How I picked up 26 yards of extra distance in a 1-hour lesson
I’ve become a pretty solid golfer in my time working at GOLF.com. When I started here a little over two years ago, my handicap index hovered around 7. Now, I’m at a 4.2.
But in recent months, I’ve felt as if my game has plateaued. Improvement can be difficult to come by in this maddening game, and its been in short supply for me of late. I haven’t played particularly poorly, but I also haven’t done anything too exciting.
Getting down to scratch is a huge goal of mine. It’s proven more difficult than I expected, though. The main culprit for my plateau? Lack of power.
My clubhead speed with my driver hovers in the mid-90s. I typically fly it around 220, and it finishes out there around 240. Short and straight is my game, and it’s been an effective one. But to take my game to the next level, I know I need more pop.
So I enlisted the help of an expert; specifically, GOLF Top 100 Teacher Jonathan Yarwood.
Yarwood and I have been friends for a couple years now. We “met” on social media, and I’ve since gotten to know him on the road at LPGA events and other golf-related functions. I love the way he teaches, and the results he produces are impressive. He’s coached a couple pros to major wins, including 2005 U.S. Open winner Michael Campbell.
Lucky for me, Yarwood has taken up residence in the northeast this summer, teaching at northern New Jersey’s Alpine Country Club. So, I decided to pay him a visit.
Upon arrival, Yarwood had me hit 20 balls to establish baseline numbers — 10 7-irons and 10 drivers. The results were as I expected, with a reliable pull-cut dominating my shot chart.
When I finished, Yarwood gave me a frank assessment.
“Man, you don’t hit it anywhere, do you?”
Harsh, but true.
Then, he gave me some heartening news.
“This is going to be the easiest lesson of your life.”
The culprit for the lack of power started with my posture. As Yarwood put it, I looked like a “90-year-old man” when I addressed the ball. My feet were too close together, and my hips were too flat. Simply put, I wasn’t in an athletic position to attack the ball.
Because of my setup position, I had a steep angle of attack that caused me to cut across the ball. With a narrow stance, I’d spin my hips incredibly fast from the top, throwing the club head outside the path and sapping me of almost all of my power.
The data backed up his hypothesis. My swing speed with the driver was in the mid-90s, and my path was 5 degrees to the left. Not good.
“The path is miles left, dead slow, and with a downward angle of attack,” Yarwood said. “The whole thing is just cutting across is.”
He explained that my tailbone was too far underneath me and my swing too narrow on the way back. All wee needed to do was adjust the setup position to get a more athletic posture and my speed would increase.
“I think if you stood wider, got a little lower and stood further away, things will get better,” he said. “Your trail hip is going to spin phase too quickly.”
With a more athletic setup established, all I needed to do with my swing was “surf” toward the target more on my downswing.
“Keep your trail side more down as you come into it,” Yarwood said.
With the problems diagnosed, I hopped back up on the Trackman and started hitting a few more shots. Athletic setup. Surf toward the target. Keep the trail side down. The improvement was immediate.
I saw myself effortlessly shallowing the shaft on video, and my path went from 5 degree left, to exiting 1-2 degrees right. And my cluhead speed improved, too. I went from the mid-90s to up over 101 mph with a driver. That 240-yard fade I had when I walked in the door was a now-respectable 272-yard draw.
I might need to start seeing a Top 100 Teacher more often.