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Bubba’s one-club round is GREAT for your golf game

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I thought I’d share a fun experience that took place last month at Pelican Hill Golf Club, one of the two golf courses where I teach. Bubba Watson showed up with a group of friends with three golf balls in his pocket and a 20-degree hybrid. That was it.

Are you wondering if Bubba’s other 13 clubs were hijacked on the way to the course? I know I did. But Bubba told one of our staff members that he sometimes gets bored using 14 clubs, and occasionally wants to challenge his shot making skills by playing a round with only one club.

In impressive fashion, Bubba shot 81 on the Tom Fazio-designed, par-72 championship golf course. That’s a wonderful illustration of what excelling at the game of golf is really about: having multiple skill sets that give any golfer the ability to control the golf ball with whatever club they have in their hands and whatever swing they bring to the course.

This is such an important concept for golfers of all abilities to embrace, because too many get stuck in the mold of waiting until their technique is perfect before they start to learn how to hit different shots. Here’s a simple analogy to destroy that logic: when you learned how to hold a pen, did you wait until your technique was perfect before you attempted to draw or write?

It is never too early or too late to learn how to control the golf ball, regardless of where you are in your journey of trying to achieve a “perfect swing.” There are so many golfers in the history of the game who didn’t have perfect swings, but they still managed to beat all the players who did. That should tell you that your quest for a perfect golf swing is likely shortsighted. The only way to get dramatically better at golf is to grow all aspects of your game. Don’t get stuck in the rut of perfection that we know is unattainable.

Here’s an exercise I want you to do during your next practice session on the range. Execute the following five shot patterns below using only your 8 iron, hybrid and driver. Do not hit the same club two times in a row, and do not hit the same shape of shot two times in a row. Also, do not hit to the same target two times in a row.

Even if you don’t know how to execute one of the shot patterns, try it anyways. It’s a learning experience, and the feedback you will gain will be worth your while. Grade yourself on each shot (a score of “1” is bad, a score of “10 is perfect) and take detailed notes during the drill about you ball contact, distance, direction, trajectory and the shape of shots that you were producing.

The shots

  • Stock/Normal
  • High Trajectory
  • Low Trajectory
  • Draw Spin
  • Fade Spin

The Notes

Screen Shot 2013-10-24 Bubba PDF

Putting it into practice

The shot patterns that earn you the highest scores should be the ones you hit on the golf course most frequently, especially when you are under pressure. They are the shots that your golf swing is built to hit. The shot patterns that result in lower scores are the ones you should hit the least on the golf course. You should spend the most time on the range working on them, and asking for help from your teaching professional is likely the fastest, easiest ways to make meaningful improvements.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to pay close attention to the notes you make, because they will immediately help you manage your current game. For example, if you hit your driver with a 20-yard slice regardless of what shot shape or trajectory you are trying to execute, you’d better make a game plan to help you manage that 20-yard slice. That will allow you to play your absolutely best with your misses, and if you’re patient enough, the notes will also help you understand the real weaknesses of your swing.

This drill is a great motivator to help you expand your skill sets so that you can hit all shapes of shots and control your golf ball to the best of your ability. It also makes your practice sessions a whole heck of a lot more fun, and better prepares you for an actual round of golf. In time, maybe you’ll get so good that you’ll want to try a one-club round like Bubba.

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Certified Teaching Professional at the Pelican Hill Golf Club, Newport Coast, CA. Ranked as one of the best teachers in California & Hawaii by Golf Digest Titleist Performance Institute Certified www.youtube.com/uranser

30 Comments

30 Comments

  1. Pingback: All You Need Is One Club | The Grateful Golfer

  2. Pingback: Bubba Watson shoots 81 with just one club | Golf.com Scorecard Test Import

  3. Pingback: Five Friday Favourites 06/12/2013 | Inquisitiva.

  4. hello

    Dec 4, 2013 at 9:54 am

    I don’t think anybody’s even mentioned that he never plays a 20 deg hybrid. Maybe part of the motivation was to get comfortable with one if he ever feels like putting it in play.

    I’m guessing he could hit it 250 no problem and land it soft on the green from 130 if he had room on the right.

    I would think he could usually do better with a 5 iron but I’ve never played the course.

  5. Pingback: Bubba Watson shoots an 81 with just one club - The Brable | The Brable

  6. Kelly

    Nov 20, 2013 at 10:28 pm

    Nice, practical article Tim.

