The Air Goes Out of Sean Foley

Last week on the Fan 590 radio’s golf show, Fairways, which airs at an ungodly early hour, had Sean Foley, a regular correspondent and swing coach to Sean O’Hair and Stephen Ames, on to talk about “compressing” the golf ball.

Score editor Bob Weeks was also on the show, and asked Foley what compression entails:

Weeks: When the ball actually compresses, what actually happens Sean? The ball actually squishes and sort of expands again?
Foley: Basically, obviously, part of what happens  because a ball has seams and balls can be two-piece or three-piece, they are all three-piece now. So obviously when they are put together they are put together in pieces. So when you hear “ you can really hear it with Sean and Stephen “ is that when they really compress it they have a sound. Even Phil Mickelson said you always know where Sean OHair is on the driving range because of how solid he hits it. So the noise that it makes as it is going through the air, you know the distinct difference Bob from being out on tour when guys have the sound and they dont. When they compress the ball, part of what is happening is the air is releasing from the inside of the ball out through the seams. That is part of the noise. It is kind of like when a baseball wraps around the barrel of the bat, when they have that tremendous crack. That is the air leaving out through the seams. That is part of it.

As you might guess, his response raised some eyebrows among swing instructors, one of whom wrote me to express his dismay at Foley’s response. This instructor had never heard anyone explain that the noise made by a fine swing results in air escaping a golf ball. With that, I went to two sources — Ted Manning, president of Acushnet in Canada, and Dean Snell, senior director of R&D for balls at TaylorMade.

Manning sent me this link, a video demonstrating how the ProV1 is made, and said that there is no way air leaves a golf ball. “Golf balls are of solid construction with no air escaping on impact,” Manning added.

Snell was a little more perplexed about Foley’s remarks, calling them “foolish.” Once again, golf balls don’t have any air in them, Snell said, adding that even if they did, there was no way the TaylorMade red ball, the one that O’Hair hits, would have any air escaping them unless the cover was compromised.

So Foley is wrong. Turns out the whole thing was a poorly worded remark brought about by a baby in the house and lack of sleep. I fully get both things. Foley responded to my email question about the remark with the following comment:

Unfortunately that show is live at 7:20am, which is sometimes very early after my son has decided to not go to sleep. The sound from impact in baseball is in part due to the the ball forming around the barrel. The compression or sound of compression comes from the air leaving the seams at the deepest point of linear force. My analogy was not to use golfball but baseball as showing two forms of compression in hitting or swinging. The sound that comes from compression in the golf swing is created by a few physical happenings. Obviously club-velocity, angle of approach, angle of descent, contact point on club that transfers the momentum(mass * velocity). The sound that is heard just post impact as the ball travels is the friction between the ball and the air which is creates drag(gravities effect). I t is a combination of those variables.

Turns out that air doesn’t escape a baseball either, but Sean’s point is well taken. Did he actually think air escapes a golf ball. Probably not. But add a crying baby into the mix with an early morning live radio show and you have the recipe for disaster.

Related Articles

About author View all posts Author website

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.

18 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Its amazing and sad how bad this website is getting. Not that it was ever good, but now its just bad. The blogs you write are boring and other than trying to brag of the courses you get on ,its not even comparable to some of the other blogs out there. A well known architect told me a while ago that you have no idea what you’re talking about and how you love to criticize golf courses from behind a computer with no real experience in the field. Now that I’ve had time to see the site and read some of your blogs, he is bang on.

  • you don’t have to know about balls to be a good teacher! Don’t forget hockey had jock straps 100 years before they had helmets!

  • If the content here is so bad, why are you hopping out of bed at the crack of 8:30 on a Saturday to check it, Waynegrow? Now THAT’S amazing and sad.

  • That just might be one of the worst excuses I have ever heard. I have kids and while I maybe tired, I would never have given an answer so wrong…especially since I am sure he was prepped on the question!

  • I would doubt that Sean was prepped on the questions before the interview. Having had my own radio show, I can tell you from personal experience that the guests don;t have any knowledge of the questions to be asked. They may know the topic they are going to discuss but not specific questions.

  • Then your radio show was not professionally run or your guests were not used to being interviewed Devon. No offense but that is the truth. I have booked interviews and you are supposed to prep the guest and in many cases the guest will actually tell you what they want to discuss. This is how most if not all interviews are conducted. Robert?

  • I’ve only been on Fairways once, but they did preinterview me — whether they do so with a regular like Foley, or just send him an email about what they want to cover, I can’t say.

  • Unfortunately, you want to bring down one of the rising teachers on the PGA tour – and he is home grown talent from Southern Ontario. From your articles on his “S & T” teaching to this interview, remember how well his students performed at the US Open. Write about that.

  • I have to agree with RobG above.

