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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

Why you are probably better at golf than you think (Part 2)

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Golf is very much a monkey-see-monkey-do sport. If you ever go to the local range, you are sure to see golfers trying to copy the moves of their favorite player. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it does not. While I understand the logic of trying to mimic the “secret move” of the most recent winner on tour, I always balk when the person trying to create their best impression fails to realize the physical differences between them and the best golfing athletes in the world.

Read part 1 here. 

In addition to most golfers not being at the same fitness levels as the best players in the world, they also do not have bodies that are identical to their favorite player. This single statement proves why there is not one golf swing; we all are different sizes and are going to swing the club differently due to these physical differences.

You have to understand your swing

The biggest reason I believe that golfers are better than they think is most golfers I meet do not understand what their swings should look like. Armed with video after video of their golf swing, I will always hear about the one thing that the golfer wishes they could change. However, that one thing is generally the “glue” or athleticism of the athlete on display and is also the thing that allows them to make decent contact with the ball.

We are just coming out of the “video age” of golf instruction, and while I think that recording your golf swing can be extremely helpful, I think that it is important to understand what you are looking for in your swing. As a young coach, I fell victim to trying to create “pretty swings”, but quickly learned that there is not a trophy for prettiest swing.

It comes down to form or function, and I choose function

The greatest gift I have ever received as an instructor was the recommendation to investigate Mike Adams and BioSwing Dynamics. Mike, E.A. Tischler, and Terry Rowles have done extensive research both with tour-level players as well as club golfers and have developed a way to test or screen each athlete to determine not only how their golf swing will look, but also how they will use the ground to create their maximum speed. This screen can be completed with a tape measure and takes about five minutes, and I have never seen results like I have since I began measuring.

For example, a golfer with a greater wingspan than height will have a golf swing that tracks more to the outside during the backswing and intersects the body more towards the trail shoulder plane during the backswing. A golfer with a shorter wingspan than height will have a swing that tracks more to the inside and intersects the body closer to the trail hip plane. Also, a golfer with a greater wingspan than height will have a more upright dynamic posture than a golfer with a shorter wingspan than height who will be more “bent over” at the address position.

Sport coats and golf swings

Have you ever bought a sport coat or suit for a special occasion? If so, pay attention to whether it is a short, regular, or long. If you buy a long, then it means that your arms are longer than your torso and you can now understand why you produce a “steeper” backswing. Also, if you stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and your middle-finger tips touching the top of your kneecaps, you will have perfect dynamic posture that matches your anatomy. If it appears that you are in a taller posture, then you have your second clue that your wingspan is greater than your height.

Translation to improvement

Using this and five other screens, we can help the athletes understand a complete blueprint of their golf swing based off their anatomy. It is due to the work of Mike, E.A., and Terry that we can now matchup the player to their swing and help them play their best. The reason that I believe that most golfers are better than they think is that most golfers have most of the correct puzzle pieces already. By screening each athlete, we can make the one or two adjustments to get the player back to trusting their swing and feeling in control. More importantly, the athlete can revisit their screen sheet when things misfire and focus on what they need to do, instead of what not to do.

We are all different and all have different swings. There is no one way to swing a golf club because there is no one kind of golfer. I encourage every golfer to make their swing because it is the only one that fits.

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How golf should be learned

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With the COVID-19 pandemic, golf is more popular than ever. Beginners being introduced to the game often find that golf is very hard, much harder than other sports they have played. To simplify the golf swing and make the game easier, it needs to start with a concept.

Golf should first be learned from a horizontal position. If the ball was placed four feet above the ground on a large tee, players would naturally turn in an efficient direction with the proper sequence to strike the ball on the tee.

Take for example, a person throwing a ball towards a target. With their eyes out in front of them? having an awareness to the target, their body would naturally turn in a direction to go forward and around towards the target. In golf, we are bent over from the hips, and we are playing from the side of the golf ball, so players tend to tilt their body or over-rotate, causing an inefficient backswing.

This is why the golf swing should be looked at as a throwing motion. The trail arm folds up as the body coils around. To throw a ball further, the motion doesn’t require more body turn or a tilt of the body.