    A variation on the one club round: During some late evening rounds when there was barely light enough to finish 9 holes, a group of regulars would warm up on the first three holes, then use a 4 iron on hole 4, 5 iron on 5 all the way up to the 9 iron on 9. The course we played had a modest par 5 9th and it was surprising how many of us could par it. The par 3 4th was much more challenging.

  7. WarrenPeace

    Nov 20, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    The best club to play this game with is a 5 iron- hood it and it’s a 3 wood, lay it out flat and you can easily get out of bunkers or hit flops. It putts and chips well too. We used to play this game a lot for money so I’ve tried it with many clubs- the 5 iron is the money club in that game. A 20 Hybrid? – now that is a challenge- I mean how often do you hit a hybrid- at least practice with a club that you might use in a round more than 1-2 times.

  8. Jeff Smith

    Nov 20, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    Why does anyone care if that guy played with one club. That guy is so out of touch with reality not to mention the guy needs a personality of his own not one that is media infused. Playing golf with one club is not golf just like long drive side shows.

    • Blah, blah, blah

      Dec 10, 2013 at 1:37 pm

      So you actually know him? And you know everything about him and his personality, so much so, that you know he´s out of touch with reality? Great stuff! Why is playing golf with on club not golf?

  9. Socalpro517

    Nov 20, 2013 at 12:49 am

    I’d rather play the round with a 2 iron than a 20 degree hybrid… He must have been making darn sure he didn’t wind up in front of or in a greenside bunker. At least with an iron you can attempt some sort of manipulated higher lofted shot. REALLY difficult with a hybrid. My golf coach would sometimes end a clinic session by having people hit flop 2 irons off the mats at the range, hard to do but really cool when it’s executed.

  10. Chris

    Nov 17, 2013 at 2:15 am

    We played this once often at my club. One afternoon after finishing a horrible morning round (41 on front) I played the same front 9 with a 6 iron and shot 38. Game teaches shot making, strategy and concentration. It is also a lot of fun….

  11. Ronald Montesano

    Nov 16, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    #ThadDaber

  12. christian

    Nov 16, 2013 at 2:17 am

    I somehow thought he would score better than 81..

    • Michael Shelton

      Nov 26, 2013 at 12:44 pm

      I was a foreman in the earthmoving on Pelican Hill, subsequently being able to play there many times. I can tell you it is amazing he shot 81 with a hybrid. Some of the up and downs could not have been easy.

  13. Ponjo

    Nov 15, 2013 at 5:35 pm

    Be interesting how I would get out of our pot bunkers with my hybrid 🙂

  14. John

    Nov 15, 2013 at 3:36 pm

    the golf swing and holding a pen. two totally different tasks that should never be compared. They could not be farther apart on the level of difficulty. One is slightly simpler for ALL skill levels.

    • John

      Nov 15, 2013 at 3:41 pm

      despite the terrible comparison. I do agree creativity and shot making is important. I don’t necessarily agree that golfers with LOFT issues should be trying to be bubba watson creative right away. The reason high handicapers shoot high scores is because they can work the ball left to right, right to left, high, low. They just can’t do it on command or with quality ball striking. Working on a stock shot to lower your score in my opinion would be wiser. If your already a 10 or lower handicap then by all means go Bubba Watson out there on the course or range

  15. RocketShankz

    Nov 15, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    Awesome stuff. We used to have a practice once a week at Vandy where we’d carry 3 clubs. 1 for the front, 1 for the back, and a putter. Only downside was realizing how much $$$ we waste on 14 club bags. Cheers.

  16. Adam

    Nov 15, 2013 at 10:23 am

    Great stuff Tim.

  17. Martin

    Nov 15, 2013 at 6:00 am

    That’s how Seve became Seve, learned to play the game with an old 3 Iron.

    It’s fun, a 20 Hybrid would be a tough way to go for me, more likely I would choose a 6-7 Iron.

  18. naflack

    Nov 15, 2013 at 12:46 am

    Some of us will do this occasionally on the back 9. 1 club, loser buys burgers afterwards. Always fun and always fast play…

  19. Jesse

    Nov 14, 2013 at 11:08 pm

    I’ve done this with 3 clubs its pretty fun. My College golf coach did a variation on the range where in our backswing he would tell us what to hit. Lowdraw, highdraw.lowfade, highfade. It really teaches u to slow down your backswing as well as how the hands can manapulate the club.

    • Stopsucking

      Nov 20, 2013 at 3:00 pm

      We did this in College as well. Very interesting to see how well you can actually pull off the shots if you keep it nice and slow.

