Instruction: Georgia’s Bailey Tardy builds solid fundamentals into success on college and amateur levels

Instruction: Georgia’s Bailey Tardy builds solid fundamentals into success on college and amateur levels

Instruction

Instruction: Georgia’s Bailey Tardy builds solid fundamentals into success on college and amateur levels

Editor’s note: This story originally ran in the Sept. 5 issue of Golfweek.

Johns Creek, Ga. – Bailey Tardy doesn’t want to think too much about swing mechanics.

“Her job is to worry about playing. My job is to think about her swing,” said Tardy’s swing coach, Chan Reeves, the director of instruction at Atlanta Athletic Club. “She has enough to think about out there. . . . I want her to focus on what the ball is doing.”

In recent years, the ball has been doing pretty much whatever the Georgia sophomore wants. After a summer that included her second U.S. Women’s Open start and a spot on the U.S. Curtis Cup team, she starts this college season fifth in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings.

Tardy’s success is built on solid fundamentals and a powerful, repeating swing honed on Reeves’ tee box. Reeves said the former soccer player has the advantages of strength and athleticism, and she doesn’t need much mechanical work on the range. If Tardy has a recurring weakness, Reeves said it’s her over-reliance on her natural draw. Much of their work has focused on developing a controlled fade.

“Bailey is a really good ballstriker, and she swings the club really well. All that is very good,” Reeves said. “We just work on the fundamentals: grip, ball position, pivot position. The rest is all about ball flight.”

Reeves isn’t afraid to use visual training aids to practice various ball flights. He has pool noodles, alignment sticks, inflatable balls and more at his disposal, and he says he dreams up new drills on the fly that might make practice feel more like competition.

“I’m definitely a visual learner instead of a feel learner or a position learner,” Tardy said. “I just want to keep getting better at everything.”

The player: Bailey Tardy

Age: 20

Hometown: Peachtree Corners, Ga.

Height: 5 feet, 8 inches

College: Georgia

Victories/awards: First-team All-American by Golfweek and the Women’s Golf Coaches Association in 2015-16; SEC freshman of the year in 2015-16; won Windy City Collegiate and shared medal at NCAA Bryan Regional; three-time AJGA Rolex Junior All-American; won 2015 North & South Amateur

 

The coach: Chan Reeves

Position: Director of instruction, Atlanta Athletic Club

Background: Played at Georgia Tech, where he was a 1991 honorable-mention All-American by the Golf Coaches Association of America; won 2002 and ’03 Georgia PGA Section titles; won 2005 Atlanta Open

Swing path: Grooving the right line

Over years of hitting draws, Tardy ingrained a swing out to the right of the target line. Reeves uses a shorter pool noodle on a stick to force her to swing more down the line or even to the left of it. He holds the noodle several feet above the ball and in front of it, and if Tardy swings too much from the inside and out to the right, she will strike the noodle with her club after impact. (He occasionally will give her a friendly rap on the cap if she does.)

Reeves once had Tardy stand very close to a bush that extended onto the tee from the right side of the range, and she would try to hit cuts around the bush. Any swing that came too much from inside-out would send the ball into the bush.

“She wore that bush out. There were hardly any leaves left on it,” he said. “But it worked. She could see where she needed to start the ball left of it.”

Divot U: Study the direction

Reeves’ first question whenever a student struggles: “What are your divots doing?”

If the divots point right of the target line, then the ball is going to start to the right and must draw back to the target. Too far left, and the player likely relies too much on a cut. Reeves said it’s a simple concept that can pay immediate dividends if a student pays attention.

“I want the divots going straight at the target,” he said. “If you want the ball to fly straight, your divots better be good. . . . Don’t come back to me for help if you don’t know what your divots are doing.”

Fades and draws:  A complete repertoire

Tardy developed a draw as a junior. Reeves said that is common, as young golfers look to turn the ball over and get it running to gain distance. But to succeed at the top college and amateur levels and beyond, a player needs a more complete repertoire.

“I really need to be able to hit a cut at a flag on the right,” Tardy said.

Reeves said they spend a majority of their full-swing time on curving the ball both directions. “If she’s drawing the ball too much, we work on fades,” he said. “If she’s fading the ball too much, we work on draws.”

To help Tardy visualize the proper shot, they use a pool noodle on a stick that is placed vertically into the ground about 10 feet in front of Tardy. She has to start the ball to one side of the noodle or the other and curve the ball back to center (pictured, left).

The visual key helps, especially when working on a swing path for a fade. Instead of swinging out to the right, the club gradually begins moving more down the line or to the left at impact, helping ingrain the proper feel and mechanics.

Wedge play:  Rotate the body

Reeves said “90 percent of players, probably more” flip their wedges into the ball, letting the clubhead shoot past their hands. He has taught Tardy to take her hands out of the shot and rotate her upper body through the shot, which has helped her lower the ball flight and gain precise control of her distances.

Tardy visualizes her hands well in front of the ball at impact, then tries to replicate that image during her swing. “I just turn and try not to use my hands at all,” she said.

They also sometimes use TrackMan radar to evaluate exactly how high and far each shot flies.

“Bailey has plenty of power, but what good is a long drive if you can’t hit the wedge shot close?” Reeves said. “Really, that’s kind of an ugly way to make a lot of pars, hitting wedges to 25 feet.”

Putting: A pressure drill

In keeping with the theme of realistic pressure, Reeves has his students practice a 3-6-8 drill. Players measure off spots that are 3, 6 and 8 feet from a hole on the practice green and mark those spots with a tee. They must make 10 putts in a row from 3 feet, five in a row from 6 feet and three in a row from 8 feet. Any miss sends the player back to the first 3-footer.

Instead of worrying about stroke, the player focuses on making the next putt. The player also gets to see a lot of balls go into the hole.

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