Bomb it like Bubba: 4 Ways to Smash Your Drives, and 1 Way to Escape Trouble
1: BUCK TRADITION WITH YOUR TURN
Bubba breaks at least a dozen instruction "rules" every time he swings his driver. It's a good thing he didn't seek formal training as a kid, or he might have been coaxed out of doing the things that give him his crazy speed, and there might never have been a Bubba Watson. Case in point: his backswing. He turns his shoulders and hips so far that he pulls the heel of his front foot off the ground and whips the shaft way past parallel [below]. It's more comic book than textbook, but nobody will argue with the fact that bigger turns lead to bigger hits.
2: SHRUG OFF MISSED FAIRWAYS
If you're going to follow Step 1, be prepared to deal with missing some fairways. At 315 yards per drive, Bubba is the biggest hitter on Tour, but one of the least accurate. That's the gamble with power driving. Still, Bubba never appears worried or upset when his ball lands in the rough. Neither should you. An approach from tall grass is just as easy to execute as one from the fairway if you stand about three inches closer to the ball and steepen your downswing. This is especially true with a shorter iron in your hands. Distance does pay off!
3: PRACTICE MAKING GREAT ESCAPES
Fact: Bubba misses 42 percent of his fairways but hits 70 percent of his greens. How? His trouble shots combine creativity and aggression. No matter what lie he has, Watson wills his ball onto the green. [Call it "Strokes Gained Bubba-ing."] How creative are you? How often do you practice, say, punch shots from the rough, or low cuts with a 3-wood? Players of all levels can pull off these shots—with practice. Dedicate at least one range day per month to hitting only aggressive escape shots, and soon you'll be summoning creative, Bubba-like moves when it counts.
4: GET FANTASTIC WITH FOOTWORK
Bubba's footwork looks sloppy, but there's more to it than meets the eye. His toes push off at impact, which creates extra speed and additional room for the club to whip unimpeded through impact. Then he spins his front foot out to maintain his hip turn. These are great moves that are biomechanically proven to work, and ones you should try during practice sessions. It will be interesting to see if Bubba's foot action catches on. All that said, don't develop a "foot fetish." Nobody criticizes a baseball player's footwork, but when a golfer demonstrates unusual footwork, everyone's a critic. If you hit it well, who cares what your hoofs look like?
5: SPEED UP YOUR HIP TURN
Like Rory Mcllroy, Bubba relies on hip-turn speed to create power. Mcllroy has the fastest hips on record [719 degrees per second], but I'll bet Bubba is a close second. The tip here is simple: Turn your hips faster. A great drill to improve your rotational speed is to grip your driver upside down, near the clubhead end of the shaft, and take practice swings as fast as you can. The trick? Turn your hips fast enough so that the whoosh sound created by the butt end as it moves through the air occurs after the impact position. If the whoosh happens before impact, turn your hips even faster. Try driving your hips toward the target even before you complete your backswing. Supercharging your hip rotation creates a whip-like feel in the transition into your downswing. Try it. It's one of the fastest, easiest ways to grab more yards.