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Yurgalevicz: Add more depth for draws

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I’ve taught thousands of golfers and given even more lessons, and I can assure you that there is an epidemic among average golfers who:

  1. Pronate their left forearm and roll their wrists during the takeaway, which moves the clubhead well inside their hands.
  2. Take the club “straight back and up” on the takeaway.

Don’t get me wrong. There are many ways to swing a golf club — and proof of this is seen every week on the PGA Tour — but I continually see amateur golfers misconstrue the importance of what I call “depth” in their backswings. That’s why I’m going to explain what depth is and how it can help many golfers play better golf and potentially start hitting the elusive draw.

Left: The pronation and rolling of the left forearm and wrist during the backswing that is common in so many golfers. Right: A backswing that is “straight back and up,” which is another common move among average players.

The problem with both positions above is that from the top of the backswing we tend to see an over-the-top move unless there is a dramatic move to reroute the club.

Tops of backswing

Both of these backswings have high hands and very little depth.

How To Check Your Depth

To create proper depth in the backswing, the hands and arms should be moving in and around the body throughout the backswing, but the clubhead should never be farther in than the hands before the clubhead reaches hip height.

A good way to check to see if you have proper depth is this:

  • From a down-the-line view, draw a line up from behind your heels.
  • Then take your swing to the top of the backswing.
  • If your hands are on the line or to the left of the line (for a right-handed golfer) you most likely have plenty of depth.
  • If the hands are high, above the shoulders and to the right of the line, however, you have a depth issue.
Correct Takeaway and Top

In the takeaway (left), the hands have moved in and around the body and the clubhead is in line with hands. At the top (right), the arms are across the shoulders and there is plenty of depth.

Obviously there are exceptions to the rule, but for most golfers with over-the-top moves this can be a very simple solution to a nagging slicing problem.

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Scott is a Certified Personal Coach at GolfTEC Main Line in Villanova, PA and also the Head Men's Golf Coach @ Division III Rosemont College. Each day he utilizes 3-D Motion Measurements, Foresight Launch Monitors, and high speed video to help each of his students achieve their specific goals. Past experience include owning and and operating the Yur Golf Swing Teaching Academy in Philadelphia. He started my golfing career at Radnor Valley Country Club in Villanova, Penn., and spent time at the Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, Fla. In his short 7 year instruction career he as taught over 5,000 golf lessons. He currently works with many of the top local Amateur golfers in the Philadelphia area, and many of the best Junior golfers. Teaching golf has always been my passion and with my civil engineering and philosophy background from Villanova University, I am able bring interesting perspective and effective techniques to my instruction.

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Josh

    Mar 11, 2015 at 3:27 pm

    So if you have a backswing that lacks the “depth” you talk about in the article, would it be better to place a cut?

    I don’t know that I can get my swing to have anymore depth

  2. HawkeyeDan

    Feb 1, 2015 at 3:30 pm

    Scott, does your grip affect how this all starts? I.e. Start the chain reaction?

  3. Roger

    Jan 31, 2015 at 8:45 pm

    Good read. Hard to hit from the inside enough if you’re hand are way outside at the top. I will say however, when my swing goes off the rail I start missing right. The first thing I check (or need to be reminded by my coach), and what I think everyone who wants to move the ball left to right needs to fix first is the club face. If you’re open at the top and you’re open coming down, there’s a very good chance you’ll come over the top because your subconscious knows that ball is going hard right otherwise. For me this involves strengthening my grip until I’m hitting hard hooks, even snap hooks. Once I know the face is closing/rotating properly, then I can start swinging more and more from the inside until the flight goes from a hook to a draw.

  4. Mike

    Jan 31, 2015 at 4:40 pm

    Not a very good read. I have a buddy who takes the club way outside on the take away and hits the most beautiful little draw time after time.

    • Scott Yurgalevicz

      Jan 31, 2015 at 5:01 pm

      Mike, Thanks for the constructive feedback. As stated in the article and in my comment below…….”Don’t get me wrong. There are many ways to swing a golf club — and proof of this is seen every week on the PGA Tour — but I continually see amateur golfers misconstrue the importance of what I call “depth” in their backswings”

      Cheers,
      Scott Yurgalevicz

      • Mike

        Jan 31, 2015 at 11:01 pm

        No hard feelings! You are a really good writer. And yes this is one of the more common flaws for a beginner. I just disagree with some of the things said.

