Sepp Straka's takeaway will help you split more fairways
Photographs by Dom Furore
At 6-foot-3, 235 pounds, Sepp Straka could easily be mistaken for a tight end and not an emerging PGA Tour star. The 30-year-old Georgia alum is definitely one of the more imposing figures in pro golf. Yet despite his tall, muscular physique, Straka’s driving game relies more on accuracy than power. Through mid-July, Straka ranked 20th on tour in driving accuracy (65 percent of fairways hit) and in the middle of the pack in driving distance (298.3 yards). He’d much rather hit the short grass than stretch the field.
“I’m a pretty good driver of the ball for the most part,” says Straka, the first Austrian-born player to win on the PGA Tour—at the 2022 Honda Classic. “I by no means hit it far compared to a lot of guys out here, but I feel like for how far I hit it, I’m pretty accurate.”
Straka’s swing coach of 18 months, former Golf Digest Best Young Teacher John Tillery, says the distance will come once Straka’s swing becomes more efficient. He also notes that Straka is taking “better care of his body these days” and is getting even stronger.
“As far as the bones of the swing, he doesn’t have to get longer,” says Tillery, director of instruction at The Golf Club at Cuscowilla in Eatonton, Ga. “That’s more a hopeful outcome of doing the right things than it is a target of ours.”
One of the things Tillery and Straka are constantly working on is his takeaway. Straka, whose final-round 62 in early July capped the largest comeback victory after 18 holes in John Deere Classic history, has a tendency to swing his hands faster than his body during the early part of the backswing, causing the arms to separate and get pulled behind his body. When his arms outrun his legs and mid-torso, they get loose and long at the top, and he has a difficult time syncing things back up on the downswing.
As a result, Straka constantly checks his hand position on the takeaway, making sure they stay in line with the middle of his chest (above, second image)—a sign that his arms, legs and chest are all in sync off the ball. Straka’s shaft and lead leg are virtually parallel to one another in the next frame, another indication of a good takeaway. All this sets up what Tillery refers to as Straka’s “magic move,” his transition (above, fifth image). As long as everything is in sync and his arms don’t get too far behind him, he can drive his legs hard against his torso without getting stuck or flying open, a common mistake among amateurs.
“His feet are working in the correct direction, meaning his trail foot is pushing behind him, and his lead foot is pushing forward,” Tillery says. “It’s the only way to rotate hard and stay centered without spinning open.”