  20. Dave

    Nov 14, 2013 at 8:03 pm

    Not a new concept. We’ve always had a tin cup round at our annual guys golf weekend.

  21. David N. Simms

    Nov 14, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    I can’t hit a hybrid to save my life. I’d probably do this with a 7 or 8-iron.

  22. mick

    Nov 14, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    Better not short side yourself with the hybrid

  23. LorenRobertsFan

    Nov 14, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    It helps if you hit your 7 iron farther than 150.. I wouldn’t reach the fairway at my golf course :/

  24. Pooch

    Nov 14, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    I try to tell people I fit that getting at least one or two hybrids will make the game easier. “You can use these clubs for everything from teeing off to putting” Sometimes you can’t help a drowning man.
    Thanks for the great article.

  25. Chris

    Nov 14, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    Great stuff. I first played a round with 1 club (5-iron) 30 years ago when I was 13 years old and tend to do it every couple of years it seems.

    A few years ago at a stag (bachelor) golf outing it paid off when someone suggested a $20 per man 1-club sudden death challenge…4 holes and 4 pars later I was $240 richer!

    If you haven’t tried it you should.

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Instruction

Clement: Best drill for weight shift and clearing hips (bonus on direction too)

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This is, by far, one of the most essential drills for your golf swing development. To throw the club well is a liberating experience! Here we catch Munashe up with how important the exercise is not only in the movement pattern but also in the realization that the side vision is viciously trying to get you to make sure you don’t throw the golf club in the wrong direction. Which, in essence, is the wrong direction to start with!

This drill is also a cure for your weight shift problems and clearing your body issues during the swing which makes this an awesome all-around golf swing drill beauty! Stay with us as we take you through, step by step, how this excellent drill of discovery will set you straight; pardon the pun!

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Confessions of a hacker: Chipping yips and equipment fixes

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There’s a saying in golf that, paraphrasing here, it’s the person holding the weapon, not the weapon. Basically, if you hit a bad shot, it’s almost certain that it was your fault, not the fault of the golf club. It has a better design than your swing. And while that truism is often correct, it ain’t necessarily so.

For example, if I were to try to hit one of those long drive drivers, I’d probably mis-hit it so badly that the ball might not be findable. That stick is way too long, stiff, and heavy for me. Similarly, if I were to use one of those senior flex drivers, I’d probably hit it badly, because it would be too floppy for my swing. It’s clear that there are arrows that this Indian can’t shoot well. Maybe a pro could adapt to whatever club you put in his hand, but there’s no reason he would accept less than a perfect fit. And there’s little reason why any amateur ought to accept less than a good fit.

I was never a competitive athlete, although I’m a competitive person. My path led a different direction, and as my medical career reached its mature years, I was introduced to our wonderful and frustrating game.

Being one who hates playing poorly, I immediately sought instruction. After fifteen years, multiple instructors, a wallet full of videos, and a wall full of clubs, I am finally learning how to do one particularly vexing part of the game reasonable well. I can chip! But as you may have guessed, the largest part of this journey has to do with the arrow, not the Indian.

We may immediately dismiss the golf shaft as a significant issue since chipping generally involves a low-speed movement. And as long as the grip is a reasonable fit for the hands, it’s not a big deal either. The rubber meets the road at the clubhead.

Manufacturers have worked hard to get the best ball spin out of the grooves. Their shape is precisely milled, and then smaller grooves and roughness are added to the exact maximum allowed under the rules. Various weighting schemes have been tried, with some success in tailoring wedges to players. And some manufacturers market the “newest” designs to make it impossible to screw up wedge shots. And yet, nothing seemed to solve my yips.

So I went on a mission. I studied all sorts of chipping techniques. Some advocate placing the ball far back to strike a descending blow. Others place it near the center of the stance. The swing must have no wrist hinge. The swing must have a hinge that is held. It should be a short swing. It should be a long swing. The face should be square. The face should be open. There should be a “pop.” There should be no power added.

If you are confused, join my club. So I went on a different mission. I started looking at sole construction. Ever since Gene Sarazen popularized a sole with bounce for use in the sand, manufacturers have been creating massive numbers of “different” sand wedges. They have one thing in common. They are generally all built to 55 or 56-degrees of loft.

The basic design feature of the sand wedge is that the sole extends down and aft from the leading edge at some angle. This generally ranges from 6 to 18-degrees. Its purpose is to allow the wedge to dig into the sand, but not too far. As the club goes down into the sand, the “bounce” pushes it back up.

