Archived Newsletters - WHAT YOU CAN LEARN FROM BUBBA WATSON :
Newsletter April 2012
Before his Masters win last week, Bubba Watson was known for his behemoth drives, his self- diagnosed ADD, his bubble gum pink Ping G20 driver, his emotional nature, and his charities. So far this year Watson leads the PGA Tour with an average driving distance of 313.1 yards. He is now #4 in the Official World Golf Ranking and #2 in the FedExCup Ranking. His scoring average is 69.71.
Bubba is now also known for his spectacular 155-yard gap wedge shot hit out of the pine straw at Augusta National that hooked 40 yards to land on the unseen green for a 10-foot birdie putt to win the Masters championship. It was the shot of the week that will be replayed over and over again.
How did he hit that spectacular shot with the pressure of the 2nd playoff hole?
What was he thinking?
When he hit his tee shot into the Georgia pines, of course it crossed Bubba’s mind that he might have lost his chance to win the Masters. Seeing that Bubba’s tee shot was in the trees, Louis Oosthuizen put his driver back in the bag and hit his 3-wood. It also went to the right side of the hole, but a lucky bounce kicked it back in the fairway, 220 yards from the green.
When Bubba saw that the South African had over 200 yards to go from the rough, he thought Louis probably wasn’t going to make birdie, but might make par. Bubba then figured out a way to make par. When he got to his ball he found that he had an opening, but had to hook the ball severely around the pine trees to avoid the fairway bunker to make it to the 10th green that he couldn’t see. "I was there earlier today, during regulation," he said. "So I was used to it. I knew what I was facing there. I had a good lie, had a gap where I had to hook it 40 yards or something. I'm pretty good at hooking it."
What did we learn from Bubba’s performance?
How did he create this miraculous shot?
Watson doesn’t have a golf coach, has never had a lesson, and has never seen his swing on video. He is his own swing coach.
Bubba practices on the range by shaping shots that curve right and left a lot with every swing. He says he never hits a straight shot. With this kind of practice he has taught himself through trial and error how to hit draws, hooks, fades and slices. He uses his imagination to create shots instead of calculating distances and producing repetitive shots.
He relies on his ability to visualize a ball curving to the green. At the Masters he pictured every shot. We all remember when Tiger Woods used his visualization skill and creativity to chip his ball 25 feet above the hole from the 2nd fringe to drop it in the 16th hole at the 2005 Masters.
Watson relies on his sense of feel to get the ball to do precisely what he wants it to do.
Use target imagery and your intuitive skills
Believe in your ability
One of the most valuable lessons I learned was when I was asked, “When will you know that you have learned the golf swing? When I decided that I didn’t need any more lessons on the swing and just played the game, I had more fun and consistently had my lowest scores. For most players this means letting go of conscious thoughts and slowing down your brain to produce the information you have put into it. Bubba skipped the step of mechanics, accepted his different swing, and enjoyed creating shots with his awareness.
Visualize the shot you want to hit
What kind of visual pictures can you imagine for your swing or the flight of the ball? Does the ball look like an airplane taking off and then making a left hand turn? Your mind is full of these kinds of images. The more visualization you have and the less thinking you do, the easier it will be for your mind to create the shot you want. Imagine hitting your tee shots down the narrow aisles of a grocery store. What does your swing feel like, and what does the ball’s trajectory look like? The stripe on a highway is about the same width as your putter. Imagining this stripe on the putting surface between you and the hole will provide a specific picture for your mind to follow.
Develop your sense of “feel”
In golf you can’t look to see where your backswing is, so you have to “feel” where it is. To access this awareness, swing with your eyes closed. Tee up a 7 or 5 iron, and take a practice swing with your eyes closed. Then hit the ball with your eyes closed. You can do this because the ball doesn’t move. By focusing internally on the feel and image of the swing, you will use your sensual awareness instead of thinking about mechanics. To practice awareness in your short game, pitch balls to a target without looking at the result. Before you look up “feel” whether the ball went right, left, short or long of your target. Feel what happened in your swing to make that happen.
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