Sean Foley: Canada's Top Swing Doctor or Pretenious Wanker?

At least that’s the question that stuck with me after reading Lorne Rubenstein’s interview with Foley, swing coach to Stephen Ames, in this morning’s Globe.

Now I’ve only encountered Foley once. He called two days late this spring following an interview request, and then proceeded to talk my ear off, ripping into several Canadian and American coaches, and talking about how strange life was on the PGA Tour. He’s clearly a guy who marches to his own beat, as is Ames, which is likely why the pair get along so well.

Anyway, on to the Globe story, which was more about Foley’s reading habits than anything else:

Have you read Jared Diamond’s last couple of books? Foley asked, referring to the UCLA geography professor’s Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies and Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed.”

Foley continued.

You have to read the afterword of Chomsky’s Failed States, he said. The subtitle to the linguist and political pundit’s book is The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy. Chomsky examines what he considers U.S. imperialism, and it’s a safe bet that few golf coaches and fewer, if any, PGA Tour players would be reading his work or sympathetic to his views. This only makes Foley that much more interesting.

Maybe. I’m not so sure. I’d rather hear about why Ames is a better golfer because of his work with Foley, but that’s not what Rube’s piece is about.

Interestingly, given the rumours that Tiger Woods may be on the outs with Hank Haney, apparently Foley is lining up for the job:

I think I could inspire him to do amazing things, given his money and intellect, Foley said. I don’t see why I should paint a small picture for myself. I believe it will happen.

Maybe Foley has also been investigating The Secret, since his desire to work with Woods is very “Ask, believe, receive.” He believes he’ll work with the world’s best golfer, so it’ll happen. I think there’s more to it than that.

However, this is just one interview. In my chat with him Foley appeared to lack any caution with the media, speaking his mind. Which is refreshing. And Ames believes in his approach, and it appears to be working. Interesting to note that Foley has been “hanging out” (his words, not mine) with Andy Plummer and Mike Bennett, the swing gurus behind the whole “stack and tilt” theory. Interesting, I guess, because the way Ames describes his work with Foley sounds very much like the way Mike Weir describes working with Bennett and Plummer.

I’ll end with this — Foley’s work with junior golfers is admirable. But he better hope Ames’ success continues because the lifespan of most swing doctors is about as long as fresh meat.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

41 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Sean is a fasincating person and while some of his converstations/thoughts maybe abstract I had two one-hour lessons from him in the summer of 2006 and I’m a better golfer for it. His teachings made sense to me, it’s just up to me to practice!
    I’m looking forward to my next lesson with Sean . . . and I think that’s how you should judge a golf teacher.

  • I don’t know Sean very well, but as a young professional in the industry and someone who admires the success that Sean has had as a teacher/coach, he is someone that I’d like to have the opportunity to learn from. There are a lot of successful teachers that don’t impress me at all, but Sean is on a different page. I know other pros, who are good teachers in their own right that have nothing but good things to say about Sean and speak very highly of him and his knowledge of the golf swing. He may be outspoken (so I’ve heard) and have interests outside of golf for which he speaks with great passion. But what’s wrong with that?

    I think the problem is that Sean may not fit the expectation that people have of a typical golf pro. So because he doesn’t fit the expectation, he must not be that good, or have anything worthy to say. I don’t know enough about Sean to say he’s a genius or even suggest it, but if we look back in history to see what communities of people do to geniuses before they realize that they are genius, it’s a shame. You’d think we’d learn from our past and embrace successful people who may be a little different and not fit our expectation. You never know we may have a great opportunity to learn something.

    I think we should be giving Sean Foley credit, where credit is due. Again, I’m just a young professional, so I could be wrong in saying this, but Sean Foley might be one of the most successful and highest profile teachers that Canada has every had. And I’m not talking about being ranked by peers. I’m talking about having gone through the ranks of successfully teaching juniors, beginners, intermediates, accomplished amateurs, mini-tour players and now a very successful PGA Tour player, with probably more to come. I think he’s just getting started and he’s only 32 years old.

  • Based on the fact that he is educated, charismatic, charitable, and abnormally successful, but called in two days late to do an interview with, I’d say he’s a wanker.

  • Well I had the privilege of watching Sean teaching up close when he showed my son a few things to improve his golf swing. Granted it wasn’t a formal session but that being said I was very impressed with the way he was able to break down what he was trying to say in a way that a 10 year old found engaging.

    While my son only had a passing interest in golf after getting some tips from Sean he has went on to love the game.

