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« 2013 WGC Cadillac Final Round Open Comment Thread | Main | Reminder: Blue Monster Finishers Get Golf Channel Spotlight »

" among the most technical and scientifically oriented coaches in golf."

Thanks to reader John for John Paul Newport's Saturday column on Sean Foley.

Specifically, his overlooked work helping Justin Rose become one of the game's top players.

When I asked him to explain Rose's rise over three years from 67th to 19th to fifth in one measure of long-iron excellence. Foley gave me a one-word answer: "Myelin."

Excuse me? "That's the insulation that wraps around neural brain circuits and helps them fire faster when presented with certain stimuli," he said. Laying down more myelin, over time, helps secure new skills; that's the value of those reps Woods always talks about. " 'Swing change' is really a stupid term, because it's actually just gradual evolution in encoded brain patterns," Foley said.

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Reader Comments (60)


Tiger's swing looks real good, though.
03.9.2013 | Unregistered CommenterRES
"I'm gonna' need some pliers, and a set of 30 weight ball bearings (it's all ball bearing nowadays) And I'm gonna' need about 10 quarts of antifreeze, preferably Prestone. No, make that Quaker State."....Fletch
03.9.2013 | Unregistered CommenterVRWC
And Stricker simply helped Tigers Posture without
overcompensating with his dictionary
03.9.2013 | Unregistered CommenterCeloso
I actually like Sean Foley, but "gradual evolution in encoded brain patterns" doesn't mean anything other than "practice makes perfect". But still, sometimes it's good to look at old truths with a new perspective because it offers reaffirmation that you're still doing the right thinng. As a teacher, I find a term like "The insulation that wraps around neural brain circuits [that] helps them fire faster when presented with certain stimuli" inspiring, even though it won't change the essence of the way I approach my job.
03.9.2013 | Unregistered CommenterHawkeye
Tiger's swing always looks good, when the weather is favourable.
03.9.2013 | Unregistered CommenterJock
In 1989 I was paralyzed with Guillion Barre Syndrome, a syndrome because they don't know why I got it , and you haven't.

When you get Guillion Barre, the Myelin Sheath which insulates your nerves is attacked and destroyed by your own white blood cells. Why is not known.... an so it is a syndrome.Pixcture scraping the insultion off a lamp cord with a pocket knife.

The nerve (no pun intended) of Foley to practice Kelloggian medicine really PISSES ME OFF, and unless he has some real explanation for his lighthearted attempt at ''a reason'', I would hope he offers a public apology for this statement. If he doesn't, then I can assure you , I will spend time knocking this blowhard into a place he will not like.

IT has taken me 20 minutes to type this I am so God damn mad.
Foley is a friend of mine. But Justin Rose won a European Tour Order of Merit title long before he began working with Sean. So it's not like the guy is some stiff off the street who needed redemption and a complete overhaul.

Rosie was having back problems, as was Steve Ames, another Foley client. Sean gave Rosie a different angle of attack that reduced the strain on JR's back.

I would suggest that's why Rose is back atop the rankings where he should have remained all along.

Best thing about Sean is he listens and adapts to the players, and not vice-versa. He is not a template coach. Not one size fits all. Who else on his roster (Rose, Mahan, Noh) swings like Tiger? Nobody.
03.9.2013 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Elling
My thoughts exactly Jock.

As for Doral, it's more of an insult to the game than anchoring!
If I were able to have a lesson with one of the great coaches, it would definitely be Foley - he seems light years ahead of the rest of his fellow coaches.

Elling - I note you have stopped your tiresome crusade against Vijay Singh. I do hope we have seen the last of it.
03.9.2013 | Unregistered CommenterStord
C&C, it's horrid, isn't it. Anti-golf of the worst sort.
03.10.2013 | Unregistered CommenterPsycho
Myelin is discussed at length in Daniel Coyle's book, 'The Talent Code'. It's a very interesting read.
03.10.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDan
Go get 'em, digs!