 

One problem with having a lot of bounce on the wedge is that it can’t be opened up to allow certain specialty shots or have a higher effective loft. When the player does that, the leading edge lifts, resulting in thin shots. So manufacturers do various things to make the wedge more versatile, typically by removing bounce in the heel area.

At my last count, I have eight 56-degree wedges in my collection. Each one was thought to be a solution to my yips. Yet, until I listened to an interview with Dave Edel, I had almost no real understanding of why I was laying sod over a lot of my chips. Since gardening did not reduce my scores, I had to find another solution.

My first step was to look at the effective loft of a wedge in various ball positions. (Pictures were shot with the butt of the club at the left hip, in a recommended forward lean position. Since the protractor is not exactly lined up with the face, the angles are approximate.)

I had no idea that there was so much forward lean with a simple chip. If I were to use the most extreme rearward position, I would have to have 21-degrees of bounce just to keep the leading edge from digging in at impact. If there were the slightest error in my swing, I would be auditioning for greenskeeper.

My appreciation for the pros who can chip from this position suddenly became immense. For an amateur like me, the complete lack of forgiveness in this technique suddenly removed it from my alleged repertoire.

My next step was to look at bounce. As I commented before, bounce on sand wedges ranges between 6 and 18-degrees. As the drawing above shows, that’s a simple angle measurement. If I were to chip from the forward position, a 6-degree bounce sand wedge would have an effective bounce of 1-degree. That’s only fractionally better than the impossible chip behind my right foot. So I went to my local PGA Superstore to look at wedges with my Maltby Triangle Gauge in hand.

As you can see from the photos, there is a wide variation in wedges. What’s most curious, however, is that this variation is between two designs that are within one degree of the same nominal bounce. Could it be that “bounce is not bounce is not bounce?” Or should I say that “12-degrees is not 12-degrees is not 12-degrees?” If one looks below the name on the gauge, a curious bit of text appears. “Measuring effective bounce on wedges.” Hmmm… What is “effective bounce?”

The Maltby Triangle Gauge allows you to measure three things: leading-edge height, sole tangent point, and leading-edge sharpness. The last is the most obvious. If I’m chipping at the hairy edge of an adequate bounce, a sharp leading edge will dig in more easily than a blunt one. So if I’m using that far back ball position, I’ll need the 1OutPlus for safety, since its leading edge is the bluntest of the blunt. Even in that position, its 11-degree bounce keeps the leading edge an eighth of an inch up.

Wait a minute! How can that be? In the back position, the wedge is at 35-degrees effective loft, and 11-degrees of bounce ought to be 10-degrees less than we need. The difference here is found in combining all three parameters measured by the gauge, and not just the angle of the bounce.

The 1OutPlus is a very wide sole wedge. Its tangent point is a massive 1.7″ back. The leading edge rises .36″ off the ground and is very blunt. In other words, it has every possible design feature to create safety in case the chip from back in the stance isn’t as perfect as it might be. Since a golf ball is 1.68″ in diameter, that’s still less than halfway up to the center of the ball. But if you play the ball forward, this may not be the wedge for you.

Here are the measurements for the eight sand wedges that happen to be in my garage. All are either 56-degrees from the factory or bent to 56-degrees.

A couple of things jump out from this table. The Callaway PM Grind at 13-degrees has a lower leading edge (.26 inches) than the 11-degree Bazooka 1OutPlus (.36 inches). How can a lower bounce have a higher leading edge? Simple geometry suggests that if you want a higher leading edge, you will need a higher bounce angle. But it gets worse. The Wishon WS (wide sole) at 6-degrees (55-degree wedge bent to 56-degrees) has a leading-edge height of .28 inches, higher than the Callaway which has over twice the nominal bounce angle!

One thing is missing from this simple discussion of angles.

If I place one line at 34-degrees above the horizontal (loft is measured from the vertical), and then extend another at some angle below horizontal, the height above ground where the two join depends on how long the lower line is. This means that an 18-degree bounce with a narrow “C” grind will raise the leading edge a little bit. A 6-degree bounce on a wide sole may raise it more because the end of the bounce on the first wedge is so close to the leading edge.

 

Let’s look at this in the picture. If the red line of the bounce is very short, it doesn’t get far below the black ground line. But if it goes further, it gets lower. This is the difference between narrow and wide soles.

This diagram describes the mathematical description of these relationships.

Our first task is to realize that the angle 0 in this diagram is the complement of the 56-degree loft of the wedge, or 90 – 56 = 34-degrees since loft is measured from vertical, not horizontal. But the angle 0 in the bounce equation is just that, the bounce value. These two angles will now allow us to calculate the theoretical values of various parts of the wedge, and then compare them to our real-world examples.

