On a recent episode of the Walker Webcast, I had the opportunity to chat with Dave Phillips, a visionary thinker with a passion for teaching and learning. Phillips is a PGA coach and co-founder of TPI, the leading organization dedicated to studying how the human body functions in relation to the golf swing. He has worked with countless professional golf players and is a highly sought-after speaker. Recently, John Rahm, a player Phillips coached, won the Masters Tournament.
As a coach, Phillips plays a few different roles for his mentees. While he is capable of teaching techniques and the technical aspect of golf, players like John Rahm don’t exactly need that kind of coaching. When Rahm was heading into the last day of the Masters in second place, Phillips’ job was to work with him on the mental aspect of the game as needed. Phillips and Rahm worked tirelessly in the weeks before the Masters to make sure Rahm was prepared.
Once the tournament began, Phillips stepped back and let Rahm do what he knew best. While he was always there for Rahm, he wasn’t constantly working with him. Throughout the tournament, Phillips’ main focus was helping Rahm clear the mental “clutter” so he could focus on the game.
To find pro talent, you generally have to discover people when they are young to help them develop their craft before reaching their peak years. However, Phillips doesn’t believe there is a specific age that someone needs to be to start down the pro player track. Everyone develops at a different rate, so there is no way you could put a number on the “perfect age.” Phillips tends to find the most success with those who have already hit their growth spurt, as well as those who play multiple sports.
Longevity has become a focus in modern medicine recently, but our healthcare system is not necessarily set up to foster longevity. Our current healthcare system is designed to fix grave problems that people have, not proactively work to prevent them, even though prevention can be incredibly simple.
Phillips believes that retaining mobility is a huge component of prevention, and it’s relatively easy for you to know when something is constraining your mobility. For example, you can feel when your knee or ankle hurts, so you can (and should) get it treated as soon as possible to ensure you keep your mobility.
Every week, I interview some of the most prominent people in their industries, from golf professionals like Dave Phillips to real estate professionals and Ivy League professors. If you want to hear the full-length interview with Phillips or see what some of our other guests have to say, be sure to check out the Walker Webcast.
Training The Masters with Dave Phillips
Willy Walker: Good afternoon and welcome to another Walker Webcast. It is my great pleasure to have Dave Phillips with me today. Let me do a quick intro to Dave and then we can dive into some very timely topics as it relates to what's been going on in Dave's life, the life of the world of golf, and how many of the things that Dave works on with world class elite athletes can be applied to all of our both golf swings, golf games, our work inside the office, outside the office and our personal lives.
Dave Phillips is a visionary thinker with a passion for teaching and learning. He is a PGA professional and is co-founder of TPI, the world's leading educational organization dedicated to the study of how the human body functions in relation to the golf swing. A world-class high-performance coach, Dave brings innovation, education and proven application of sport, performance, health, fitness and wellness to golf, sports, and business around the world. He has worked with numerous players on the worldwide professional golf tour and is a highly sought after speaker and golf media contributor. Dave is ranked as one of the Top 100 Teachers in the country by Golf Magazine and Top 50 by Golf Digest.
So, Dave, let's start here. You had quite the past week, given that Jon Rahm, whom you coach, just won the Masters. Let's start with what was last Sunday like for you. You were obviously there. You were behind the scenes. Jon wins, what's that feel like? What did you do?
Dave Phillips: Well, you give him a big hug for one. It's great to see someone realize their dreams, you know, and to be playing a small role with that. I've known him since he was 17 years old, since he was a young man. And to see him blossom into the person he is - this incredible father and husband. He's just such a great person. And how he not only carries himself, but how he treats his team. And we have a great team that we built around Jon, and everybody has a role that they play no different than a great business and that team communicates extremely well, and they allow him to do what he does. To see him realize his dream of winning the Masters was really incredible. I can't really describe it. I'm still trying to comprehend what this means not only for him, but for the entire team. It's a realization of a lot of our hard work.
