Saturday, September 4, 2010

The People vs. Sean Foley

Saw this article on Tiger’s new ‘interim swing coach’ Sean Foley that had some interesting quotes:

Foley admits that he enjoyed discussing the intricacies of the swing with Plummer and Bennett, whom he likes and respects, but ultimately, he credits them with “maybe 5 percent” of the inspiration behind his own, very similar, swing ideas.

“Andy and Mike are very bright guys, but how much of what they teach is Mac O’Grady?” Foley said of golf’s Bobby Fisher, a tortured genius who’s spent years breaking down the secrets of golf.

“And how much did they take from (Sam) Snead and (Ben) Hogan? And how much of it is taken from (Isaac) Newton?”

“Mike and Andy aren’t reinventing the wheel,” Foley said. “Like me, they watched old school players hit it good and realized there was something to what they were doing, but they didn’t invent the 1950 golf move.”

The most obvious difference between Stack and Tilt and Foley is that all the players taught by Plummer and Bennett swing very much alike.

Foley’s three highest-profile students (before Woods), Sean O’Hair, Hunter Mahan and Justin Rose, don’t swing anything alike.

“Stack and Tilt is one method of swinging,” Foley said. “If it’s such a great system, then why are people coming for a ‘watered-down version’ from me?”
When I saw this quote it reminded me a lot of David Leadbetter aping a lot of Jimmy Ballard’s work and then creating the ‘swing link’ training aid, which was really Ballard’s training aid and pocketing the money for himself. The problem was back then without the internet and without instruction being as highly marketed as it is today, nobody really cared if one instructor aped stuff from another instructor for their own profit. Plus, Ballard was/is a bit ‘rough around the edges’ when it comes to saying the right things and was/is a bit of a rebel when it comes to the PGA. In fact, Ballard hasn’t been PGA certified for 30 years.

The same thing happened with a lot of TGM instruction where instructors would take bits and pieces of the stuff that they could understand for their own good and then claim TGM was ‘worthless’ or some other demeaning adjective. Dr. Gary Wiren developed most of the training aids we see today like the impact bag and that and other training aids were based very much on the core TGM fundamentals.

There’s also Mac O’Grady when guys were trying to do stuff like CP and CF Release for years on the Tour based off of what other instructors learned from O’Grady only to claim that MORAD (O’Grady’s golf research) was ‘too complicated’ and ‘worthless.’ Like Ballard, O’Grady was a rebel in the PGA circles and those who saw that his stuff was being lifted often didn’t care.

But with Plummer and Bennett, both certified by the PGA and with the internet and instruction being what it is today, I think it’s more difficult to ape somebody’s stuff and get away with it. While Plummer and Bennett have drawn the ire of many teaching professionals (particularly O’Grady and Ballard), they don’t have that rebel and ‘kook’ stigma attached to them.

So we’ve seen this stuff before and it will most likely continue to happen. Perhaps it’s something we should have seen with Foley before. Here’s a quote from Mark Evershed’s blog
At one time Sean Foley used to credit me for helping to guide his teaching. Since making it big, he has taken the attitude that no one helped him.
Foley’s first assertion is that only 5% of his work is influenced by Plummer and Bennett. I call bullshit on that one.

First, Foley consistently went to Plummer and Bennett for insight, info and advice on the swing and their Stack and Tilt golf swing. From what I’ve been told he did this while traveling the PGA Tour and did it for over a year. And he approached P&B, not the other way around. And this has been noted long before Foley started working with Tiger.

So, he’s definitely discussed with them in detail about the golf swing and since he did it for an extended period of time, I will draw the conclusion that he found a lot more than 5% of their stuff appealing.

Let’s take a look at some of the changes he made to Sean O’Hair’s swing in GolfWeek Magazine.


In that article we have a very similar to the S&T downswing leg actiona and inside hand path in the backswing.

Let’s take a look at some Sean Foley videos.

Here’s one of him showing Tiger about the downward left shoulder turn in the backswing and keeping the upper body centered, something that is also a core fundamental of the S&T swing.

