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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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The 3 different levels of golf practice

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“I would have practiced as hard, but I would have made my practice more meaningful. I would have worked more on my short game and putting. I would’ve done a lot more drills to make the practice more meaningful, and I would’ve added pressure to the practice as much as possible.” — Lee Westwood

Now here’s the rub. Practice is not monolithic! I approach practice as having three different, distinctive and separate curriculum and criteria.

  • Level 1: Basic
  • Level 2: Advanced
  • Level 3: Extreme

Basic Practice (Level 1) by definition is “repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it.” Basically, it’s doing the same thing over and over again to get better at it. My favorite skill that requires practice is the 76-yard “flighted wedge.” I do it, and I recommend it be done at every range practice session. Additionally, I identify and then practice as many different “skills” that are required to hit different golf shots. I have found that a non-pressurized environment is the best way to practice in a basic model.

It goes without saying that golf is not played in a pressure-free environment, so basic practice doesn’t help us play golf. The prime objective of Level 2 Practice (Advanced Training) is to take what you do in Basic Practice to the golf course.

First, create on-course situations that require you to hit the shots you have practiced. There should be rewards for demonstrations of competence, and there should be consequences for demonstrations of incompetence

“When you practice, try to find a situation to fit the shot you’re trying to practice.” — Ben Hogan

For example, a major problem is the unevenness of the lies you will encounter during play as opposed to the lies you used for your drills. From marginal to extreme, lies are difficult to replicate on the practice tee. So, play a round of golf and move the ball into the most undesirable lie that is very close to where you are.

Another example would be duplicating the creativity that is sometimes required during actual play. The prime example of that would be the sensation of “being in-between clubs.” I would suggest that you play an occasional round of golf using only half of your clubs. Take two wedges instead of four. Take only the “odd” or “even” numbered irons. Look at not taking the driver, or not taking all of your fairway clubs. I have not taken my putter, which forced me putt with my sand wedge!

A third example would be to play a round of golf and deliberately miss every green in regulation. Should your ball accidentally finish on the green in regulation just move it off into the rough, a bunker or whatever else could use the extra attention. You can create games where your opponent moves your ball off the green into something that would be advantageous to him.

Level 2 Practice is conducted on the practice ground as well as on the course. What I do and recommend is to take each of the shots, skills and drills used in Level 1 and add some accountability to the range experience. I have my students and clients use a “Practice Book” to schedule activities and to keep track of improvement.

Author Note: I will send you a sample practice book page that many of my players actually use. Request it at edmyersgolf@gmail.com.

Please be advised that Level 2 Practice can feature games, wagering or other forms of friendly competitions because they should only activate the lesser emotions of irritation, annoyance, anticipation, anxiousness, joy, pleasure and disappointment. Dealing with these feelings in practice will help you recognize and deal with the minor stresses experienced by most recreational golfers.

Stress is the major cause of “CHOKING.”

Stress, by definition “is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.” Stress can ruin our ability to perform when we experience the major emotions such as fear, anger, shame, humiliation, euphoria, ridicule, betrayal, doubt and/or disbelief.

Level 3 Practice (Extreme Preparation) is on-course training sessions best suited for very serious competitive golfers. The more a player is able to compete in a simulated or controlled environment that accurately replicates the actual “pressures” that produce the kind of stresses that can effect performance, the better the player will perform when stressed in actual tournaments or events. Please be advised that Extreme Practice DOES NOT feature games, gambling or “friendly” competitions. They don’t control the conditions of play sufficiently to replicate the type of pressure that would induce “stress.”

“Simulation, which  is a technique (not a technology) to replace and amplify real experiences with guided ones, often “immersive” in nature, that evoke or replicate substantial aspects of the real world in a fully interactive fashion.” For many years now, the medical profession has used simulations to train doctors, the military has used simulations to prepare troops for the realities of the battlefield and aviation has used simulators to train pilots. Simulating has the added benefits of being cost and time effective while producing verifiable results.

If it’s possible for airlines to replicate every possible scenario that a pilot could experience in the cockpit by using simulations, then why isn’t it possible to replicate situations, and subsequent emotional responses, that a competitive golfer could experience on the golf course? Let me give you an example of what I mean.

“I got nervous all the time, as nervous as the next guy. It’s just that I caught myself before it became destructive.” Jack Nicklaus

Recent events at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play gives us some evidence of the destructiveness of uncontrolled emotions. Justin Thomas said that he couldn’t get the thought out of his mind of becoming the No. 1-ranked player in the world should he defeat Bubba Watson in the semi-finals, which he failed to do.

“I haven’t had such a hard time not thinking about something so much,” Thomas said. “And that really sucked. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, to be perfectly honest.”

Then there was Ian Poulter being told that with his win over Louis Oosthuizen he had earned a spot in this years’ Masters tournament only to be told 10 minutes before his next match that he had not actually secured the coveted invitation. With elation, joy and satisfaction jerked away and replaced with disappointment, and possibly anger, the Englishman went out and got whipped by Kevin Kisner 8 & 6!

I concede that Justin Thomas’ and Ian Poulter’s situations were so unique that simulation-based practice and preparation techniques may not have been available to them, but now they both must know that their performance was effected negatively by mental stresses. And with that knowledge they may want to get tougher mentally. Level 3 Practice does that!

