This week, TaylorMade Golf announced a new partnership with renowned teaching instructor Sean Foley as our newest brand staff ambassador.
Having worked with Tiger Woods and a host of other PGA TOUR winners during his career, the data-driven Foley is known for his scientific and biomechanical approach to the swing. Currently, Foley works with fellow TaylorMade Tour staffer, Justin Rose—an incredibly successful partnership that they cultivated over the last 9 years.
What are the key elements of your teaching method?
Sean Foley: I try to avoid the ideas of a "method" because a method is going to be a singular approach to everything—the club needs to be here, needs to be here, needs to be here...
If we look at the top-10 players in the world, it's obvious to us that they all hit similar shots at similar distances with a similar impact location. However, the other parts of their golf swing aren't necessarily the same. This is due to grips, posture, ability to turn, ability to tilt—so what happens is that we take "principles."
By this, I mean using the elements of ball flight... understanding face vs. path, recognizing that we want certain spin rates to make clubs optimal, and realizing that every player comes with a different physiology and a different learning style.
Principles are principles. There are 1,000 styles in golf, but there aren't many laws. Players are all moving left to right across the ground, they're twisting amongst their feet, and they're jumping. Every player on the PGA TOUR is creating force those three ways. Some are creating equal amounts of force in those three ways, some are creating a little in one and most of the force in the other two... so for me, it comes down to recognizing that if I have a guy who is a big left-to-right mover and I start trying to get him to focus only on rotation, he's going to lose his thumbprint with his golf swing.
Once we see what they do and how they move, then it's about creating the necessary "matchups" for that player. By matchups, I mean that once I determine the way they generate force in the ground, I then need to make sure that what's going on in their wrist angles, their shoulders, and their spine is going to match up with how they move in the ground.
So I wouldn't say that I have a method. It's simply utilizing the principles that we know relate to every shot.
What would you say is the difference between your style of teaching and other instructors out there?
SF: I don't really like to compare myself to others. I like to study from all the other people doing what I'm doing because I think everyone has something original to bring to the table. I like learning from how other coaches do what they do.
I feel like I was one of the first coaches on the PGA TOUR to start using TrackMan and start using force plates and start using data and analytics from Mark Broadie. So, I'd say I have a bit more of a scientific approach. But when it comes down to speaking to the player, I'm still trying to communicate in as few words as possible to keep things simple. The science is for me on the backend, which I then translate to that player in a way that's simple and easy to understand.
The golf word sees us out there with all these technical devices, and it may seem like we're going too far... but my question I would ask anyone is "why would I ever guess what I can measure?" We don't do that at TaylorMade and we don't do that with any of our Tour players.
What do you think it is about you or your teaching style that makes many of the best players in the world gravitate toward you as an instructor?
SF: It's really tough to explain where the chemistry comes from in the relationships I have with my Tour players. I just think that I'm a bit different. I'm a Canadian kid who has tattoos and walks around with a camera bag and TrackMan... I think that elicits interest sometimes. However, it really just comes down to working with players and building interest through word of mouth.
Take Justin Rose for example. He got paired with one of my other players at the U.S. Open, and my player had missed something like one fairway and two greens. After seeing that, Justin asked me if I would help him. Then one of the greatest compliments of my career was when Tiger Woods asked if I would work with him after being impressed that I had previously helped three good players become great, each swinging in a different manner.
In the game of pro golf, it all comes down to results. If you're getting results, people will be interested in working with you. If you're not, they won't be.
How has the game—and specifically the golf swing—evolved over the past decade or so?
SF: I think the game has evolved very much like Moore's law, relating to technology. If you look at Jon Rahm right now (who is one of the best players in the world) and put him side-to-side with Lee Travino on video, they look almost identical. I think the great players have always done the same thing and have been able to hit the same shots... I think where we have a higher probability for success is in the data and analytics that allow us to measure exactly what is going on.
Today, the PGA TOUR is a massive market, and these players are competing for a lot of money, so there's no stone that has gone unturned. The evolution of golf is the same as society in that it's all about technology and data and science moving us forward at a very fast rate—which can be can a good and a bad thing.
Having worked with Justin Rose for 9 years, what do you see in his game, mindset, and work ethic that separates him from other Tour golfers?
SF: What makes Justin one of the best players of his generation is his ability to evolve as a player. I'd would say that Justin Rose is one of the pioneers of the modern golf professional. What I mean by that is that he's a player that looks at his diet, his sleep habits, his training... he's a player who understands so much about his physicality AND his TaylorMade equipment. He's a pioneer in the global approach of seeing himself as a business and a professional athlete.
Beyond that, his inability to be satisfied with whatever level he's at has pushed him to realize that there is no ceiling. As a result, he's playing the best golf of his life at age 37.
I think if we continue to do what we're doing, he will probably be even better at 39 than he is right now.
What makes you and Justin such a good team?
SF: After 9 years, Justin and I are as close as anyone I've worked with—and that's a deep chemistry that you probably can't explain. We're similar in the sense that we are both kind and thoughtful people. We're also both driven by perfection.
I can guarantee that if I didn't start coaching him, I wouldn't know all the things that I understand now because he really pushed me to learn more and more and more in order to be able to support and help him. I think we've been able to improve his game in a lot of ways without losing that DNA that he brought to the PGA TOUR when he first came onto the scene.
With your existing connections to TaylorMade athletes, what does it mean to you to now be an official part of Team TaylorMade?
SF: I'm tremendously honored to be a part of TaylorMade. My association with the brand goes back to my 14th birthday when I got a TaylorMade driver with the old Flex-Twist shaft... I think I slept with it in my bed for close to two months.
As far as golf products go, TaylorMade has been pushing their engineers to get better and better since Day 1. They pioneered metalwoods.
And today, with the icons they have in their stable with Justin Rose, Jon Rahm, Jason Day, Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, and Dustin Johnson—the greatest players use the greatest equipment. It doesn't come down to zeros as much as it comes down to people knowing that they're going to be able to make the hall of fame or play the best of their life using certain equipment. To be a part of a company that has always reached for the stars and tried to improve themselves is a perfect symmetry for what I've tried to do in my own career.
So to get started with TaylorMade as their main guy in instruction and to be able to follow in the footsteps of the great late Jim Flick—who I learned a tremendous amount from when I was going up—is a real honor, and I look forward to the partnership.
You must be a registered user to add a comment. If you've already registered, sign in. Otherwise, register and sign in.