Friday, December 30

Best of 2011: The High School Golf Swing of Bubba Watson

Editor’s note: As the year comes to a close, I offer another favorite post from the 2011 season. This one, from late January, addresses the unorthodox golf action of Bubba Watson.

Bubba Watson launches one.
CBS’S PETER KOSTIS DOES A GOOD JOB on swing analyses. While other golf talking heads sound like they’re blowing smoke, Kostis, as I’ve written, hypnotizes me. He just sounds believable.

However, as I learned yesterday watching the final round of the Farmers Insurance Open, even Kostis struggles to put Bubba Watson’s swing into words. I sympathize. Bubba’s action defies explanation. It just works. Watson had all the shots in his bag this past weekend as he cruised to his second career victory at Torrey Pines.

Not long before Kostis and crew took a slo-mo look at Bubba, Kostis analyzed the swing of Bob Hope Classic winner Jhonattan Vegas. Vegas contended to the very end on Sunday before dumping his second shot into the pond that fronts the 18th green. Vegas’s swing looks like it’s out of a golf instruction book. Kostis drew two lines and a triangle, explaining how Vegas was on plane and returned the club to the same position and angle as at address. Kostis was like a college anatomy professor explaining how and why it works.

Hitting It Bubba Long

After Bubba launched a 363-yard drive on the par-5 13th, Kostis took a swing-vision gander at the lefty from Bagdad, Florida. I can’t remember much of what he said. I just remember thinking he was at a loss for words.

Bubba is unconventional, to say the least. It’s fairly easy to see at full speed. He has an open stance and a big loopy swing with a follow through that always has me wondering where the ball is going. In slow motion, it’s crazy. On the backswing—dare I say the longest backswing on tour?—the clubhead is pointing at the ground. And on the downswing, just before impact, Bubba is up on the toes of both feet!

I think I figured out why Bubba can’t be explained with lines and triangles. He has a high school golf swing. It’s not a knock. It means he’s untouched, intuitive and creative. He has never had a lesson or a swing coach. He says he never will.

A high school golf swing is long, natural, athletic. I saw lots of them when I played high school golf in California. They’re raw, loopy, wristy and powerful. High school golfers who advance in the game usually shorten and refine their swings as they grow and mature. They adopt “positions” and shed the untamed golf swings of their youth. (I used to have a backswing as long as John Daly—when I was 14. Now I can’t turn past parallel.)

Bubba is self taught, unchanged. He has refined a one-of-a-kind swing that busts 350-yard drives and curves shots 30 yards to the left or right.

“I’ll never change from that,” he told SI’s Farrell Evans last year. “I’ll keep playing golf the way I know how to play it and hopefully that will keep me on tour.”

I think Bubba is going to be around for awhile.

−The Armchair Golfer

(Photo credit: jpellgen, Flickr, Creative Commons license)

2 comments :

Troy Vayanos said...

Bubba's golf swing is unique no question. The important thing for him is he is able to return the golf club to square just before impact.

Similar to Jim Furyk it doesn't look pretty but he manages to repeat the same movement over and over and maintain a consistent ball contact.

The Armchair Golfer said...

Agreed. They all get to the same position at the bottom, don't they?