Insider: Hurley spurred by coach, Navy experience


Sep. 21, 2011

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Hurley is currently ranked 19th on the Nationwide Tour money list.

Billy Hurley doesn’t much care why he turned his season around only that he did. Now he is really looking forward to the next few weeks on the Nationwide Tour.

Hurley, 29, is playing in his first full season on Tour and it was a harmless conversation he had with his swing coach in the middle of June that spurred him on.

He was in the airport waiting to go to the Tour stop in Wichita when he called his swing coach, Mitchell Spearman. And Spearman had a little advice that Hurley took to heart.

“He said to me ‘Billy, you are too good to be shooting these scores,'” Hurley said about his early-season struggles where he missed five of six cuts. “So what he was saying sort of woke me up a little and I also kind of worked on my mental game and that helped me.”

Hurley went on to finish fifth at the Preferred Health Systems Wichita Open and has made nine straight cuts. All of sudden he’s one of the most consistent players on Tour.

He’s been so consistent of late he’s had 24 straight rounds of par or better. That’s why he’s in solid shape at No. 19 on the Nationwide Tour’s money list.

Hurley has tried to analyze what Spearman said.

“It was kind of along the lines of convincing myself I could play better than I was playing,” Hurley said. “I think another thing was I was finally getting comfortable out here.”

It’s hard to believe that Hurley, a former officer in the Navy, was out of golf for basically five years as he fulfilled his obligation of military service. He was a star golfer at Navy, was on the 2005 Walker Cup team, but golf wasn’t a priority for the better part of four years.

He was a lieutenant on a destroyer in 2010 in the Persian Gulf helping to protect the Iraqi oil platforms. He was very close to the war that’s been going on, and says its an experience he won’t soon forget.

“I’ve been over there and I’ve seen it,” Hurley said. “Now while I haven’t been on the ground over there in Iraq I’ve was in the Persian Gulf for two months or so and we were right up there eight miles off the coast supporting them.”

Hurley took special pride in the Sept. 11 recognition that was spread out all through the United States earlier this month for the 10-year anniversary of the terrorists attack.

“We were doing the mission there,” Hurley said about his time on the ship, “and I’ve seen what we are accomplishing so anytime there can be recognition for that effort it’s good for the American public to see.”

Hurley spent long stretches on various ships throughout his service time in the Navy, including a long stretch in Hawaii.

“First of all, I was fortunate that I did get to play a good amount of golf,” Hurley said about his service time right after graduation from Navy in 2004. “Especially when the Navy wanted to make sure I had a legitimate chance to make the Walker Cup team there in ’05 so they gave me some leeway to play in tournaments.”

But once he dove into his service he was on a ship for long stretches that didn’t give him many chances to keep his game sharp.

“I got to play some in ’06 and ’07 but it was certainly a secondary gig,” Hurley said. “Golf was really like my second job and I’d use me leave days to go play and play in a few tournaments.”

His longest stretch without golf was from June 2007 until 2009.

“I played five competitive days those whole two years and there was one five-month stretch where I played once and there was another three-month stretch when I played once,” he said. “We were working 70 hours a week on a ship during that time.”

Of course there were a few times he and others would hit a few balls off the deck of the ship, which Hurley said was fun to do.

“It wasn’t really a thing we did a lot but more just sometimes on a Sunday for fun we’d have a picnic on the flight deck and we’d have a golf mat and a couple of golf balls and we’d slap some balls out there into the ocean,” Hurley said.

When his military obligations were completed Hurley worked hard to get his game back into shape and all of that work is paying off this year.

He says that his life experiences and his military background have helped him.

“It’s something that I’m very happy to have because I think the fact that I’ve been in the Navy for those years it gives me a leg up on things that you have to do off the golf course,” Hurley said about his time serving his country. “The traveling, logistics, time management and trying to fit everything in your day and making sure you are going to bed at the right time I think with my life experience and being on that ship, which was more of a stressful environment, but it helps me in that regard now.”

What has also helped Hurley’s game is his driving accuracy. He ranks 11th in that category on Tour and his scoring average is 16th-best on Tour.

“Playing from the fairway is a big key to my game,” Hurley said. “I might give up a few yards off the tee, but I’m in the fairway a lot. If I am hitting it in the fairway then I feel like I’ve got a good chance to compete.”

Hurley’s background might differ than most professional golfers, but his drive to succeed is very real.

