Disrespecting Bubba

Ivan Morris

Bubba Watson (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Long driving is not a crime; it’s a virtue and is more frequently attained by skill and grace of motion than by mere brute force. Long drivers should be rewarded. By and large, long hitters should have a little more latitude, and not less, than short, careful, defensive drivers of the golf ball (a paraphrase of something Alister MacKenzie once said).

I had a ‘right go’ at Bubba Watson’s anti-attitude to the proposed ‘modified local rule’ golf ball last week. I disrespected him. I will admit that I was furious with his attitude. Bubba is still the first player I would go and watch if LIV GOLF ever comes to Ireland. I love the way Bubba plays the game. He is a unique individual. Who, if he would only stop and think, would be advantaged by a spinnier ball that can be moved around at will. How many golfers do we see turning themselves into a corkscrew while wielding a hideous, pink driver and achieving all sorts of flight shapes with his golf ball?

Bubba’s approach is the complete opposite to the mechanical and scientific Trackman dependent attitude so prevalent today. Swing analysis is ‘out’; feeling and visualization are ‘in’ and, at a time in technological developments when top players will tell you that the curve has been ‘engineered’ out of the ball.


Bubba plays with perimeter-weighted PING clubs that are designed specifically to take spin and ‘movement’ off the ball but has found his own way to do exactly what his golf clubs are designed not to do; shaping shots violently from right to left and left to right. Bubba does not do straight. Janey, he should be delighted with the MLR ball.

Moving the ball around may not be easy for ordinary mortals but Bubba has the extra skill and creativity to do it. He is such a standout in the modern game because he plays golf entirely with his hands. He eschews orthodox alignment. He over-swings. He moves his head. He sways. He twists and turns his body and sometimes he jumps off the ground when applying a ‘big hit.’

He has never had a swing coach and never had a formal lesson. He admits that he doesn’t know what he is doing or how he does it. If he ever finds out his game will lose its lustre. I’m telling you, Bubba. You’ll love the new ball!

Bubba is an outlier and the rarest of golfing artists. I hope he always remains that way; ignoring the mechanics and incontrovertible laws of aerodynamics that determine ball flight; remaining a classic example of the golf ball not knowing who, or what, hit it. He merely senses what he wants his body to do to get the clubface where it needs to be.

Could Bubba be showing us that the so-called fundamentals of golf are over-rated and may not be the true fundamentals at all? Has Bubba latched onto what so many good players ignore? Golf is a game. One ‘plays’ games. It’s not ‘work’. Maybe if more of us ‘played’ golf instead of working at it, we’d not only be better players, but we would have more fun with it too?

Apart from warming up, Bubba rarely beats balls on the range. He isn’t into swing drills and what Tiger likes to call ‘reps.’ What use are reps if no two golf shots are ever exactly the same?

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