Bubba, Ladder Your Way to Comfort at TPC Sawgrass

TPC Sawgrass

Last year we talked about how Bubba Watson could better visualize his shots at the Dyabolical TPC Sawgrass. However, after Tripp isenhour’s comments about what is wrong with Bubba on the golf channel made me realize that the golf media really does not get Bubba with his gifts ADHD brain.

Tripp seems to be a real good buy, but like many members in the golf industry who have little knowledge about the ADHD brain, Tripp’s diagnosis for Bubba is way off base.

A year ago, Bubba made this comment about TPC Sawgrass a year ago:

“Around this golf course it’s very challenging for me,” Watson admitted. “When I look down No.1 and No.10, just to give you an example, when you look down those, it’s hard to tell the fairway and the rough. It all kind of blends in together. To me, I don’t like to look at a tree and aim at a tree. I like to see the lay of the land and that’s how I hit my shots. So it’s very difficult when you look at a golf course like that. So it makes it difficult for me.“

Bubba visualizes every tee shots backwards. He starts with the landing target and builds a picture backwards. During this process, since Bubba can hit 5 different clubs 5 different ways to any target, Bubba goes with the shot that is the most comfortable.

However, at TPC Sawgrass, Pete Dye has several holes that visually are hard to see the proper tee shot. It sometimes makes it very uncomfortable to commit to the picture, set up and landing area. This is what happen’s to Bubba. He simply finds it difficult to get comfortable on certain tee shots at TPC Sawgrass. At that point Bubba, may simply say “The heck with it. Let’s just blast it down the right side …” He then executes with anxiousness rather than comfort and thus commitment.

Hitting the shot that feels right and thus the most comfortable is not the same as going for the “safe shot”.

As Shawn Clement and I have discovered, turning practice and routines into learning melodies often quiets the head into an almost autopilot-like execution. Turning practice round tee shots on a visually demanding course into a melody will have the same effect.

On those holes that either have a blind-ish tee shot or are visually disorienting, one method to combat the desires of an impish golf architect is to make your tee shot simply the next note in a melody you have practiced.

For Example, hole 12 at TPC Sawgrass with a mound left disguises the proper target landing area from the back tee. The solution is to do the following during a practice round:

  • Tee up either at the forward tee box, or if necessary in front of the forward tee box where you can clearly see the landing area.
  • Go back the next tee box. Based on the information of the previous tees shot, build a picture, pick the right club that matches that picture, address the ball and let it go.
  • Then continue on each tee box all the way back to your tee box.
  • Important note: you must at least do three “notes” to make it like learning a melody. If you are playing a more forward tee, then simply tee it up in in front of the tee box. 30 yards and then 15 yards … so you can achieve a proper sequence.

Now when you are playing a competitive round, walk forward to point of the practiced ladder where you can comfortably visualize and execute the shot. You then build a picture, take a practice swing. Go back to your tee box and glance at the “next notes” or in other words the tee box(es) in between. You will then be able to build a picture based on the previous notes and execute on the last note of the melody with a far more quiet head.

Why this works is that since you started off on a tee were you could comfortably see the shot as well as each subsequent tee shot being built on what came before, it makes it far easier to comfortable execute to the picture on the final tee shot even though the architect designed that shot to be difficult visually.

Therefore, this tee ladder begins with comfort of seeing landing area and ends with comfort without seeing landing area. With a practice like this, Bubba can now take that comfort to The Players Championship itself.