Hurley and his wife, Heather, have two children, 4 -year old Jeremiah and adopted son, Jacob, who is 2and was adopted two years ago from Ethiopia.

“Ultimately I’ve got a wife and two boys who like to eat so I’m out here trying to make a living,” Hurley said. “I have a job like everybody else out here but at the same time I have a lot more life experience that the average tour pro doesn’t have. So I think that serves me well.”

As the Nationwide Tour winds down Hurley is optimistic about staying inside the top 25 that would earn him a PGA TOUR card in 2012.

“A lot can happen if one guy comes up and plays well he can bump you out and all kinds of things can happen with that money list,” Hurley said. “But all I know is if I can play well and be consistent these last six weeks then I’ll stay in the top 25. I’m worrying about the things I can control.”

Hurley knew that his first season on the Nationwide Tour would be an eye-opener. Especially when it comes to how competitive and how much talent is out there.

“Everybody is super good on the Nationwide Tour,” Hurley said. “Basically, there’s a 156 guys in the field and realistically 120 of them are good enough to play on the PGA TOUR. And so I think people look at the top of the money list a lot more but right now the guy who is 100th on the money list is good too. And he could really do well at q-school and earn his PGA TOUR card and be Rookie of the year next year. That’s how good guys are out here.”

One of the perks that Hurley would love if he earns his PGA TOUR card for next season would be a trip to Hawaii in January.

“It would be another step in my career, and it would be awesome to finish inside the top 25 at the end of the year,” Hurley said. “Then I’d get to go to the Sony Open in Hawaii where I served for two years…. But it’s all about getting better. I feel like I’m getting there.”

How to Make a Perfect Backswing

By Mitchell Spearman, Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher
to read the full article on
Published: May 14, 2009

This story is for you if…

• You don’t know what your shaft and clubface look like at the top of your swing.
• You only know something’s wrong because your ballstriking is inconsistent.

The Position You’re After

A solid finish to your backswing, with your shoulders turned more than your hips (close to twice as much), your hands as far from your head as possible, and the clubface sitting on the same angle as your left arm.

Why You Can’t Get It

Like most golfers, you get your swing off to a decent start, and reach the midpoint of your backswing with your wrists fully hinged and a good shoulder and hip turn away from the ball. Then your swing shape folds like a bad poker hand because you stop making a solid turn and simply lift your arms.

How to Nail It

Once you reach midway back, your arms have basically finished their work. The secret to getting the club up and looking picture-perfect at the top is to continue your shoulder rotation. Think “turn,” not “lift.” A good feeling to have is that you’re moving your left shoulder into your chin. You’ll know you’re doing it correctly when you feel a stretch in the left side of your torso.


By turning to the top instead of lifting your arms, you’ll have a better shot at setting the shaft and clubface on plane and getting your hands as far from your head as possible. This increase in swing width will help add yards to your iron shots.

Fix Your 4 Blind Spots – They Can Hurt You

Senior Golfer
By Mitchell Spearman


Due to a poor grip (club more in palm of left hand as opposed to fingers), the left elbow starts to hinge as opposed to the wrist. As a result, the swing arc narrows and the backswing becomes too long. Instead of being in a powerful, coiled position at the top, the golfer is in a very weak hitting position; the left arm is bent and there is very little extension.

If the arc of the swing is narrow at the top, the angle of attack into the ball is usually very steep and choppy. Contact is very inconsistent. Fairway woods are usually topped along the ground, while irons are hit fat, leaving behind very deep divots.

Grip the club correctly, setting the club more in you fingers. This allows the left wrist to hinge correctly during the backswing. Halfway back, you should feel your left thumb pushing against the shaft. This keeps the left arm wide and extended as opposed to narrow and collapsed. And a bigger, wider arc means a much more powerful swing.

When taking your grip, stretch the left thumb down the shaft. This puts more pressure on the shaft, helping push the club out away from the body and keeping the left arm extended. It makes the arm swing relatively short, but more importantly, very wide. This creates leverage and power.



In an attempt to store more power for the downswing, the golfer overturns everything (shoulders, hips, knees) going back. Problem is, there’s no resistance at all in their right side. As a result, the right arm starts to move out away from the body, the right elbow elevates, and the clubhead crosses the line – or points well right of the target – at the top.

By overturning and swinging too much around the body, the angle of attack back to the ball is usually in to out. As a result, the tendency is to hit a lot of quick hooks (clubface closed to the target line at impact) with the fairway woods and blocks (face square to the target line) with the irons.