    At times this blog has seemed like a vendetta.

    Lets not forget the tireless work he put in for the many up and coming juniors and young pros in this country.

    I respect the journalistic aspect…but the angle always seems to be the same…ostracizing Sean Foley from canadian golf.

  • This is absolutely pathetic. You are forced to bash popular local sports figures in order to get people to view this horrendously written blog.

    Does anyone actually care that someone didn’t give the right answer to a question like that? Never mind the fact that it really has no meaning to know such a thing when trying to make a player better, but why do you expect a PGA Tour Pro to also be an Acoustician? Does it really make a difference in your life to notify the world that someone gave a tired 7am on a Saturday answer to a completely meaningless question to his profession?

    Note that even you had to do some studying to find the right answer.. And what was your purpose? To prove that you should be teaching Sean O’hair, Hunter Mahan, Stephen Ames, Parker Mchlaughlin and local talent such as Jennifer Kirby, Nicole Vandermade, Mark Leon, Peter Laws, Michael Gligic, etc etc etc.. ???
    No, the purpose was a vendetta against him that was not fulfilled in your last article.

    This guy has done so much for Ontario Golf, and changed the lives of many young kids for the better..
    Yet here you are…. a representative of Ontario Golf with the opportunity to do good things yourself… attempting to tear down one of our own, again, and again.

    Its disgraceful when I search Sean Foley golf and find these two articles number 1&2 on

  • The problem is he gave a ridiculous answer by trying to sound important like he knew what he was talking about! He is still an Apprentice, what do you expect. Don’t even get me started on that special treatment subject.

    As an Instructor myself with similar credentials although I’m a Class A, along with Tour credentials and players how do you come up with an answer like that? This definitely lends to the credibility of the instructor and even as an Apprentice Professional he should know what compression is and certainly how to explain it.

    Someone could also interpret how his professional association operates and trains their apprentices from this response which could cast it in a poor light. One can blame it on anything you want, but nevertheless the words came out, thus no vendetta or bashing, just fact that it was a terrible response. His retraction sounds much better and I’m sure he researched it before putting it in print.

  • First off, I have never written on one of these blogs until now, but unfortunately I have nothing better to do on a Friday night. Like Mr. Corbin, I attmepted to google Sean to find out when he was speaking in some Ontario PGA summit, and this article was the first to pop up.
    For a guy that teaches at least 8 PGA/LPGA tour pros, along with the best female amateur in Canada (not enough people in the Canadian golf press talk about how incredible Jenny Kirby’s 2009 summer was by the way), he gets quite a bit of negative press. The reality is that he is one of Canada’s best exports to the world of golf. He is a charismatic, caring, one of a kind person and regardless of his CPGA certification, he has an otherwordly ability to get people swing the golf club more effectively. Sean certainly doesn’t need me to defend him, his stable of players, and the millions of dollars they earn against the worlds best are defense enough. For those who think that coaching people who are already world class ballstrikers/players is an easy task (you’re mistaken….they are far more impatient and discerning, and can hire any coach they choose), then youtube Brogan McKinnon or Ryan Corbin’s golf swing. Both examples of what happens when Sean takes a kid from scratch and teaches him/her how to swing. Both swing the club as good as any PGA tour or LPGA pro, and hopefully their games will both prove world class one day.
    I agree that he gave a bad answer in an interview, but that should not be the most noteworthy google item concerning the man.

  • Thank You Mark…I’m sitting here googling Sean and his ideas on the golf swing because I just listened to him speak and this guy probably has more knowledge of the anatomy, geometrics, and biomechanics than any other teacher out there, otherwise I would never waste my time on such a useless blog. If Mark didn’t say these things about Sean then I would have. He is an extremely passionate, knowledgable, intelligent, and brilliant teacher. Keep going Sean!!!!

  • Sean is doing things that no other Canadian is doing. When i hear Jay talking about him being an apprentice it only solidifies the fact that he is jealous that an “apprentice” is doing bigger things then he ever will.

  • wow Jay. Dont advertise that you are a loser to everyone else. Mahan wins, another Foley player doing well. Class A means class asshole

  • The question wasn’t even about sound. I would have said, “I teach golf not physics”. I heard about this foley character and was curious. Saw one of his utube videos and realized he was a fool. He said, “there’s no time to get over to the front foot in the time the swing happens” what an idiot! Tell that to a pitcher or anyone go can throw a ball for that matter!

  • @Cpga – it’s easy to teach elite athletes or simply be associated with them, especially ones who have already won before. This response and the fact that tour guys are listening to him shows you how little everyone really knows about the game not the opposite. You think Mahan and tiger wouldn’t win ever again without foley? Name calling means classless and juvenile. Attack the content not the person.

Leave a Reply