Benign conditions on flat greens stimped to the max. Makes the heart pump hard enough to make you go anchored, doesn't it? Driver/pitching wedge sure does make the blood flow. Zack Johnson hits a par 5 in two blows? Wow, that's nothing short of inspirational! Guys knocking it over the green from 320 spells excitement with a capital E in my book, not to mention the magic of a 5-wood that goes 280. Top it off with myelin therapy, the reemergence of the Evil Cartman persona plus a chance visit from The Don today? That's close to if not the perfect PGAT/NBC/GC wet dream. Or for some of us, a golf course rendered meaningless by a pair of balls; urethane and rocket. I'm not buyin' in today, the air outside will smell better.
03.10.2013 | Unregistered CommenterD. maculata
Today's coaches feel they ha ve to prove how much better they are than those who have gone before them so they dress up old theories in almost incomprehensible language and voila- a genius is born!!I'm sure Foley is very good and modern technology is teaching us more about the swing all the time but I will guarantee you there wil be coaches in 10 years times claiming they have discovered the "secret" too.My biggest gripe with modern coaching is their almost total focus on swing mechanics and not enough on short game /scoring.Some of Foleys work on Tiger's short game has been nonsense!
03.10.2013 | Unregistered CommenterChico
"... we learn only by failure." (from the WSJ article) Then why isn't Michelle Wie #1 in the world?

Foley may by a perfectly fine mechanical golf coach, but all this "pretend science" he throws out is just to impress the masses. Foley just sounds so smart, doesn't he? LIke all the hype around different types of bottled water you see - "structurally different, restructured water, sonoluminescene, etc." - it is all just advertising gobbilty-gook.

As for me, when I want to sound smart, I merely follow the advice of Sheldon J. Plankton and just speak LOUDER!
03.10.2013 | Unregistered CommenterRickABQ
Gentlemen, be reminded it is only a golf swing. The "swing" really hasn't changed over the years. The equipment and the ball have changed, and perhaps allowed average athletes to hit prodigious shots, but the swing is still a swing. You don't see drivers hitting the fairway 99% of the time, or GIR be 95%. There is still the human element involved. It ain't something to can make technology perfect - just ain't gonna happen. The Golf swing is and always has been built from the ground up. Can you say gravity? AS for DORAL; a once proud golf course laid to rest by technology, PERIOD. As for Foley, overrated, as are most over-reaching, over-coaching self-absorbed, "I've-got-the-answer" instructors. Toski - Flick were pretty basic, use the ball flight laws and you can correct a miss.

Digger, you are on my prayer list.
Look, he certainly has worked with some great players, and it seems that he has helped them excel. But throwing around faux medical/scientific terminology in order to either mystify or impress people is the mark of a someone who either thinks he is smarter than everyone else, or (most likely) knows that he isn't and is trying to cover for that.
03.10.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBrianS
@BrianS Agree 100% w /you
No BS, BS.
03.10.2013 | Unregistered Commenter3foot1
Sean Foley is a pain in my-elin...
03.10.2013 | Unregistered CommenterRobert Matre
The way to become a great teacher is to start with great students, and as Chico says - use strange words.

Butch was going to take a world class female athlete, Gabrielle Reese, and turn her into an LPGA player which failed miserably. Not sure if she could break 80. We have seen what little success Hank has had, he is 0 for 3 in celebrity swing makeovers. Now he has a phenomenal athlete with a good looking swing and the goal is to break 90....way to set the bar.
Great point Stack & Tilt. Can't make a thoroughbred out of a plow horse, no matter what they look like! Ya gotta have a little talent to start with. How much did Auerbach really help Bill Russell?
I'll take John Jacobs over Foley all day long.
03.10.2013 | Unregistered CommenterPJ
I would be more impressed if Foley could help Barkley's swing rather than WORLD CLASS golfers.

and I for one am not impressed with a bunch of technical jargon, Foley reminds me of someone just trying to impress his date. BFD.
03.10.2013 | Unregistered Commentermorphy
Sean Foley is golf's incarnation of L Ron Hubbard.
03.10.2013 | Unregistered CommenterBrad S
Gotta give Foley some credit for staying the course so to speak. He's building up his resume for sure.