First, you must maintain some form of resistance in your right side (right knee flexed, weight on the inside of your right thigh) during the backswing. Second, you must understand how the right elbow rotates in the back swing. The elbow doesn’t lift. The right bicep should be parallel to the ground at the top, elbow pointing to the right hip.

One way to stop the body from overturning is to lift your right heel off the ground about an inch, and make swings with the heel remaining up. This keeps pressure (your weight) on the inside of your right thigh as you turn back, so your right side can’t turn too deep. You should allow for some movement in your left hip as you swing the club back, but not so much that the hip turns well past the ball.



Your hands and body are out of sequence coming down and, as a result, the wrists unhinge early and release the club well before impact. The path to the ball is still inside coming down, but your release point (when your wrists unhinge) is very erratic. This is different from swinging over the top, in which the path of your swing is out to in as soon as you start down from the top.

By releasing early, the clubhead arrives to the ball before your hands. This produces a scooping motion at impact, effectively adding loft to the club and producing very high, weak shots – and often heavy contact. Or, the golfer reacts to the early throwing and straightening of the arms, and raises out of his posture (spine angle) during the downswing, leading to very inconsistent shots.

Make a strong coil. The better your position at the top, the easier it is to synchronize the body and club coming down, and the less dependent you are on the hands to return the clubhead to the ball and square to the clubface. Work on creating a consistent tempo. In a good golf swing, the ball just gets in the way of the motion.

The next time you’re out on the practice range, try hitting some balls out of your divots. By practicing off a bad lie, you learn how to hold the forward angle of the shaft through impact and squeeze the ball off the ground, creating a lower ball flight. If you release the club too early, you’ll hit the shot fat and create an even larger divot.



This is typically a better player’s fault. The lower body spins out so soon in the downswing that the hips are pointing left of the target prior to impact. As a result, the club gets stuck behind the body and the player is jammed through the hitting area, making it nearly impossible to release the club in time.

Because your lower body is out ahead of the rest of your body at impact, you again depend on your hands to hit the ball and create power. This leads to very erratic distance control. You also lose the ability to shape your shots (to draw or fade the ball at will).

Instead of building resistance in your right side, as you would when stopping yourself from overturning (see ‘CLUB CROSSES THE LINE‘), you want to establish a roadblock on your left side. At impact, your left side should be resisting, or bracing, for the hit; there should be very little give in it. You should strive to keep your legs very still, just as if you were hitting a fairway bunker shot.

In order to release the club properly, your hips have to leave room for your arms to swing the club down in front of your body. If your hips spin out too soon, your right side inhibits this path. Here’s a simple drill to quiet your lower body. Start by setting the club in front of you in a post-impact position, with the handle just past your left hip. Then swing the club back and through, keeping the club in front of your chest. If you’re able to return the club to its starting position, your hips are staying quiet.

How to Add Juice to Your Irons

How to Add Juice to Your Irons

How to Add Juice to Your Irons
By: Mitchell Spearman

The Problem YOU’RE hitting 6-irons into greens when your buddies are hitting 7- and 9-irons from the same distance.

The Solution Simple: speed. Adding extra miles per hour to your swing is the only thing that’s going to allow you to hit each of your irons farther. Most amateurs think of speed as something they generate from the top, but that’s a recipe for almost every bad shot you can imagine. The secret is to maximize the fastest part of your swing, and that comes after you strike the ball. Copy the release positions here and you’ll learn to accelerate through the ball and into your follow-through, making your impact faster and adding yards to your irons.

CENTERED HEAD It’s important that your keep your head centered over the impact area. This allows you to make your swing as wide as possible on the target side of the ball (just like you should on your backswing). If your head moves in front of the ball, then you’re limiting the radius of your through-swing and robbing your swing of crucial miles per hour of speed.

LEVEL AND STEP Swing into your release with level hips (or as close to level as possible) and steep shoulders. Notice how much lower my right shoulder is compared to my left — that’s evidence of my right shoulder working under my chin, not in front of it. This right-shoulder-under move allows you to move your club at a right angle to your spine, which is the fastest route possible.

RIGHT-HAND SLAP Notice how far the clubhead has traveled from impact to its position in the release, but how my hands have only moved a few inches. The difference between these two distances is what makes your release the fastest part of your swing. You can achieve this hidden speed by giving the ball a right-hand “slap” through impact, and continuing the slap in your release so that your right arm gets very long with the club as far away from your head as possible.