My PM Grind Callaway wedge has its 3rd groove, the supposed “perfect” impact point, 0.54 inches above the leading edge. This should put it 0.8 inches back from the leading edge, roughly matching the measured 0.82 inches. So far, so good. (I’m using the gauge correctly!)

The 13-degree bounce at 1.14″ calculates out to 0.284″ of leading-edge rise. I measured 0.26″, so Callaway seems to be doing the numbers properly, until I realize that the leading edge is already .45″ back, given a real tangent of .69″. Something is out of whack. Re-doing the math suggests that the real bounce is 20-degrees, 40 min. Hmmm…

Maybe that bounce angle measurement isn’t such a good number to look at. Without digging through all the different wedges (which would make you cross-eyed), we should go back to basics. What is it that we really need?

Most instructors will suggest that striking the ball on about the third groove will give the best results. It will put the ball close to the center of mass (sweet spot) of the wedge and give the best spin action. If my wedge is at an effective 45-degree angle (about my right big toe), it will strike the ball about half-way up to its equator. It will also be close to the third groove. But to make that strike with minimal risk of gardening, I have to enough protection to keep the edge out of the turf if I mis-hit the ball by a little bit. That can be determined by the leading edge height! The higher the edge, the more forgiveness there is on a mis-hit.

Now this is an incomplete answer. If the bounce is short, with a sharp back side, it will tend to dig into the turf a bit. It may not do it a lot, but it will have more resistance than a wider, smoother bounce. In the extreme case, the 1OutPlus will simply glide over the ground on anything less than a ridiculous angle.

The amount of leading-edge height you need will depend on your style. If you play the ball forward, you may not need much. But as you move the ball back, you’ll need to increase it. And if you are still inconsistent, a wider sole with a smooth contour will help you avoid episodes of extreme gardening. A blunt leading edge will also help. It may slow your club in the sand, but it will protect your chips.

There is no substitute for practice, but if you’re practicing chips from behind your right foot using a wedge with a sharp, low leading edge, you’re asking for frustration. If you’re chipping from a forward position with a blunt, wide sole wedge, you’ll be blading a lot of balls. So look at your chipping style and find a leading-edge height and profile that match your technique. Forget about the “high bounce” and “low bounce” wedges. That language doesn’t answer the right question.

Get a wedge that presents the club to the ball with the leading edge far enough off the ground to provide you with some forgiveness. Then knock ’em stiff!

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Golf 101: What is a strong grip?

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What is a strong grip? Before we answer that, consider this: How you grip it might be the first thing you learn, and arguably the first foundation you adapt—and it can form the DNA for your whole golf swing.

The proper way to hold a golf club has many variables: hand size, finger size, sports you play, where you feel strength, etc. It’s not an exact science. However, when you begin, you will get introduced to the common terminology for describing a grip—strong, weak, and neutral.

Let’s focus on the strong grip as it is, in my opinion, the best way to hold a club when you are young as it puts the clubface in a stronger position at the top and instinctively encourages a fair bit of rotation to not only hit it solid but straight.

The list of players on tour with strong grips is long: Dustin Johnson, Zach Johnson, Bubba Watson, Fred Couples, David Duval, and Bernhard Langer all play with a strong grip.

But what is a strong grip? Well like my first teacher Mike Montgomery (Director of Golf at Glendale CC in Seattle) used to say to me, “it looks like you are revving up a Harley with that grip”. Point is the knuckles on my left hand were pointing to the sky and my right palm was facing the same way.

Something like this:

Of course, there are variations to it, but that is your run of the mill, monkey wrench strong grip. Players typically will start there when they are young and tweak as they gain more experience. The right hand might make it’s way more on top, left-hand knuckles might show two instead of three, and the club may move its way out of the palms and further down into the fingers.

Good golf can be played from any position you find comfortable, especially when you find the body matchup to go with it.

Watch this great vid from @JakeHuttGolf

In very simple terms, here are 3 pros and 3 cons of a strong grip.

Pros

  1. Encourages a closed clubface which helps deloft the club at impact and helps you hit further
  2. It’s an athletic position which encourages rotation
  3. Players with strong grips tend to strike it solidly

Cons

  1. Encourages a closed clubface which helps deloft the club at impact and can cause you to hit it low and left
  2. If you don’t learn to rotate you could be in for a long career of ducks and trees
  3. Players with strong grips tend to fight a hook and getting the ball in the air

 

Make Sense?

 

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