That said, I agree 110% with chico. I too teach the game, and not a week goes by where some of local "pros" here (who do well to break 80 two days-in-a-row) start pontificating to me how their new I-Phone app has unlocked a magic secret. Foley, to me anyways, seems to throw out the big fancy words to make it sound more palatable and 'fresh' to a stable of golfers who have grown tired of hearing the same old swing keys.

Point is there is no real secret, just a guideline of fundamentals that have evolved thru the ages. The whole point of teaching is to get the pupil to understand what goes on and why and how and where and...etc. Lots of different teaching styles out there trying to do the same thing which is to get a repeating action that sends a stupid white ball towards a target.

IMO.. if there is a real lies in the short game. The goal for me is to get folks to look at the putting stroke as a mini-driver swing and vice-versa. Learn how to use ALL your clubs to's fun practice too and leads to killer distance control which is the key to accuracy.! I see no real need to pound lots of full shots..working through the bag w/ a large bucket will do. The full swing mechanics can be easily developed and refined within 100yds of the pin.

But that's merely my opinion....It could change over time, like this game has always done.
03.10.2013 | Unregistered Commenterjohnnnycz
While I could write a short essay, I have chosen a curt reply.

If Mr. Foley actually is selling the creation of ''more myelin'', or ''thicker myelin'''' from exercise, or reps- he should also include some of the turn of the century electro-dazzle, or even re open a Foley-*Kellogg Therapy Spa for the Enlightened Golfer and Other Tin Foil Foibles, and please offer some of those cool wooden boxes that shock the shit out of the ''patient'', generally from a magneto creating a low amp 30,000 volt jolt to get the old ''muscle memory ''chips all chippy.

It should be noted that ''muscle memory'' is a laymen term for nothing that actually exists, and like my old aquaintance and 2 time lesson giver, Mr Harvey Penick said, you ''GRIP DOWN'' on a club, you do not ''choke down''- why plant a negative word in to a mind already filled with too many thoughts-- so I am immediately suspicious of any instructor who uses the term ''muscle memory'', as I am with the instuctor who says to ''choke down'' on a club. Maybe it is like dismissing one for salting their soup before tasting it, but hey, cliches are CLICHES because they are based in truth.

So I knew I couldn't keep this short, doggone it. Guillion Barre is the same as MS, only MS attacks the insulation around the spine and the brain, while GBS attacks the insulation around all the peripheral nerves, that is, the nerves that distribute commands to all the muscles throughout the body, including involuntary acts, such as breathing. (While I was not on a respirator, I had an experimental treatment (then- common now- called plasmapheresis, and fortunately, I did not lose my ability to breathe)--anyway Steve- if Mr Fley is your friend, amd you are a reporter- you owe it to him and you to ''inquire'' as to this whole usage of a word in a manner that I find highly suspicious- as a matter of fact- ihe makes ''deer antler spray usage'' seem acceptable.

So facts:

It is thought that the myelin sheath can be strengthened through diet, but no amount of hitting wedges is going to make insulation thicker, or make muscles ''remember''.

one of many articles on regeneration:


If you are interested in this- Andy Griffith had GBS_ wore leg braces when he first did Matlock; Joseph Heller had GBS, and cowrote a great book called ''No Laughing Matter'' With his pal, Speed Vogel; Heller for those who can't quite place the name wrote ''Catch 22'' among other highly entertaining,and thouh provking books- with ''Good As Gold'' on my recommended list.

His book, ''No Laughing Matter'' is a good read, very entertaining, with a lot of Heller's NYNY buddies in the story.

So Steve- seriously- I would say calling Foley out on WTF he is talking about would not be out of line.
Oh yeah...Tiger looks solid. I can see the "wipey" follow through being mentioned on some other boards, but it looks to me he's rather "swinging left" alot path is more around his body. Most of what I saw were highlights of wedges, but his hands look a tad lower at address through the bag...shades of Knudson!