        -Mike

    • JR

      Jan 31, 2015 at 9:10 pm

      Someone obviously didn’t read or comprehend the article.

  5. Todd H

    Jan 31, 2015 at 3:15 pm

    From this same view with the same lines, can’t we use this to evaluate how the weight is shifting or not shifting either towards the ball (toes) or away from the ball (heels)? I have a tendency to get on my toes and get off center contact, this view and having the line drawn up from the heels, showed me how I was moving my rear towards the ball on the downswing (sometimes resulting in a shank)…. Shouldnt the the weight stay centered in that regard?

    On a positive note, the move described in the article regarding depth was right on, and I had plenty of depth.

    • Scott Yurgalevicz

      Jan 31, 2015 at 5:05 pm

      Todd, glad the article helps to at least check on your depth. Another good way to check for weight from heel to toe would be creating a box around your body in the down the line camera view the top right corner being your head and extending it down to the bottom left just beyond your heels and in line with your butt.

  6. Ponjo

    Jan 31, 2015 at 1:35 pm

    Hi Scott. Am I right in assuming that as you take the club away the left shoulder dips. This prevents the arms/hands climbing up. Thanks

    • Scott Yurgalevicz

      Jan 31, 2015 at 5:02 pm

      I wouldn’t say the shoulder dips…..more of a tilting rather than dipping. Tilting on an axis should create an equal amount of depth and height in the backswing. Thanks Ponjo!

  7. Scott Yurgalevicz

    Jan 31, 2015 at 12:34 pm

    Just as an FYI, There are a lot of ways to hit a draw but for the average golfer/slicer/fader, this CAN help. There are other things that need to be considered but this can def make a difference.

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Tip of the week: Let the left heel lift for a bigger turn to the top

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In this week’s tip, Tom Stickney gives a suggestion that would make Brandel Chamblee proud: lift the left heel on the backswing for a bigger turn.

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How I train tour players

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There is a lot of speculation about how tour pros train, and with tantalizing snippets of gym sessions being shared on social media, it’s tempting to draw large conclusions from small amounts of insight. One thing I can tell you from my time on tour is that there isn’t just one way that golfers should train, far from it. I’ve seen many different approaches work for many different pros, a strong indicator is the wide variety of body shapes we see at the top level of the game. Take for example Brooks Koepka, Mark Leishman, Ricker Fowler, and Patrick Reed. Put these four players through a physical testing protocol and the results would be extremely varied, and yet, over 18 holes of golf there is just 0.79 shots difference between first and last.

This example serves to highlight the importance of a customized approach to training. Sometimes common sense training programs backed by scientific evidence simply don’t work for an individual. One of the athletes I work with, Cameron Smith, over the course of a season recorded his slowest club-head speed when he was strongest and heaviest (muscle mass) and fastest club-head speed when he was lightest and weakest. That lead me to seriously question the widely accepted concept of stronger = more powerful and instead search for a smarter and more customized methodology. I’ll continue to use Cam and his training as an example throughout this article.

Cam working on his rotational speed (push band on his arm)

What I’m going to outline below is my current method of training tour pros, it’s a fluid process that has changed a lot over the years and will hopefully continue to morph into something more efficient and customized as time goes on.

Assessment

I have poached and adapted aspects from various different testing methods including TPI, GravityFit, Ramsay McMaster, Scott Williams and Train With Push. The result is a 5-stage process that aims to identify areas for improvement that can be easily compared to measure progress.

Subjective – This is a simple set of questions that sets the parameters for the upcoming training program. Information on training and injury history, time available for training, access to facilities and goal setting all help to inform the structure of the training program design that will fit in with the individual’s life.

Postural – I take photos in standing and golf set up from in-front, behind and both sides. I’m simply trying to establish postural tendencies that can be identified by alignment of major joints. For example a straight line between the ear, shoulder, hip and ankle is considered ideal.

Muskulo Skeletal – This is a series of very simple range of motion and localized stability tests for the major joints and spinal segments. These tests help explain movement patterns demonstrated in the gym and the golf swing. For example ankle restrictions make it very difficult to squat effectively, whilst scapula (shoulder blade) instability can help explain poor shoulder and arm control in the golf swing.

Stability and Balance – I use a protocol developed by GravityFit called the Core Body Benchmark. It measures the player’s ability to hold good posture, balance and stability through a series of increasingly complex movements.

Basic Strength and Power – I measure strength relative to bodyweight in a squat, push, pull and core brace/hold. I also measure power in a vertical leap and rotation movement.