Not all that long ago, I was approached by a PGA Tour veteran for some on-course, one-on-one training. He was experiencing severe “choking” in pressurized short-game situations. So I took him out on the course and we replicated the exact shots he had problems with in the past. He demonstrated that he could perform each and every shot in a stress-free environment. We went into a “low-stress” training environment and his performance began to suffer. Then, at his urging to get “real,” we went into a “high-stress” practice mode and he melted down. Without going into details, he became so angry that not only couldn’t he hit golf shots, he tried to run me down with the golf cart as he retreated to the safety of his car.

Now, that’s not the end of the story. A few hours later, after some soul searching, he apologized for his lack of self-control and acknowledged that he had recognized the early signs of stress growing internally as we worked. We went back out onto the course and got back to work.

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Winning Ways: Here’s what it takes to become a winner in Junior Girls golf

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Every competitive golfer strives to win, and I want to help them achieve their goals. Recently, I wrote a story highlighting the statistics behind winning in junior boys golf, and how they can do it more often. Now, we set out to examine the data on winning in junior girls golf, and provide ways they can improve. The data is based on an analysis of tournament results from all events during the 2017 year from the Junior Tour of Northern California. We then asked stats guru, Peter Sanders, Founder of ShotByShot.com, to provide the stats related to the winning scoring numbers that we found. Finally, we discuss ways that juniors can practice building skills and work towards becoming tournament winners.

The Winning Scores

In 2017 the Junior Tour of Northern California held 26 tournaments with 850+ members. According to our data collection based on information available on the website, the average girl’s tournament course measured 6145 yards. The average winning score for girls was 146 (36 holes), or 73 per round. Ten of the 22 tournaments where won with scores of 144 or better and the low 36 holes total was a whopping 133! In the data collection we also collected the average 10th place scores girls. The average 10th place score for girls was 159 or 79.5.

The Winning Stats

We provided the numbers to statistics expert Peter Sanders. Peter’s company has been providing Strokes Gained analysis for golfers for the last 29 years. Peter is the founder of ShotByShot.com, a website that provides golfers at all levels with Strokes Gained analysis, pinpoints specific strengths and weaknesses and highlights improvement priorities. Since the launch of ShotByShot.com in 2005, Peter has collected over 317,000 rounds. Accordingly, Peter has agreed to share the numbers, below, for a typical female player who averages 73. There are two important points to consider when reviewing these statistics:

  1. In order to have a complete picture of the puzzle that is golf, one must consider the ERRORS, or lack thereof, that play such an important role in scoring at every level. Even the 650+ PGA Tour stats ignore these important miscues. Shot By Shot has included them in their analysis from the beginning and they are highlighted in the infographics below.
  2. The data provided represents only tournament rounds. As such it will primarily represent the high school and college programs that use ShotbyShot.com

Infographics Created by Alexis Bennett

The Winning Preparation

Junior girls are encouraged to use these stats as a benchmark against their own performance to determine where they might need to improve against the “typical 73 player.” After identifying gaps in their game, they can then create practice plans to help improve. For example, a junior might notice they have more 3-putts than the model. To improve, they could work put more time into practice, as well as playing games on the golf course like draw-back and 2-putt.

  • Drawback is a game where after your first putt, you draw the second putt one putter length away from the hole. This often changes a shorter putt (> 2 feet) to a putt of between 3.5 – 5 feet. This putts significantly more pressure on your putting.
  • You may also play Two-Putt, a game where when you reach the green, you (or your playing competitor) tosses the ball away from the hole. You must 2-putt from that spot to move to the next hole (even if it takes a couple attempts!).

Others reading this article might find that they don’t hit enough greens. Improving this area will require more consistent strikes, which may require further technical development and block practice, as well as working on the golf course. To start, I would recommend that every junior implement the yardage rule. The yardage rule works like this; figure out the distance to the very back of the green. For example, this number may be 157. Then figure out what club ALWAYS flies 157, which might be 6-iron. Then choose 7-iron for the shot. This way your best shot will not fly the green, your average shot will likely be in the middle of the green and your less-than-perfect shot will hopefully end up on the front of the green.

During practice rounds, play competitive games with yourself to sharpen your ability to hit greens. For example, if you normally hit 7 greens per round, in practice your goal might be 9. You would track your results over a month and then see your progress.

Beyond building individual skills, like hitting greens or working on putting, junior golfers need times to play competitive rounds on their home golf courses. Ideally, these rounds are played against other people with similar skills and done under tournament like conditions with consequences (loser buys winner a coke or cleans their golf clubs). Playing hundreds of rounds at your home golf course under these conditions gives you a unique opportunity to sharpen your game, learn your tendencies and build skills such as endurance and mental toughness. Most importantly, it teaches you to win and shoot under par!

Please also keep in mind building these skills may take months (or even years). In my own personal experience, when I set out to improve my birdies per round, it took nearly 4 months and 75+ rounds and significant practice to begin to see a change. Depending on your schedule and access to resources like a golf course and instructor, some changes might take a year or more. Regardless, don’t ever worry; building a solid foundation in golf will always lead to rewards!

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PNF Drills: How To Turn Onto The Golf Ball

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In this video, I share a great drill to help you turn onto the ball. This will help you rotate through impact.

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