Oh...and he's rolling it (almost) like he used to which is the whole key as I rambled on above. He was stupid good on the greens mentally for a long, long, loooooong time and it'll take an extended period of solid putting such as this to get that frame of mind back. Augusta will show where he's really at with the flatstick.
03.10.2013 | Unregistered Commenterjohnnnycz
Go Digs!!
03.10.2013 | Unregistered CommenterChico
As with many gurus, FOley sells a thought.
I can get you where you want to be, I have figured it out.

Always interests me, that a guy like Sean talks in absolutes, but couldn't get
himself to become the player he wanted to be.
03.10.2013 | Unregistered CommenterCeloso
My buddy Brad Brewer told me he thinks a player needs to hit about 4000 shots to ingrain a new move.

johnny, got the first 2 rounds of the year under the belt on Thurs/Fri and the Ballard thoughts are having a positive impact ;)

Hey do know what the 3rd option is don't you?
03.10.2013 | Unregistered CommenterDTF
Foley's students have had a lot of success, but the man himself sure tends to talk like a ninny.
I was listening to an interview with Brian Eno the other day (brainiac musician and producer) and the man talked in the simplest most direct terms about his creative/work process. No jargon, no jive. A 5 year old could have followed what he was talking about.
03.10.2013 | Unregistered Commenterdbh
@DTF: Good to hear. Hard to get off track with Jimmy's methods.

I like this one from Hal Sutton (who I believe worked alot with Ballard):

"I try to feel like I'm piercing my heart w/ my left elbow on the downswing"

I had a great session with a couple of 17yr olds yesterday. Mostly on helping their eye line and the biggest breakthrough at the end was they realized the head really CAN'T stay still throughout a proper golfswing...but the eyes sure as heck can. Long milkshake straws in the teeth showed them what happens when their focus about some early shanks...LOL...but after 15 min they got the point to keep their eyes steady as a marine scout sniper!

Keep your eye on the ball means just that...only the eyes....forget about the doesn't hold the club or support your weight and the club..but rather, it holds the eyes/brain/ears which are needed to build up mylei.....just kidding folks!!! remember WTF just happened and store it in the golfers subconscious for later use/reference. Also: Focusing on nailing the followthrough like a gymnast for 3 seconds also helps a TON...that's when the learning actually starts IMO and is the funnest part of the game....the flight of the ball.
03.10.2013 | Unregistered Commenterjohnnnycz
So I picture John Belushi with straws in his nose.....

Johnnnny....extra 'n' like a +1....I know doo doo about teaching, but it seems to me one of the first things I would want to get in to a players head is- finish your swing with your stance balanced- to always be in balance makes everything else possible to do well.

What is the Ballard info that Del reefered to?
Wonder what Sam Snead would offer as a retort to all of Foley's high-tech verbiage. In a great interview back in the late 70's, Sam was sitting with some of the games great teachers โ€“ Nicklaus was the only other player best I remember - Golf Digest (I believe) published the round-table discussion. They were going around the room asking the instructors different questions about the golf swing. Each had their own version of course on how to teach what. They threw a question out of discussion about what they do to teach a player to turn the ball right-to-left , or a draw for a RH players. The theories were abounding. When they asked Sam finally, he said, "I think draw". Not any better than that.
03.10.2013 | Unregistered CommenterTheProfromDover
@Digs: Jimmy Ballard is the guy.

As for your observation...IMO you are 100% correct. Even my scratch like players overlook how important the end part is...even though you don't hit the ball in the follow through, it still represents a "back in time X Ray" of what happened. To ignore the end part is to miss the point. Lifting the feet while swinging is an oldie but goldie is even better!

