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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: Load up the full power package in the backswing!

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This video is FUNDAMENTAL FOR POWER GAINS in the golf swing; the arm anatomy BEGS TO BE USED in this manner from casting a fishing pole, to serving a tennis ball to batting a baseball to driving a golf ball. YOU WILL LOVE how much SNAP you will get through the ball and the sound the ball will make coming off the club from the compression off the face. BLISS ON A STICK!

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Clement: This wrist position can add 30 yards to your drive

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Drop the mic on how the wrists should load and be positioned for compressive power, accuracy, and longevity! There is a better way, and this is it!

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Short Game University: How to hit wedges 301

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In golf, there is nothing harder than judging a flop shot over a bunker to a tight pin out of long grass. Why? Because there are so many variables to account for — in addition to what you can and cannot do with a wedge. In fact, up until very recently in the world of wedge design, we were limited to only increasing the landing angle to stop the ball, because relying on spin from this lie and this close to the green was next to impossible.

Now with the advent of things like raw faces, different CG locations, new groove design, and micro-ribs between the grooves, we can now spin the ball out of lies that we never could have done so before. This is not to say that you can now zip the ball back from these types of lies, but we are seeing spin rates that have skyrocketed, and this allows us to not open the face as much as we needed to do before in order to stop the ball.

Before we get into the shot around the green itself, let’s talk a bit about wedge design. For that, I called a great friend of mine, Greg Cesario, TaylorMade’s Staff Manager to help us understand a bit more about wedges. Greg was a former PGA Tour Player and had a big hand in designing the new Milled Grind 3 Wedges.

Cesario said: “Wedge technology centers on two key areas- the first is optimizing its overall launch/spin (just like drivers) on all shots and the second is optimum ground interaction through the geometry of the sole (bounce, sole width, and sole shape).”

“Two key things impact spin: Groove design and face texture. Spin is the secondary effect of friction. This friction essentially helps the ball stick to the face a little longer and reduces slippage. We define slippage as how much the ball slides up the face at impact. That happens more when it’s wet outside during those early morning tee times, out of thicker lies, or after a bit of weather hits. Our Raised Micro-Ribs increase friction and reduce slippage on short partial shots around the round – that’s particularly true in wet conditions.”

“We’ve been experimenting with ways to find optimal CG (center of gravity) placement and how new geometries can influence that. We know that CG locations can influence launch, trajectory and spin. Everyone is chasing the ability to produce lower launching and higher spinning wedge shots to help players increase precision distance control. In that space, moving CG just a few millimeters can have big results. Beyond that, we’re continuing to advance our spin and friction capabilities – aiming to reduce the decay of spin from dry to fluffy, or wet conditions.”

Basically, what Greg is saying is that without improvements in design, we would never be able to spin the ball like we would normally when it’s dry and the lie is perfect. So, with this new design in a wedge like the Milled Grind 3 (and others!), how can we make sure we have the optimal opportunity to hit these faster-stopping pitch shots?

  1. Make sure the face is clean and dry
  2. Open the blade slightly, but not too much
  3. Set the wrists quicker on the backswing to increase the AoA
  4. Keep the rear shoulder moving through impact to keep the arms going

Make sure the face is clean and dry

If your thought is to use spin to stop the ball quicker under any situation, then you must give the club a chance to do its job. When the grooves are full of dirt and grass and the remaining exposed face is wet, then you are basically eliminating any opportunity to create spin. In fact, if you decide to hit the shot under these conditions, you might as well hit a flop shot as this would be the only opportunity to create a successful outcome. Don’t put yourself behind the eight-ball automatically, keep your club in a clean and dry condition so you have the best chance to do what you are capable of doing.

Open the blade slightly, but not too much

Without going into too much extra detail, spinloft is the difference between your angle of attack and your dynamic loft. And this difference is one of the main areas where you can maximize your spin output.

Too little or too much spinloft and you will not be able to get the maximum spin out of the shot at hand. With wedges, people equate an open clubface to spinning the ball, and this can be a problem due to excessive spinloft. Whenever you have too much dynamic loft, the ball will slide up the face (reduced friction equals reduced spin) and the ball will float out higher than expected and roll out upon landing.

My thought around the green is to open the face slightly, but not all the way, in efforts to reduce the probability of having too much spinloft during impact. Don’t forget under this scenario we are relying on additional spin to stop the ball. If you are using increased landing angle to stop the ball, then you would obviously not worry about increasing spinloft! Make sure you have these clear in your mind before you decide how much to open the blade.

Opened slightly

Opened too much

One final note: Please make sure you understand what bounce option you need for the type of conditions you normally play. Your professional can help you but I would say that more bounce is better than less bounce for the average player. You can find the bounce listed on the wedge itself. It will range between 4-14, with the mid-range bounce being around 10 degrees.

Set the wrists quicker on the backswing to increase the angle of attack

As we know, when debris gets in between the clubface and the ball (such as dirt/grass), you will have two problems. One, you will not be able to control the ball as much. Secondly, you will not be able to spin the ball as much due to the loss of friction.

So, what is the key to counteract this problem? Increasing the angle of attack by setting the wrists quicker on the backswing. Making your downswing look more like a V rather than a U allows less junk to get between the club and the ball. We are not using the bounce on this type of shot, we are using the leading edge to slice through the rough en route to the ball. Coming in too shallow is a huge problem with this shot, because you will tend to hit it high on the face reducing control.

Use your increased AoA on all of your crappy lies, and you will have a much better chance to get up and down more often!

Keep the rear shoulder moving through impact to keep the arms going

The final piece of the puzzle through the ball is speed through the pivot. You cannot hit shots around the green out of tall grass without keeping the club moving and having speed. A reduction of speed is obvious as the club enters into the tall grass, but you don’t want to exacerbate this problem by cutting off your pivot and letting the arms do all the work.

Sure, there are times when you want to cut off the body rotation through the ball, but not on the shot I am discussing here. When we are using spin, you must have speed to generate the spin itself. So, what is the key to maintaining your speed? Keeping the rear shoulder rotating long into the forward swing. If you do this, you will find that your arms, hands, and club will be pulled through the impact zone. If your pivot stalls, then your speed will decrease and your shots will suffer.

Hopefully, by now you understand how to create better shots around the green using the new wedge technology to create more spin with lies that we had no chance to do so before. Remembering these simple tips — coupled with your clean and dry wedge — will give you the best opportunity to be Tiger-like around the greens!

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