Or this video where he talks about where the weight should be. Which is a sign of things to come as he says ‘I think I found a pretty good way to hit the golf ball.’

Or this video on ‘saving your back.’

Yet, when it comes to one of his students talking, we get this video (which we know that Foley talked to O’Hair about and Plummer & Bennett have repeatedly stated that the S&T pivot is about being *centered* at the top of the swing)

So what we know is that Foley has discussed at length with P&B about the Stack and Tilt swing and then has a lot of Stack and Tilt components in the swing he teaches. Clearly to me, the S&T has influenced his swing theories by far more than 5%. Probably more like 85%. And as we have seen from the Evershed comments, he has a history of learning from people and then acting like he came up with this stuff on his own.

Of course, Plummer and Bennett are accused by Foley of taking stuff from O’Grady and basically implies that they didn’t give him any credit for the S&T swing that they have developed/marketed. But on page XVI of ‘The Stack and Tilt Swing’, Plummer and Bennett clearly note the influence and help they got from Mac O’Grady (and others)
During this period we were introduced to The Golfing Machine, a somewhat obscure instructional book written in 1969 by Homer Kelley. Kelley was not a competitive golfer or even a teacher until later in life, but his book showed us how science could be applied to golf. The same laws that govern the universe also govern golf. The book used classification as a way of separating the individual elements or components of the swing. This was what we were looking for in our own games; a system of organization. The advice of great teachers like Larry Batosek, Tom Tomasello, and Mike Bender helped us put into context many of the principles laid out in The Golfing Machine.

With the help of another teacher, Mac O’Grady, we started to refine our perspective on the golf swing. His knowledge and guidance encouraged us to dig deeper into the patterns that exist in the game.
As far as ‘taking from Hogan and Snead’, it’s really a silly argument/statement because what they’ve done is study Hogan and Snead’s swings, which every teacher…including Foley…have done. Plus, they readily acknowledge what they’ve learned from Hogan and Snead’s swing. I’m not sure what Foley is shooting for there. It’s really an apples to oranges comparison.

As far as claiming that ‘they are not reinventing the wheel’, which is implying that P&B are saying that, I disagree…although I can see where somebody could draw that erroneous conclusion. The Stack and Tilt is marketed as the ‘revolution in golf’ which gives the idea that it is ‘reinventing the wheel.’ However, in page X of ‘The Stack and Tilt Swing’, it says:
As you will see, much of the Stack & Tilt is not new. Elements like straightening the right leg on the backswing, swinging the hands on an inward path, and keeping the weight on the front side can be found in many books that predate us. What is new is the establishment of true fundamentals and the explanation of how they function.
Then it’s said that the S&T guys all swing the same, which doesn’t ring true to me. Here’s some swings of S&T guys, and tell if me if their swings are all the same:

Foley’s last quote is an obvious dig at P&B, claiming that “If it’s such a great system, then why are people coming for a ‘watered-down version’ from me?”…which is very contradictory to his 5% claim. I don’t think I’d call anything that influenced me by 5% as being ‘watered down’, unless we are talking about a 6-pack of Old Milwaukee.

Of course, the issue that the public takes with P&B in this situation is that they feel that Foley shouldn’t have to credit them every chance he gets and one cannot ‘own’ a golf swing from an instruction standpoint.

I agree. However, I’m don’t believe that’s what P&B are looking for here. I think what they are looking for is to not have a guy like Foley who has obviously been heavily influenced by their work and philosophies to go out and then bash those philosophies to the public. Even if he didn’t use any of their stuff, the fact that they took the time and effort to give them their thoughts and advice deserves the courtesy of not bashing their work. If you don’t like what they tell you, just don’t bring it up. But it’s obvious that Foley not only liked their work and philosophies, but they liked them a lot.

Instead of politely saying something to the effect that ‘I learned a lot from P&B an I think they have a very valid way of swinging the golf club, I just have some different thoughts and different ways of approaching the swing’, he took the ‘they act like they reinvented the wheel’ and ‘if it’s so great, why are people coming to me for a watered down version’ route.