Balance BTW is THE cornerstone in pretty much every sport/activity. It's the thing that even non-participants or sports neo-phytes can actually see when they see Shaun White tearing up a halfpipe like he's out for a ride with his friends...balance makes the hard things look easy. The best golfers make it look easy(esp the lady korean little golfers...lovely swings!!!) b/c they do their thing all within their personal space of balance. I use the analogy of hockey players (since ALL czech know Jagr/Gretzky/Lemieux/etc) and I ask you remember ever seeing said athlete fall awkwardly AND if they did...did it look at least better than the typical journeyman? A great golf book that really explains balance is Knudsons book...I think he wrote only one so google it. He called Balance "The most important fundamental"

Same with skateboarding/surfing/running/jumping and every other physical endeavour we come accross in life. Balance makes most things easier.
03.10.2013 | Unregistered Commenterjohnnnycz
@Dig South ... Go get this blowhard. And, Godspeed to ya, pal!! Hopeful you're doing well.
03.10.2013 | Unregistered CommenterGo Digs
Digs: One question if you don't mind me asking. Did your GBS symptoms start appearing after a flu-shot or other type of vaccination of some sort....perhaps even a hospital stay of some kind? Just asking since there's been lots of weird reactions that have happened for many years but most have been given little to no coverage in the mainstream media.

I know a guy from Calgary who used to play pretty good (solid 3-4 hdcp all his life) and he got a flu-shot 3 yrs ago and has yet to break 80 since. Symptoms started up within a week of the 'poisoned jab'. He's got what he calls "mini-tremors" that come and go without warning and he lost feeling in his his balance is off. All the specialists say something different but end up saying "We're not sure what's wrong with you at the moment"
03.10.2013 | Unregistered Commenterjohnnnycz
Thank you, and to all well wishers, and for your thoughts and prayers.

I will give an up to the minute.

I was on a steroid therapy for years, and the toll on my body has been terrible, both in calcium deficiency, and the exposure to infection. In 2011 I was in the hospital 8 times, several were very serious, with surgery to remove infection from my elbow once, and both legs, with my L ankle having major surgery to clean out all the infection ( it absessed (sp) and literally blew up!)- I have some pretty amazing pictures. anyway, I am no longer on the steroid, though I still have to take a different one, and I have been infection free for over a year. I need my L shoulder ball and socket replaced- all my muscles are ok, but surgery very soon, then rehab, and finally good golf again!! I have been playing a few holes with my L elbow tucked right next to my body, with no pain (I am a lefty) I will then need my R foot operated on, and I will be better than new!.

One last thing- I am on a treatment program called was experimental when I was originally paralyzed. It has helped my stamina, and my ablity to stay healthy.

While I have gone and played a few holes, It has been one good shot per3 holes- just havig fun being out there! Thanks for the thoughts, and if MR Foley is duping the public at the expense of sick people, I promise I will not be idle.

About half the people who have come down with GBS have had a virus a week or so before, and the other half had no indicator--- I had a terrible stomach virus about a week before the symptoms started -for me it was a weak feeling ,and then a ''foot drop'' --the normal actions are numbness/paralysis starting at the extremities- the hands, arms, or the feet, legs, etc....Heller had trouble swallowing and it moved outward.... The correlation with vaccines is documented. But Johnnny, it IS NOT a virus.

As to your friend, the disease is very personal- from mild cases where it starts and then just stops and reverses, to full blown total paralysis, respirator and all-- I was on the way to that fate when the plasmapheresis treatment halted the events- but when I went into a pool for therapy, I could not breathe when the water got about 30-40% up my body- the pressure from the water was too much!--

So your friend needs to have a spinal tap- that will give definative results. One other thing to be aware of is Lyme's disease.

I have seen fully recovered people, and others in a wheelchair years after the initial events
Diggs: My friend/golf buddy has had a bunch of tests...all inconclusive and whatnot. Canada is relatively good for tests once you get into the medicine and all but that's another can of worms for another board.

Point is that neurological disorders are way too personal and individual for a 100% solution. My father was a general surgeon and the stories he told how physical symptoms have their root in the neurological really made for some interesting talks. he told me how folks with hopeless symptoms came back in a year fully recovered as well as relatively simple cases ending in premature death due the attitude of the patient. "It's all in the attitude" is a great mantra to live by and it sounds like you found a path out of the woods and now you're back on the course...and perhaps in the woods literally which is way better than a hospital bed dying from a question mark.
03.10.2013 | Unregistered Commenterjohnnnycz

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