To get the feeling of this horizontal hitting position or throwing motion, start by taking your golf posture. Make sure your trail elbow is bent and tucked with your trail shoulder below your lead shoulder.

From here, simply lift your arms in front of you while you maintain the bend from your hips. Look over your lead shoulder looking at the target. Get the clubhead traveling first and swing your arms around you. Note how your body coils. Return the club back to its original position.

After a few repetitions, simply lower your arms back to the ball position, swing your arms around you like you did from the horizontal position. Allow your shoulders, chest and hips to be slightly pulled around. This is now your “throwing position” in the golf swing. From here, you are ready to make a downswing with less movement needed to make a proper strike.

Note: Another great drill to get the feel for this motion is practicing Hitting driver off your knees.

Twitter: @KKelley_golf

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Why you are probably better at golf than you think (Part 1)

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Golf is hard. I spend my career helping people learn that truth, but golfers are better than they give themselves credit for.

As a golf performance specialist, I give a lot of “first time working together” lessons, and most of them start the same way. I hear about all the ways the golfer is cursed and how s/he is never going to “get it” and how s/he should take up another sport. Granted, the last statement generally applies to an 18-plus handicap player, but I hear lots of negatives from better players as well.

Even though the golfers make convincing arguments for why they are cursed, I know the truth. It’s my job to help them realize the fates aren’t conspiring against them.

All golfers can play well consistently

I know this is a bold statement, but I believe this because I know that “well” does not equate to trophies and personal bests. Playing “well” equates to understanding your margin of error and learning to live within it.

With this said, I have arrived at my first point of proving why golfers are not cursed or bad golfers: They typically do not know what “good” looks like.

What does “good” look like from 150 yards out to a center pin?

Depending on your skill level, the answer can change a lot. I frequently ask golfers this same question when selecting a shot on the golf course during a coaching session and am always surprised at the response. I find that most golfers tend to either have a target that is way too vague or a target that is much too small.

The PGA Tour average proximity to the hole from 150 yards is roughly 30 feet. The reason I mention this statistic is that it gives us a frame of reference. The best players in the world are equivalent to a +4 or better handicap. With that said, a 15-handicap player hitting it to 30 feet from the pin from 150 yards out sounds like a good shot to me.

I always encourage golfers to understand the statistics from the PGA Tour not because that should be our benchmark, but because we need to realize that often our expectations are way out of line with our current skill level. I have found that golfers attempting to hold themselves to unrealistic standards tend to perform worse due to the constant feeling of “failing” they create when they do not hit every fairway and green.

Jim Furyk, while playing a limited PGA Tour schedule, was the most accurate driver of the golf ball during the 2020 season on the PGA Tour hitting 73.96 percent of his fairways (roughly 10/14 per round) and ranked T-136 in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee. Bryson Dechambeau hit the fairway 58.45 percent (roughly 8/14 per round) of the time and ranked first in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee.

There are two key takeaways in this comparison

Sometimes the fairway is not the best place to play an approach shot from. Even the best drivers of the golf ball miss fairways.

By using statistics to help athletes gain a better understanding of what “good” looks like, I am able to help them play better golf by being aware that “good” is not always in the middle of the fairway or finishing next to the hole.

Golf is hard. Setting yourself up for failure by having unrealistic expectations is only going to stunt your development as a player. We all know the guy who plays the “tips” or purchases a set of forged blades applying the logic that it will make them better in the long run—how does that story normally end?

Take action

If you are interested in applying some statistics to your golf game, there are a ton of great apps that you can download and use. Also, if you are like me and were unable to pass Math 104 in four attempts and would like to do some reading up on the math behind these statistics, I highly recommend the book by Mark Broadie Every Shot Counts. If you begin to keep statistics and would like how to put them into action and design better strategies for the golf course, then I highly recommend the Decade system designed by Scott Fawcett.

You may not be living up to your expectations on the golf course, but that does not make you a bad or cursed golfer. Human beings are very inconsistent by design, which makes a sport that requires absolute precision exceedingly difficult.

It has been said before: “Golf is not a game of perfect.” It’s time we finally accept that fact and learn to live within our variance.

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