How to Be Your Own Best Coach, the Bubba Watson Lesson
With his win Sunday at the 2018 Genesis Open, Bubba Watson now has ten PGA Tour victories, including two majors. However, prior to his success over the weekend, his confidence in himself and his future in the sport were waning. Many would have viewed the decline in play as an opportunity to seek traditional specialized coaching. Not Watson.
"I've had bad rounds of golf, but I can look at it deep down in my heart and see what really caused it. At this level, we're all good enough ball-strikers, we can all manufacture scores.” - Bubba Watson to ESPN’s Bob Harig
Watson’s unconventionality is well known. Off the course, he’s the guy appearing on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, posting humorous music videos with fellow PGA Tour golfers or keeping his thousands of twitter followers entertained with multiple posts a day. Most recently, he sparked controversy by playing in a celebrity basketball game during the NBA's All-Star weekend… controversy he quickly squashed by winning the Genesis Open.
On the course, his unconventionality is on display in a way the casual observer may never notice, though it’s well known to those in golf circles. While many Tour players today seem to be followed by a sometimes endless posse of specialists, the narrative of Bubba Watson is built upon the idea that he’s never had a golf coach, much less a formal lesson. But, is it true?
Team GLT Golf examines below.
"I have a great team around me. I have my caddie. I have my wife. I have my physical therapist. I have my manager … I have people around me that have been around the game enough.”– Bubba Watson to SB Nation’s Emily Kay
“A lot is made in the media about Bubba never having had a lesson,” says GLT Golf director Iain Highfield. “Personally, I don’t believe this to be true. When I look at Bubba, I see a golfer who has taken many lessons. Lessons from watching his peers, lessons from his Trackman, lessons from his experience competing in some of the world’s most challenging environments. All of this has allowed him to become what every golfer should strive to be, their own best coach. The best players in the world have this trait, with or without an official coach.”
GLT Golf director Matthew Cooke has a similar opinion.
“The best coach to any golfer is the environment in which they train,” says Cooke. “The game of golf does a remarkable job of training the golfer without a golf coach being present. Obviously, this can have its pitfalls, but it seemed to work out for Bubba. And, I bet Bubba has gathered pieces of information via other PGA tour players over the years, and no doubt he has discovered things for himself. This goes right along with our belief in self-discovery as a strategy golf coaches should employ."
To most golf coaches, such an approach may seem a bit counterintuitive, but at GLT Golf, we don’t believe that should be the case.
GLT Golf coach Arick Zeigel sums it up as follows: “As coaches, we should be using Bubba’s story as an opportunity to learn and reflect on our current teaching methods. If he’s proven anything, it’s that players and athletes can truly become their own best coaches when they learn how to utilize feedback within the environment. How much guidance are you providing versus direct information? Are you always offering learning opportunities? We have all seen far too many players that become overly reliant on a coach to “fix” or “tell” them what to do. For Bubba, his experiences as a player, and his ability to gather and sort through information around him, are what make him the best coach he could have ever asked for.”
"When you're out here for five hours in the heat trying to grind, you lose focus sometimes. I'm trying to get better at it."- Bubba Watson, ESPN
At the end of the day, the most important coach any player can ever have is himself. For golf coaches, the most important thing to do for players is give them the training and experience necessary to summon those skills when the moment arises.
By providing Game-Like Training, placing players in situations they will encounter in competitive play, and developing and instilling the skills and confidence necessary to excel in even the most difficult conditions, golf coaches equip players with the tools to find the best coach possible – themselves.