Willy Walker: As the weekend progressed, and he's in second place going into the final round trying to track down Brooks Koepka. You're out on the practice tee ahead of that round. As his coach, what are you thinking as it relates to how much is encouragement? You're clearly not doing anything as it relates to technique at that point. What role are you trying to play at that moment as he's getting ready to go out and play that kind of around?
Dave Phillips: Any role that helps him win. So, for me, it's about clearing the clutter. Unlike some coaches that like to be there and be very present, I like to play a little bit of a backward role and I know my place at these events. We do the work before the work, so the week before is when we do our preparation work and get him ready to play. By the time we're in the heat of the battle, he should be ready to go.
And if I've done my job and the team's done their job, he doesn't really need us. So, I step back, and they know where I'm at. If there is an issue, if there is something that either Adam, his caddie, who's an integral part of the team, needs, they know where to find me and I will come out and do what I need to do. But really, it's more of keeping it very relaxed, keeping it right, light, maybe sharing a little joke, maybe making him smile, breaking the tension is, to me, really what I did.
Willy Walker: And do you walk the course as he's playing, or do you sit in the clubhouse and watch on television?
Dave Phillips: No, I try to walk the golf course. Now, Augusta is a little bit difficult because there's a lot of fans following the final group. And to get a good vantage point can be difficult. But I feel like, being there is really part of the experience and following your player and watching him in the heat of the battle live is what I love to do. So, I like to walk. It's also great exercise for me as opposed to sitting in the clubhouse and watching it on TV. So, I love to get out there and watch him do his thing.
Willy Walker: What makes Jon such an amazing golfer? I know that your real focus is not so much the actual swing, but making the swing, if you will, appropriate for the body. We'll dive in in a moment into what's made your coaching so unique and the TPI what it has become. But what is it about Jon and the work you've done with him that makes him such the golfer that he is?
Dave Phillips: Yeah, I think, Jon, from a very early age when I met him, he asked questions that others didn't ask and that was more on that. But you could see he was already thinking at a high level, even in his teens, just by the way, he would ask a question. Jon has what I consider like a photographic memory, his recall of what other players have done, other shots at different times. I mean, going back to Seve Ballesteros and people that were idols to him, he can literally recall every shot Seve hit at a given time. And so those are just things that are extremely unique. And I think that one of the biggest things with him is he never gives up. And it doesn't matter where he is in a tournament, how far behind he is, he will battle until it ends. And that is a trait that I see with all elite level players is they never give up.
Willy Walker: On Sunday as well, a very close friend of yours and someone you've worked with quite a bit is Phil Mickelson. And Phil had a spectacular Sunday. It must have been particularly joyous for you to have both the winner and the runner up as both close friends and also people you've worked with. Phil looked better physically than I think any of us who watch him on television have seen him. He seemed relaxed. He seemed in great shape. What is it that Phil has done to create the longevity in his career that few others have been able to attain?
Dave Phillips: That goes back quite a long way in that, you know, today it's very much a power game. And when you have body mass and good structure, you can actually play this game for a long time. Now, a lot of the younger players that are maybe lighter, maybe have smaller frames, they have to use the ground and use their body a lot to produce the same amount of speed as somebody that has mass like a Jon Rahm or a Phil. So, that has been part of his longevity. His swing was always based around length of swing to create speed, and he didn't ever try to rotate very much.
So, it was a little bit more of the long length of the swing. You have time to generate speed. A short swing like Jon, you have to use the ground efficiently and you have to know how to use your body. So, this is why we look at kinematics and so on and so forth. But specifically with Phil, he has yo-yo dieted throughout his life. And, you know, he's been open to that. When you're Phil Mickelson, you get invited to dinner. Everybody wants to buy the best meal and get you the best bottle of wine. And it's very hard to say no because you want to be part of the equation. So, it's easy to overindulge, so to speak.
