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Swing coach Sean Foley, left, works with Olympic gold medalist Justin Rose, but through Golf & Body NYC, he also offers an intensive program for recreational players. (Chris O’Meara/The Associated Press)
Swing coach Sean Foley, left, works with Olympic gold medalist Justin Rose, but through Golf & Body NYC, he also offers an intensive program for recreational players. (Chris O’Meara/The Associated Press)

The Inner Competitor

How Sean Foley can be your own personal golf coach for a year Add to ...

New York City has long been renowned as home to some of the most legendary facilities and venues in sports. From the various incarnations of Yankee Stadium in the Bronx to “the world’s most famous arena,” as Madison Square Garden is tagged, built on top of Pennsylvania Station in midtown Manhattan, Gotham has played host to some of history’s most iconic sports stars and moments.

More modern but equally spectacular, Golf & Body NYC, in the heart of downtown, is no less of a player in the city’s sports landscape. The private members’ club does its best to sweep players away from the bustling city streets and into a more serene frame of mind with an individualized golfing experience. From one-on-one swing instruction on its seven golf simulators or pitching and putting on its three greens, to pumping iron in the fitness facility or soft tissue work with chiropractors, Golf & Body NYC offers members the closest thing to the full PGA Tour experience.

The club also offers year-long instruction with Canadian swing coach Sean Foley, who counts Olympic gold medalist Justin Rose among his clients, and strength and conditioning trainer Ben Shear.

That experience comes at a price – Golf.com reported the cost to be $42,000 (U.S.) a year for non-members and $25,000 for members – but according to Foley, committed golfers could undergo “complete transformations” over the 12 months. Golf & Body NYC keeps the experience intimate, with the number of club members sitting in the 150 to 200 range. The experience has caught on though, with Foley suggesting that the facility could be expanding to Philadelphia or Chicago in the near future.

Foley hit the limelight for his work with Tiger Woods some years ago, and having broken down more than his fair share of golf swings during his time in the sport, he says that most recreational players are strong enough to hit the ball a good distance. However, that is often negated by a failure to utilize the mechanics of the body.

“For the most part it’s just about making sure that their shoulders can move in a certain way, that their mid-spine can move in a certain way,” he says.

While he adds that the way people move is as individual as our thumb prints, he says golf involves some of the worst kinds of movements that any human being can do – essentially bending over and twisting through at a rate of knots. And for those with a limited range of movement through the back and hips, particularly those who spend most the day hunched over a computer, it can get even worse.

That’s not to say there aren’t resolutions in sight, though. Even at the top PGA Tour level, Foley says some mornings can look like an Advil commercial, but popping pills to take care of aches and pains is anything but a solution. Following a structured workout and self-care program can pay off not only in how golfers feel when they wake up the morning or after a round, but also in how their games improve as well.

“For the most part if every golfer out there between the ages of 30 and 45 just committed to a functional yoga program twice a week for six months they would see drastic changes,” he says. “One, in the way they felt, and two in the way they move and their ability to hit the ball further.”

Participants in the Golf & Body NYC program get four swing analysis videos from Foley, along with a couple of one-on-one sessions on the range to assess progress. However, he admits that completely overhauling a golfer’s swing isn’t always necessary. Often people come to him looking to hit the ball longer, but when he takes them around the green he realizes that distance isn’t their problem.

“It’s just obvious right there that if he just chipped and putted and hit more bunker shots [they’d] be doing a lot better,” he adds.

Foley is just one of a number of swing coaches offering their expertise to recreational golfers, though. Others, such as David Leadbetter, who worked with former major winners such as Nick Faldo and Greg Norman, or former Woods coach Hank Haney offer their expertise to the public through academies and both written and online lessons.

Former PGA Tour player Bobby Clampett offers his own take on improving a golf game through his Impact Zone Golf out of Naples, Fla. Much like Golf & Body NYC, Clampett’s school puts an emphasis on physical fitness through biomechanical and yoga instructors. That is done either at the company’s headquarters in Florida or through one of its travelling schools, where in the spring and fall he travels to various cities across the United States.

Where his approach differs to others, though, is Clampett is less concerned with how players swing and more focused on how they hit the ball, which will have a direct impact on where the ball travels. Given that much of his clientele is businessmen and women looking to improve their games in a hurry, results are everything in his approach to golf instruction.

“Most instruction is focused on getting a more traditional backswing position, which we find really slows the improving process,” Clampett says. “[Clients don’t] want to completely undo [their] golf swing for the purpose of hopefully years down the road lowering [their] handicap.”

Having played in 220 pro-am events during his career, which has also included time on the over-50 PGA Tour Champions, Clampett estimates that he played with 880 recreational golfers in that time for 5 1/2 hours at a time. He said the biggest problem that he witnessed was that players don’t understand cause and effect and how to get better.

“In 880 golfers I did not have a single golfer who could tell me when they missed a shot why and how to fix it,” he says. “What that creates is an underlying frustration, and when you don’t have teachers who understand, how are the students going to understand?”

Clampett suggests that golfers want to adopt a holistic focus to improving their games, combining a solid swing and impact, properly fitted clubs and good fitness and flexibility to hone their golf game to their liking.

“It’s like a chef has a good recipe, he has specific ingredients that he puts into his food and he prepares it in a very special way,” he says. “That’s the way golf should be approached. … You’ve got to have a plan; you’ve got to put in the right ingredients.”

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Follow on Twitter: @paulattfield

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