By Tyrus York, Swingpal instructor
Winning a major is the highest accomplishment an individual can achieve in the game of golf. Just ask Luke Donald or Lee Westwood, two guys that have spent time as the No. 1 player in the world, but lack that major win next to their names.
Now, Bubba Watson has "Masters Champion" forever etched underneath his name, thanks to his dramatic win at Augusta National on Sunday. His hard work and determination earned him that victory. However, much is being said about his golf swing and his “unconventional” approach to the game, along with his declaration that he has never taken a lesson.
Whether you believe that to be 100 percent true isn’t the point. The point is what do Bubba Watson and his golf swing mean to you? What can be learned from Bubba and his Masters victory?
Before we go any further, two things have to be understood about Bubba Watson. First, he is a freak athlete that ultimately could have succeeded at any sport he wanted. Fortunately for our game, he chose golf. And second, he has learned how to utilize his time to get the most from his practice and play. As Michael Breed mentioned toward the end of The Golf Fix on Monday night, Bubba knows how to separate practice from play.
Because Bubba has learned to separate his practice from play, he has been able to take a self-made swing and make it a major-winning swing. He has spent his practice time learning to master how to manipulate the path of his golf club and the position of his clubface at impact to achieve his desired ball flight.
This was clearly on display Sunday when, on the second playoff hole, Watson was able to hit a 90-degree hook out of the trees and onto the green (despite being a player that typically moves the ball right to left). But more impressive to me was his ability to hit two of the best drives, consecutively, on 18 that I had seen from anyone in the entire tournament.
Most of us spend our practice time hitting ball after ball, not really thinking about what we want the ball to do. Instead we hit each shot hoping the ball won’t do something bad. When each shot you hit on the practice tee has a purpose, you can begin to grow your imagination on the golf course.
For example, if you practice hitting a 90 degree hook or slice on the range, and then if you need that shot on the course, you will be imaginative enough to try and recreate it. Bubba has a lifetime of doing nothing but practicing those imaginative shots. So when he is on, and has command of his golf swing, he can make the ball do pretty much whatever he wants. However, his downfall (or at least what may keep him from winning several majors) is the very thing that makes him who he is.
So what can you take from Bubba’s swing? All I would suggest are his practice habits. Unless you have superior athleticism and are willing to work as hard as he has, no instructor I know will be teaching you to swing like Bubba swings. Tiger Woods has spent a career trying to make the golf club do the same thing every time he swings (the exact opposite of Bubba). That is typically the way most instructors are going to teach their students. Tiger’s method has proven pretty successful so far and is producing a solid group of young golfers that grew up wanting to be like Tiger.
What makes Bubba Watson so good is the fact that he knows how to manipulate and change his swing to get the ball to do what he wants. When his swing is on, there are very few players that will be able to compete with the talent and imagination that Bubba can bring to the golf course. I wish Bubba the best and hope he wins every time he tees it up, but his style of play is very difficult to repeat week in and week out.
Who knows how good Bubba would have been if had sought the advice from a good teacher in his youth? Given his imagination and talent, one would have to think the sky would have been the limit. Even without the instruction, Bubba has proven to the world that he is worthy of the highly coveted green jacket – a prize that has so far eluded many players with "fundamentally sound," reliably repeatable swings.
Schedule an online lesson with Tyrus York.