Why golf science and playing the game don’t mix

Andrew sent me the video below. It’s titled, Golf Biodynamics Explains Bubba’s Swing Science At Live on Masters 2013. It’s an awful title and what generally happens when humans try and write for search engines rather than for humans. That aside, there’s some useful lessons here and I think we have a similar conclusion but come about them from a different way. Watch the video and then see my comments underneath…

The true genius of Bubba Watson is revealed at the 20 second mark.

Bubba used to practice shaping shots around his house as a kid …

This is how he learned to hit that fantastic hook shot that helped him win the playoff hole against Louis Oosthuizen. Bubba explored, created and worked out what he could do and what he couldn’t by playing in his backyard. These practice sessions helped shape the golfer he is today. The last thing Bubba would have been thinking about would have been biomechanics (or biodynamics) or any sort of science. His objective would have been as simple as this – “how do I hit this ball around (or over or under or through) that obstacle and still get it to the target?”. From there his learning system went to work and figured it out.

This quote from Bubba sums up his style of play perfectly. I wish more golfers could approach the game this way. It’s so refreshing….

If I have a swing I have a shot. I’d rather be in the fairway. I’d rather be on the green every time like most people. But I hit it in the woods – I miss the greens, so, I just play from feel. Have fun and create shots… and somehow pull them off

If you want to play golf with more freedom, less stress then take a leaf out of Bubba’s book. Play shots, accept some misses and have fun getting out of trouble. You might not be able to hit the kind of shots Bubba can (who can?) but you can create your own version of “Bubba Golf”.

The scientific explanation is irrelevant to a guy like Bubba. There’s absolutely no need for him to care about any of the technical details of how to hit the shot. It would be like an artist worrying about the mechanics of how to hold the paint brush, it’s just going to stop the flow and disrupt the process. I just love his explanation of the “country way”. He said:

– hood the club a little bit
– close your stance
– swing hard
– swing inside out
– roll wrists over

I don’t mind this because it’s relatively simple advice to follow. It’s not a bad starting point but I’m convinced Bubba is a step ahead of this (and to me is the real meaning of “country way”). And this is how many of us would try and hit a big hook shot. We’d mentally attempt to process all this information while we swing – but most of us would stuff it up. We’d overload our system to the point of breaking point and we’d NOT be able to learn the shot. So what’s Bubba really doing? I think the answer follows …

I don’t think of it, I react to it

This is automatic golf. When he gets into a situation like he was in The Masters, he analyses the shot, works out if it’s possible, chooses a club and then goes for it. Once he gets the green light there’s NO technical thought or analysis – Bubba plays the game. Not sure if Bubba is some sort of quasi-scientist or not. I think he did all his learning on the golf course and he’s not complicating matters too much. Like most great athletes, he plays first and thinks later. Most struggling golfers have that the other way around.

Using a gap wedge to hit a 40 yard hook and get the ball to travel 155 yards seems impossible to average golfers. Mostly because we don’t have the swing speed to pull a shot like that off. The other issue is we’ve never pushed our boundaries to see what’s really possible. Just maybe you have some miracle shots in your game waiting to be let out.

And here’s something else for you to consider: Bubba has a hard time explaining what he does because the part of his brain that hits the shot doesn’t use language – it is feel based and explaining our feelings is really hard (just ask any male). The scientist doesn’t have Bubba’s “feel” so he attempts to use his logic to explain the shot. Logic (technical instruction etc) and feel don’t mix and is why most of traditional instruction doesn’t work that well for us, even when we logically understand it. If playing good golf is important to you then must learn to think less and play more – when you’re playing you’re going to instinctively rely more on your feelings.

Leave your thoughts below.

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  • Lukey

    Reply Reply April 17, 2013

    Every so often when I go out for a practice I might find my self snookered behind a tree that requires a hooking type shot to get to the green and I will try two things ,first I will hit the logical safe shot but then I will try hooding the club work out roughly where the shot needs to go and then hit it. This has had varied results some good some not so good but you learn from them and that is the fun bit.
    Cheers Lukey

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply April 17, 2013

      The idea here is to keep trying these shots. If you fail, have another go…

  • Andrew

    Reply Reply April 17, 2013

    I watched this video with amusement, The Engineer in me was interested in the physics of the shot, and The Automatic Golfer in me was interested in how Bubba does it. They seem to be two extremes the Scientist (thinker) and the Artist (Automatic Bubba). It was funny how the scientist couldn’t believe Bubba didn’t think how to do it, commenting how he thinks Bubba knows more than he lets on. The scientist attitude was that golf is a game to be worked out not played, something that I have struggled with in the past.

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply April 17, 2013

      Andrew: the good thing with Automatic Golf, that is sometimes missed, is it should appeal to the engineering types because they can analyse all they like before the shot – the deal is the shot most be executed naturally once all the thinking as been done.

  • adam

    Reply Reply April 27, 2013

    On my third ever round of golf i shot a 99. My grandfather was freaking out. He said most people including himhad never broken 100. And i did it just by getting out there and playing the game. No thoughts at all just jokes and laughter and smashing the ball. I also hit some amazing shots. I hit my approach shot on the 14th into the hole for par. Coooool

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