I think what probably happened is that much of what P&B discussed with him were things that Foley had thought about and contemplated for quite some time before he ever met them. But he could not get into the specifics about what he was thinking and just couldn’t articulate it as well as he wanted an he needed their help for that. That doesn’t mean that they were basically your thoughts anyway. That means that they greatly helped you understand your thoughts better and you should show some gratitude for that.



Kevin said...

Great post 3Jack!

Erik J. Barzeski said...

85% sounds about right. One of your best posts ever, Rich.

Anonymous said...

I agree. Outstanding post. The use of videos is perfect.

Right Wing Political Junkie said...

Very insightful Richie.

Anonymous said...

Post is full of contradictions, false logic, heresay, and assumptions.

"As far as claiming that ‘they are not reinventing the wheel’, which is implying that P&B are saying that, I disagree…"

No. P&B ARE saying that. They said "Much of what we teach is not new.."

"I will draw the conclusion that he found a lot more than 5% of their stuff appealing" It's actually 5% of Foley's stuff, not PnB's stuff.

"I don’t think I’d call anything that influenced me by 5% as being ‘watered down’." It's a lot closer to being watered down if it only has influence you by 5%, not 85%. You keep flipping back and forth on this 5% thing.

Anonymous said...

Pretty good rant until the last paragraph. If Foley was really headed on a similar path on his own and just needed B&P to help organize his thoughts, then 5% could very well be right.

Anonymous said...

"The same thing happened with a lot of TGM instruction where instructors would take bits and pieces of the stuff that they could understand for their own good and then claim TGM was ‘worthless’ or some other demeaning adjective."

Classic example of having it both ways: TGMers say that the book is a classification of all the components of the swing and it describes like 400 trillion combinations. If it describes all components, how can one not take bits and pieces?

Erik J. Barzeski said...

Golly gee I hate anonymous comments. Man up and post your names, people.

To the first "Anonymous," I have no idea what you're talking about. Am I the only one confused? None of what you've posted is an example of a contradiction, false logic, etc.

Anonymous #2: if you need someone to "organize your thoughts" and then when you talk 90% of what comes out of your mouth is what they've told you, it's not 5%. That's Rich's point. And believe me, there was a lot more than actual "organizing" going on - there was out and out "learning" of new information.

Anonymous #3: This isn't an example of having it both ways at all. It's taking the bits and pieces and THEN BASHING the book as "worthless" that's not cool. No TGMers are upset when instructors take the pieces they like to make a pattern - they're upset when they get bashed by those instructors.

Rich H. said...

Foley plays the old carny game of getting into digressing about philosophers and cognitive scientists and whatever other type of subjects when dealing with people.

It's a smart game to play because it takes people's eyes off the subject at hand, like him lifting stuff from other people and then acting like he came up with it on his own or when he has to spin some ludicrous yarn about 'letting the air out of the seams of the ball', something I don't think a 20 handicapper who knew anything about a golf ball would make

It also makes people think that he's smart and fascinating, when he has come up with a way to market himself to the spotlight and do it at the expense of others. Much like other instructors that we on the internet generally loathe.

I'm all for people making it to the top and making a lot of money, but walking over people to do it is wrong and it should be noted as such.

I don't see how I have flip flopped on the 5% stuff. I think it's a lie and bullshit. *At best*, if he cannot articulate upon his thoughts and needed P&B to help him out with it, that's a HUGE deal in my book because if you cannot properly articulate on your swing theory, what good are you to a student?


Erik J. Barzeski said...

Oh yeah, thanks for reminding me of the "air out of the seams" comment. Wonder if he learned that one from Newton...? :-) But it's okay, because he claimed he was tired when he said that... Oy.

Good stuff Rich.

Brian said...

Can you post exact details of how long Sean spent with Mike and Andy and what they exactly discussed and how these sources know this? Without a lot of context and various sources that I read say different things, its hard to come up with my own judgement about your accusations.