At the age of 16, Cam Smith initially tested poorly in many of these areas; he was a skinny weak kid with posture and mobility issues that needed addressing to help him to continue playing amateur golf around the world without increasing his risk of injury.

An example scoring profile

Report

From these 5 areas of assessment I write a report detailing the areas for improvement and set specific and measurable short terms goals. I generally share this report with the player’s other team members (coach, manager, caddie etc).

Training Program

Next step is putting together the training program. For this I actually designed and built (with the help of a developer) my own app. I use ‘Golf Fit Pro’ to write programs that are generally split into 3 or 4 strength sessions per week with additional mobility and posture work. The actual distribution of exercises, sets, reps and load (weights) can vary a lot, but generally follows this structure:

Warm Up – foam roll / spiky ball, short cardio, 5 or 6 movements that help warm up the major joints and muscles

Stability / Function – 2 or 3 exercises that activate key stability/postural muscles around the hips and shoulders.

Strength / Power – 4 or 5 exercises designed to elicit a strength or power adaptation whilst challenging the ability to hold posture and balance.

Core – 1 or 2 exercises that specifically strengthen the core

Mobility – 5-10 stretches, often a mixture of static and dynamic

An example of the Golf Fit Pro app

Cam Smith has followed this structure for the entire time we have been working together. His choice would be to skip the warm-up and stability sections, instead jumping straight into the power and strength work, which he considers to be “the fun part.” However, Cam also recognizes the importance of warming up properly and doing to his stability drills to reduce the risk of injury and make sure his spine, hips and shoulders are in good posture and moving well under the load-bearing strength work.

Training Sessions

My approach to supervising training sessions is to stick to the prescribed program and focus attention firstly on perfecting technique and secondly driving intent. What I mean by this is making sure that every rep is done with great focus and determination. I often use an accelerometer that tracks velocity (speed) to measure the quality and intent of a rep and provide immediate feedback and accountability to the individual.

Cam especially enjoys using the accelerometer to get real-time feedback on how high he is jumping or fast he is squatting. He thrives on competing with both himself and others in his gym work, pretty typical of an elite athlete!

Maintenance

The physical, mental and emotional demands of a tournament week make it tricky to continue to train with the same volume and intensity as usual. I will often prescribe a watered down version of the usual program, reducing reps and sets whilst still focusing on great technique. Soreness and fatigue are the last thing players want to deal with whilst trying to perform at their best. It’s quite the balancing act to try and maintain fitness levels whilst not getting in the way of performance. My experience is that each player is quite different and the process has to be fluid and adaptable in order to get the balance right from week to week.

Equipment

Aside from the usual gym equipment, resistance bands, and self massage tools, the following are my favourite bits of kit:

GravityFit – Absolutely the best equipment available for training posture, stability and movement quality. The immediate feedback system means I can say less, watch more and see players improve their technique and posture faster.

Push Band – This wearable accelerometer has really transformed the way I write programs, set loads and measure progression. It’s allowed the whole process to become more fluid and reactive, improved quality of training sessions and made it more fun for the players. It also allows me to remotely view what has happened in a training session, down to the exact speed of each rep, as demonstrated in the image below.

Details from one of Cam’s recent training sessions

Examples

Below are some of the PGA Tour players that I have worked with and the key areas identified for each individual, based of the process outlined above:

Cam Smith – Improving posture in head/neck/shoulders, maintenance of mobility throughout the body, increasing power output into the floor (vertical force) and rotational speed.

Jonas Blixt – Core stability, hip mobility and postural endurance in order to keep lower back healthy (site of previous injury). Overall strength and muscle growth.

Harris English – Improving posture in spine, including head/neck. Scapula control and stability, improving hip and ankle mobility. Overall strength and muscle growth.

Recommendations

My advice if you want to get your fitness regime right, is to see a professional for an assessment and personalized program, then work hard at it whilst listening to your body and measuring results. I’m sure this advice won’t rock your world, but from all that I’ve seen and done on tour, it’s by far the best recommendation I can give you.

If you are a golfer interested in using a structured approach to your golf fitness, then you can check out my online services here.

If you are a fitness professional working with golfers, and would like to ask questions about my methods, please send an email to nick@golffitpro.net

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Me and My Golf: Top 5 putting grips

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In this week’s Impact Show, we take a look at our top 5 putting grips. We discuss which grips we prefer, and which putting grips can suit you and why.

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