Tour Power

Bubba Watson teaches you how to hit it strong

This Article Features Photo Zoom

From this angle, you can see Bubba is rather upright at address. He hovers the club above the ball, making it easier to initiate the backswing in a free rotating fashion. At the top of his swing, again, check out both his upper-body and lower-body turn. I’d guesstimate his shoulders to be turned about 115 degrees from address, and his hips about 50 degrees. (The ideal for the rest of us? A 90/45 split.) Bubba’s turn creates amazing power, as does the intense amount of lag and perfect shaft angle before and at impact. Try to copy this, if you can. You’ll hit it a mile.

Power comes from width and torque. The width Bubba achieves is created by swinging low and wide on the backswing. The photo above shows how well he’s able to keep the clubhead as far from his body as possible.

Practice your takeaway, and like Bubba, make a long, smooth motion while maintaining as much distance between the body and clubhead as possible. Also, notice that Bubba has yet to fold his left elbow inward. His double-arm extension makes his swing incredibly wide. He waits until the last second of his backswing to cock his elbow and hands.

Is Power Here To Stay?

Bubba Watson isn’t the only player to use great lengths and power to his advantage. Many of the greatest players in the game have relied on their distance. Players such as Palmer, Nicklaus, Miller, Singh, Mickelson and Woods all have used power to produce “Hall of Fame” careers. Like them, Bubba’s power has put him into contention several times on the PGA Tour. And although his breakthrough win is still ahead of him (it’s only a matter of time, folks), we would not be surprised to see Bubba’s average distance actually decrease over the next few years.

How can that be? There are several factors, which I believe stem from the new 2010 groove regulations that affect how well PGA Tour players can spin the ball from the rough (and the fairway for the matter). If they can’t spin the ball from the rough, the premium on hitting the fairway increases significantly. In other words, the bomb-and-gouge style of play that has dominated the Tour in the last few years may very well become a thing of the past.

In fact, it’s already happening. In as little as three years, the driving-distance leaders (Bubba has been the leader for two of the last three years, by the way) have seen decreases in overall distance, from 319 yards in 2006 to 312 yards in 2009. Now, is this the sign of the bomb-and-gouge apocalypse? Probably not. But it’s definitely an indication of the increasing pressure players are facing when it’s time to avoid the rough. With the 2010 groove rules, I’d suspect the driving distances to drop even further.

No matter how far you hit the golf ball, hitting the fairway will become increasingly more important. 2010 is going to get interesting, that’s for sure.
—Ryan Noll

Bubba is, no doubt, a feel player. He said to us he doesn’t spend much time thinking about his swing; instead he concentrates on where he wants the ball to go. In fact, and incredibly, he has never had a formal lesson. But, that’s not to say Bubba doesn’t have any swing thoughts. His favorite is pictured here.

Bubba likes to concentrate on a simple mental cue: “Kiss the shoulder.” As you can see in this close-up of his swing at the top, Bubba tucks his chin between the crease of his arm and shoulder. Unusual as that may be, it’s an easy way for Bubba to consistently make a full turn on the backswing and also to ensure he’s in the same place at the top of every swing he makes.

For you, practice a few swings in the mirror and concentrate on your position at the top of your swing. Once you find the right spot, find an indicator to help you remember the right position. For Bubba, it’s “kissing the shoulder”; for you, it might be “see the watch dial on your left hand” or “tricep below your chin.” A simple reminder will help you max out your backswing for more power, as well as help you become more consistent.

Furthermore, don’t be timid to adopt your own personal swing style. Bubba, despite absolutely perfect impact position, has several unique swing moves and positions that work for him. According to Bubba, the key to not just hitting longer, more powerful drives, but also shooting lower scores, is to blend basic fundamentals with a swing you can repeat over and over again. Like him, the swing doesn’t need to be perfect to produce solid results. The trick is in having a swing that produces predictable results.


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