I also think Sean might have just been defensive about being accused of not having his own swing ideas and resorted to that "watered down version" comment. Out of being defensive he said some things he might regret about a fellow colleague. Its a shame because I want to get excited about Tiger and not read about this drama.

Chris Gustin said...

Brian, at the Northern Trust Open at Riviera this year I was standing with Andy watching J.J. Henry practice. Andy's cell phone rang -- he didn't recognize the area code but he answered it anyway. It was Sean Foley -- they spoke for more than 30 minutes. I never heard Andy ask a single question. I did however hear Andy answer detailed questions from Foley that ranged from concentric circle, how the spine changes its flex, to how the hips move. I've spent a lot of time on Tour with Andy and Mike and witnessed Foley seeking council on a regular basis. The incriminating evidence against his "5%" case is laughable.

Rich H. said...

I don't believe that Foley is using the S&T. I don't think 'watered down version' is really accurate though. And I think he would've been just fine to say that's it's not the S&T and there are differences.

But to say 'if it's so great, they why do they come to me?' is just out and out bashing IMO.

I would get excited about Tiger because the point of the post isn't that Foley is a poor instructor, but it's to point out that for him to constantly ask P&B for info and advice, then obviously take quite a bit of that for himself, and then to come back and take jabs at P&B is wrong. It's also to point out that I don't believe that P&B are looking for credit, just don't take shots at them when they gave you a lot of their time and effort to help you out.

People need to realize that it's more than just telling Foley the answers. It's all that time, money, frustration, self doubt, etc. that they had to go thru in order to come up with the conclusions that they did. I don't know P&B from Laurel and Hardy, but I've been there with the 'journey' of trying to understand this game and I look forward to helping others out, but not at the expense of them coming back to disrespect me.


Anonymous said...


Simply ignorant. Sean is responsible for arguably the deepest stable on tour and all of his players swing it differently. 5%, 8%, who gives a shit. This blog, post, whatever you want to call it is the reason why guys like you should not have direct access to the masses. Sean Foley is the TRUTH, eventually you will all figure that out.

Erik J. Barzeski said...

What was it I said earlier about the general quality of "Anonymous" posts?


Unknown said...

I had the pleasure of attending a S&T seminar last January and watched Andy and Mike interact, not only with the students but also other teaching professionals, and they were as unselfish with their time as anyone could be.
I don't know Foley but I hate to think of anyone taking advantage of their gracious nature.

Dana said...

Fact of the matter is he is right out the book teaching several parts that are done off the freaken model 101 of stack and tilt. It is by no means a MORAD model backswing ( I would know BTW) I also witnessed Sean asking questions two times. Andy never has. So question is explain the mechanical changes that differ that the stack and tilt procedure for a fellow who extends to fast and swings to far to the right with a shift swing plane arc?
Sean we are waiting.....

Bio-Kinetics? I have a few questions for ya on that stuff too.

MiniBlueDragon said...

The main bone of contention seems to be the fact that he's basically been getting as much knowledge as he can from as many sources as he can to become the best teacher he can BUT HE'S NOT ACKNOWLEDGING THE ORIGINAL SOURCES.

Andy/Mike/S&T are just an example that proves the above, they're not the actual argument.

With digital and physical media there are laws governing copyright, plagiarism etc but as far as I know there's nothing of the sort regarding the teaching of techniques for sports so although Foley's not doing anything "wrong", he's getting people's backs up for not being a gentleman and acknowledging the source.

Anonymous said...

MiniBlue is getting warmer.

You can analyze the piss in a public pissing match, but what's that going to prove?

Why didn't Foley take the SnT name?

THAT's something worth discussing.

Any of you guys that claim insider scoop want to comment on that?

MiniBlueDragon said...

Anonymous: No insider info from me, however my guess about not taking the S&T name rests with how controversial it is.