    I have known Sean for a long time and while I don’t pretend to know him inside and out or anything even remotely close to that I can say without fear of contradiction that he is one of the good guys.

    What annoys me is the people that make assumptions on people that they don’t even know.

  • I feel priviledged to have worked on my golf game with Sean.
    He’s a great golf coach and an even better person.

    Someone told me once that if you’re good at what you do, you don’t need to tell anyone about it. They’ll tell you.
    Sean, I’m telling you, but I can get in line.

    I find it amazing that anyone who has met Mr. Foley could say things that were said here. Is he a “know it all” or “know alot”.
    I’d go with the latter.

    Keep up the good work Sean.

  • Two winters ago I was with my son and daughter hitting balls at the Orange County National range. At one end we noticed a number of juniors with great swings. My daughter who had been accepted to Williams College, one of the top ten college in the country, walked over and watched the talented players from a polite distance, in hopes of absorbing something from their fluid swings. Sean walked up to her and introduced himself and asked why she was watching. A pretty good golfer who can shoot 80 in competition, but a much better academic, Lauren’s response was simply, I would like to learn. For the next two days Sean and Lauren chatted about life and golf, hitting balls, doing drills, and discussing a myriad of topics and some of Sean’s Rastafarian viewpoints. I will forever be grateful for his kindness in helping my daughter. He did not have to reach out as he did and most would have not. A plus 3 handicap myself having played with the likes of Crenshaw, Tway, and Moe Norman amoung others I know the game well. Sean’s knowledge of golf and it’s mechanics are second to none and his insights into the mental aspects are unique. A first class person and those are rare in this world.

  • sean foley is a total joker….the guy should be locked up….he is commiting daylight robbery charging what he does…he is a joe who knows nothing about the swing….peace…nipper the legend

  • Thats funny that you say that nipper or whatever losers call themselves. I am on the Canadian Tour and have worked with Sean for a year but have been around him daily. He has never charged one of us mini-tour professionals or most of his juniors as well. It is a shame that his earned success still recieves comments from people like you. People make comments and treat people the way they feel about themselves. So I will pray for you “nipper” far from a legend.

  • geoff……lets get this straight 1) what is the canadian tour??? i s tht a hockey league?…….he does not charge u because he feel sorry for u. he knows u r just another mini tour punter who has no chnce of achieving success so would see it unjust in charging u bcaz deep down he knows he will not be able to help u……my advice to u is take up hockey….peace…nipper the legend


    keep living the dream……..u bulb

  • I keep reading that Foley ideas on the golf swing are similar to stack and tilt?? Could anybody that works with him confirm this??
    I dont think Tiger (and i may be wrong) would work towards a swing that is similar to stack and tilt.
    Sean is getting a great write up though.
    Geoff dont listen to “nipper” as he is clearly just a chopper that hits it everywhere and struggles to chip!

  • u been playing 9 hole courses???? do u think u r a real player becaise u play on the canadian tour? why dont u just accept u r not gd enough to play golf for a living….imo ur a selfish human…ur family must suffer for u to chop it around the course trying to make the cut!!! but gl u muppet…….

  • u gone all quiet now geoff????? U out on the range perfecting ur over the top move???

    peace…nipper the legend

  • Not gone just feel bad for someone with as much animosity as you. I can tell by the disdain in your responses that you are a troubled person. Come on “nipper” no excuses OHIP covers psychotherapy. Go and learn how your past and historical failures have sculpted your present day hatred toward yourself and others.

    I’ts funny how you write “PEACE” in your responses, when you obviously do not understand the word.

  • nipper the legend = troll…..

    Or maybe Ken from score golf and his anti-RCGA rants have moved over to….lol…

    Ahh…to be 14 years old again, never know the touch of a women…Nip you are the Master-baiter….

  • Alright. Enough of the 5-year-old stuff.

    Foley is neither a god nor a prick. He’s just a guy who teaches people to swing the golf club, and he’s had a fair measure of success.

    But he is sure a polarizing figure.

  • Rt,

    polarizing would mean that someone has split opinions of there ideas. Love or hate, good or bad, love or fear. It is truly a word that creates half for half against. Reading your blog over the years 90 percent of people who have posted about my coach love him and acknowledge as yo do the quality person he is. Polarizing is wrong word.

  • Totally upset with some of these stupids comments coming from ‘Nipper’. Clearly nipper you are either 11 and lost the controls to your xbox or your a twisted boy who wants to make sure anybody who achieves something with their life you put down.
    You clearly know nothing and are purely on here to make people free crap with your cheap/nasty put downs.
    Lets all get along Nips!!

