardest.

  • Steady

    Reply Reply April 10, 2012

    Hi Cam,
    flys in the face of conventional golf/pga motto that you need lessons to iron out your faults.
    Bubba plays on pure guts and trust.
    Look at the result.
    Great to see a guy win a major who has NEVER had a golf lesson.
    How described his shot out of the pine needles.
    ” I didn’t panic, pictured in my head the shot I wanted to play , ( creativity/imagination)and played it. ”
    That there gives an insight to a guy who plays on autpilot.
    Ta Steady

  • Andrew

    Reply Reply April 11, 2012

    Great win by Bubba a recurring theme about these champion players that you have touched on Cam is they grew up knocking balls around the yard. Mickleson over and around trees in the backyard and Bubba was given a cut down 9-iron from his father and learned to play the game by hitting wiffle balls around the house, he even was chipping both outside — and inside — his rented house in Augusta. Even Tiger grew up trying different shots high, low etc nominated by his father at the range not working on his swing.

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply April 11, 2012

      Hi Andrew: I reckon all really good players do this kind of practice when they’re young. The hard thing for adult learners is they bypass a lot of this – they go straight to the driving range and attempt to learn golf in a similar way you’d learn mathematics. It seems like the right thing to do but it actually doesn’t work too well.

      I’ve definitely gone full circle – while I hardly practice these days (who has the time?), I do make sure that I’m hitting shots and playing the game. When I think back to the time when I was playing lots, I regret not “playing” more and messing around with different shots.

      Thanks for posting.

  • Lukey

    Reply Reply April 11, 2012

    Brings you back to that previous post with the young fella at the driving range.
    Cheers Lukey

  • Gary

    Reply Reply July 2, 2013

    Lets get this straight about Bubba not ever having a lesson. His father was a very good golfer.
    Can you imagine Dad never showing him how it is done, let alone more detailed instruction.
    Like Tiger from the age of 2. I like the way Bubba plays and good luck to him. But never a lesson, please. Most good pros, have had fathers or relatives to show them the golf game from an early age.
    They have progressed in their careers, many because of hard work. Many with scholarships, sponsorships or their own financial means. They get the best equipment and are constantly watched over by coaches. The fault of Golf per se, is that these people are put up in front of mere mortals who just want to improve a bit and enjoy the great game of golf. Hero’s, not really. The media, needs to understand that not all of us really care what these so-called naturals do and how they do it.
    Like Cameron says, tread your own path, you will enjoy it more.

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