S&T came along after generations and generations of 'regular' (if there IS such a thing) golf teaching and basically said "Everything you teach is wrong and we are right"

It's pretty much the equivalent of arriving in a heavily Christian town in the US, walking into a church and saying "You're all wrong and have been for hundreds of years but my religion is right"
You might get some people interested in this new religion if there's a compelling reason to look into it but for 95% of the people there you'll get an angry mob chasing you out of the building with pitchforks.

As far as I'm concerned there's no "right" and no "wrong" golf swing/religion it's all about what suits YOU best and what makes your game/life the most enjoyable.

Bryan said...

I have a genuine question, and its more because of a lack of knowledge on the topic.

How have P&B students faired on tour compared to Foley's?

And as an outside looking in, it does appear Foley has not given proper credit to P&B for information he has obtained.

I asked a buddy about this..but how far back does Foley's relationship with P&B go? 1 year, 5 years, 10 years? Reason I ask is saying 85% of his swing knowledge came from P&B leads me to believe Foley and P&B have quite a bit of history. Anyone know this answer?

I also think that if Foley never hooked up with Tiger, we wouldn't be having this conversation. I think if Tiger became P&B student, attack mode on the intranets would exist regardless..just at somebody else. Lets say Tiger went to P&B, yet Foley kept teaching Ohair and Mahan, and Foley still made the comments he did...think anyone would give a shit? No, because P&B would simply say "Well, why is Tiger with us then and not you"

really amazes me how much Tiger has influence even over teachers and their egos.

Anonymous said...

Sean has been coaching my son for the last 10 years, his approach has changed very little since I first saw him coaching. He is an information magnet, so speaking and comparing his approach with the likes of the P&B, Harmon, Leadbeater is no surprise. Anyone who thinks a system is 100% their own is a hell of a dreamer. Sorry, I concur with Sean, he has incorporated maybe 5% to 10% of what he saw with P&B into his teachings. Coaching isn't all about how to swing, it's helping the student understand themselves and working within their own abilities. That is where Sean excels, look and listen to O'Hair, Rose, Ames, Mahan, or the crop of excellent players moving up the ranks in College that have received Sean's training.

Anonymous said...

The article makes sense to me. However, anyone who drinks Old Milwaukee knows it is not a 'watered down' beer. In fact, in a taste test against premium beers it came out first. So, it is plauseable that the article is too critical of Foley and because he does not give credit where credit is due is okay. Most of use just want to make good contact and play better golf.

Article comment reqarding Old Milwaukee beer: "I don’t think I’d call anything that influenced me by 5% as being ‘watered down’, unless we are talking about a 6-pack of Old Milwaukee."

Anonymous said...

Come on Tige rhitting ballz with the shoes off. Seans feeding him this crap because he does not know all the parts to fix Mr.Woods. He has broken th ebridge with S&T in which could had help or even fix Tigers issues. Sean would be 100% Stack and Tilt if he did not have a few tour players who don't like the name.

Rich H. said...

I don't trust those beer taste tests. A few years ago I was with my then girlfriend at a bar and these really hot Miller Lite girls come around and I knew that they wanted me to pay attention to them. Sometimes I'm pretty smart, so I knew I could impress my gf while shocking the Miller Lite girls and wanting them to come back to me when I told them 'I'm not interested.'

And it worked like a charm :)

Anyway, they wanted my gf and I to take a taste test. They poured a Bud Light sample and a Miller Lite sample, both in clear plastic cups. I used to drink Bud Light quite a bit, but one of the things they asked was 'what beer looks better/fuller?' as the Miller Lite had a much darker color than the Bud Light.

I thought this was odd because no Bud Light I've ever drank looked that way. And the Bud Light tasted really watery.

Afterwards, I knew the bartender and she poured me a Bud Light from the bar and we compared it to the 'Bud Light' they poured me. They clearly purposedly watered down the Bud Light for their own advantage.

Anonymous said...

This blog is exactly the problem with the Blogasphere, zero facts just a bunch of drivel. Foley is miles and miles ahead of the S&T crew and that is what gets in the craw more then anything. P&B should be trying to hitch themselves to Foley not the other way around. As for Evershed he should be the last person to sound off anywhere.