    Justin who loves the thrusting!

  • Sean Foley is a golf genius. The guy will one day be known to be one of the best golf coaches ever known on the PGA Tour. I have been very close foley for the last 5 years of my life, and I am completely thankful. Sean has completely shown me a whole new way to live my life as well as an approach with golf. My golf game has changed dramatically even after 1 year with coaching from Sean. The guy will do very well in life as he now supports his lovely wife, and adorable son. The sky is the limit bud.

  • I had the privilege to teach with Sean Foley 10 years ago and by watching him back then I knew there was something very special. He left everything out on the practice tee with each student. He helped his students golf swing and at the same time made them laugh & smile about life. I miss you my friend but I’ll enjoy watching your success, you truely deserve everything that’s coming your way. “LOCK IT, ROCK IT, ROLL IT.”


  • Justin Rose changes swing-coach to Sean Foley and JR is just about the best player in the world right now.
    O’Hair and Mahan are not too shabby either!

    Seems to me that Foley is pretty damn good.

  • seriously MAC?

    I really enjoy how S&T nuthuggers claim every decent movement in a golf swing to be of S&T/B&P origin. Just because a guy doesnt move off the ball he now resembles a S&Ter hahaha. Go hold your flying wedges with your straight right legs, out of sequence hands, excessive lateral in your hips and hit puff powder balls out there like a true S&T Model.

    If any golfer in the world was given Rose, Mahan or O’hair’s golf swing none would be traded for any current or past S&Ter. Hilarious to see O’hairs swing on youtube with foley in background and title of “stack and tilt”. It’s so far from what Mike and Andy have preached that is a delusion to think he or any other Foley student is S&Ting.

  • Bluster is a coverup for uncertainty and insecurity. Foley’s charisma will be another flash in the golf pan, and with that reputation he will be able to charge more for lessons.

  • Seems to me “The Secret” worked here….or maybe it is just that Sean Foley is damn good at getting the best out of people.

    The sour grapes that are shown at the beginning of the article by the author for calling Foley calling 2-days late is immature…get a grip you are writing a blog for…you are fortunate people call you back.

  • if i was Sean Foley i would almost feel a little embarassed by all the people who have obviously not had nearly the success in their professional, and likely personal, life that he has enjoyed. most people are far too lazy to put the hours of practical and theoretical work that is needed to achieve the level of knowledge and competence that he has arrived at for their own passions.

    we live in a society that puts down those who achieve success as it makes the majority of us feel better about our own inadequacies and personal shortfalls. believe in yourself and achieve something outside of what is considered “normal”.

    Nipper, you are obviously a bottom feeder. i am actually embarassed to have responded to your comments and to have wasted a few minutes of my life.

    on another topic… Mr Thompson, for a golf insider to be so far off on his comments it must make you feel like a bit of a wanker yourself. i would imagine that if i wrote an article ridiculing a golf teacher (Canadian at that) expressing their ideas of where they see there future in the sport, because their dreams appeared to large, and that teacher achieved all of the dreams i ridiculed them for having i would feel that my views and understanding of the world i blog about are so far from reality that people really should stop reading my articles.

  • I could care less where Foley get’s his theories. Bottom line he is a good teacher and obviously successful. All teachers today got their theories from somewhere…golfers don’t live in a vacuum. I have a few friends that are high end golfers that are taught by him and can’s say enough good things about him. He teaches a pain free easy to learn system, what’s wrong with that?

  • Nothing wrong in dreaming big. Foley said he would like to work with Tiger Woods three ears ago and it is now 2010 and it has come to past. I believe Foley will interact with Tiger well. He is closer in age to Tiger and Tiger will benefit from sometone who is completely different in personality than the older folks he was coached by. Sometimes, same old same old needs a change and whatever brought the two together might bring some positive results. By the way, I like that Sean can converse about other things than golf. I have a strong feeling that he will be good for Tiger. Tiger is beginning to smile again and I do believe that Foley will not be obsessing with Tiger’s recent problems. He will be trying to get Tiger to focus on the present, not on the past. All the best to the partnership I say. Go Tiger. Go Sean.

  • I hope this email can reach Sean Foley. We like to introduce to him the “Clearball” putter. This putter has a unique alignment aid (patent pending and USGA conforming) that will improve accuracy for all golfers – tour players included. Watching Tiger at Pebble on the last round I kept thinking how this putter will help him tuen things around.

    This putter was introduced at the PGA Merchandising Show last month in Orlando has has received rave reviews. We like to send a putter to Sean if he is interested to take a look.

    Dennis Wong

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