In issue 141 of bunkered, we caught up with Scottish Golf Union coach Ian Rae, who talked us through the technique of European Tour ace Richie Ramsay.
Richie and I first started working together around 15 years ago when he was still an amateur. He has always been immensely talented. You don’t win the US Amateur Championship and three European Tour titles by fluke.
However, for me, one of his biggest attributes is his commitment. You will struggle to find a more dedicated, more committed and more focused player. Richie is determined to become the very best player that he can be and everything that he does - and that we work on - is geared towards helping him fulfil that goal.
He is, in a lot of ways, a coach’s dream. He practices hard and, more to the point, works on the things he’s meant to work on. It’s very easy to get distracted by some new swing thought you quite fancy trying out and, before you know it, your game’s a mess. Richie’s not like that, though. He’s incredibly good at sticking to a plan and blocking out everything else.
Over the years, Richie’s swing has evolved quite a bit. We’ve not had to do any wholesale changes. It has been more a case of a tweak here, an adjustment there, that kind of thing.
I think the single biggest change we’ve ever made was to his takeaway. He used to take the club back very much on the outside. About six to eight inches on the outside, actually. That meant his wrist got very bowed and, ultimately, left him having to make an awful lot of compensations to deliver the clubface back to square at impact.
Nowadays, one of Richie’s biggest strengths is his accuracy. He’s generally very straight off the tee but, put a wedge in his hand, and he’s just outstanding. He’ll hardly ever miss a green. He’s one of the best wedge players on the European Tour, in my opinion.
That accuracy comes from being able to move the clubhead and shaft almost precisely on plane right through his swing. That keeps his path very neutral and controlled to within two degrees of his target line. Some players can be out by as much ten degrees and, on the tour, keeping it to within five degrees is considered pretty good. So for Richie to keep it within two degrees is very, very impressive.
How does that help his accuracy? Simple: it minimises the amount of sidespin he puts on the ball.
He’s not the longest hitter - he averages around 286 yards in driving distance, which places him around the middle of the pack on the European Tour - and that’s probably because he strikes down on the ball off the tee. He really compresses his drives. That’s in stark contract to a lot of other tour pros, who prefer to hit on the up to launch it down there, but Richie actually hits it about one degree on the down.
Could we change that to help him get more distance? We definitely could but, to be honest, I think the cons would outweigh the pros. I don’t think he would see significant enough distance gains to make it worthwhile, whereas he would almost certainly lose a bit of his control and, in turn, lose some of his accuracy. I’m not convinced it’s worth the risk.
Another area Richie has worked hard on is opening his upper body more in his downswing. Again, that links to the improvements he has made in his takeaway. Because of the better position of his hands and arms on his backswing, he is able to open his body more as he strikes down onto the ball, which creates a bit of lag, more power and, more often than not, a square clubface at impact. It’s a simple swing - but an incredibly effective one.
Ian Rae is the Scottish Golf Union’s national coach. Follow him on Twitter @ianrae59.