What we've just tried to do as of late is really try and make him make the right choices and the right decisions. And some of that blends into what we built together, which was the company for wellness. My background in sports performance, I started looking at lots of different things that athletes were taking that the average person could take. And then I was looking at different supplements and how we could use them and why we would use them. And that's been the creation of this business. And so, we really put him on a diet that was more of an intermittent fasting diet. Phil tends to take it to the extreme. So, he probably lost a little bit more weight quicker than I wanted him to, or the team wanted him to. And you have to be careful with that. So, when somebody loses weight dramatically, you can lose some muscle mass. And when you lose muscle mass, that's not good as we get older, we want to maintain our muscle mass.
So right now, we're actually in a phase where I'd like him to start strength training a little bit more and heavier weight to try and build back that muscle mass that he's lost. But he's in a great place and I think he's finally figured out what works for him. And it's just exciting. I mean, he's been saying it for a while that he thinks that he's about to turn the corner and really play some great golf. And I truly believe that he's swinging as good as I've ever seen him swing. Now as long as he starts believing, he's still got an enormous amount that he can bring to the game, you know, even at 52 years old, his short game and the way he reads lies and the shapes of the shots he can hit, Some of the younger guys can't do that. So, it's pretty exciting for Phil.
Willy Walker: So, there are a number of things there, Dave, that you just spoke about that are so interesting the business that you've built and become the coach that you have become. Let's wind the clock back for a moment to working and doing video for David Leadbetter and what being the videographer there at the Leadbetter Academy, sort of from my understanding of what you were doing at that time and slowing down video and looking at people strokes is really what gave your insight into kind of where the world of golf and the world of coaching was going.
Let's talk about that chapter and then I want to go from there into the physiology side of it and later going over to Lake Nona and seeing Jim Courier’s tennis coach. So, let's go on the video side first. When you were working with Leadbetter and your job was, I believe, if you will, just being the videographer. So, it wasn’t given your incredible golf skill that you were there as a golf instructor. It was more of doing the video. And as you were doing the video, you saw something that was a unique angle on coaching. Talk about that for a moment.
Dave Phillips: Yes. So, back in the early nineties, at the time I was an assistant golf professional at a country club and a member there had a computer background. And with him we developed a piece of software that you could split the screen and you could plug in your video camera, the old VHS cameras, and you could put up two videos of a player side by side and you could draw lines. Now you can do it on your iPhone. Back then, we were lugging around these big computers, and we were at a golf show, the merchandise show that the PGA has every year in Orlando. David Leadbetter, who I've known because growing up in Africa, David grew up in Africa as well. And a lot of the players that he coached at the time I was aware of, I even played against one or two of them in junior events. Basically, he saw this program and he said, “Hey, how would you like to work for me?” Well, as a young golf professional at the time, not only trying to play competitively, but also teaching to supplement my income, I thought this was the greatest opportunity ever at the time.
He had Nick Faldo, Nick Price, Dennis Watson, David Frost, Ernie Els. These were some of the best players in the world. They were the best players in the world. So, to get this opportunity to come to his academy in Lake Nona, as his video guy, I didn't really care. I was like, I'll take it, you know? And basically, I went down there, and I would follow David around. I would film those players, load it on the computer, sit in the back of the academy and bring up the screens, and then it would be David, Nick, myself, or Ernie. I was always there with him, and I was able to get a very quick interaction with dealing with the elite and how you dealt with them.
So not only watching and running the computer and running these swings, but I also learned a tremendous amount from a great coach very quickly. I could see a different path for me. Like there was instruction and there were a lot of people working on instruction there, and David was doing some other things too. As you mentioned, Jim Courier and Lake Nona at the time, they had a fitness center run by Pat, a gentleman named Jim Lure, and they had built this performance center. They actually still, I believe, have a human performance center down there where they were looking at some different things. So, I would go over there and listen to them, and I'd watch. And we started to integrate a program into David's Academy where people could come down and go through this kind of holistic experience where they would learn about their body, their mind, and their golf game. And that's kind of the track I took.
Then after three or four years, I started coaching for him and learned a tremendous amount. I noticed a pattern with people that came for lessons, and that was that a lot of the people would get better immediately and go on to do great things. But there were a lot that didn’t, and they struggled with the information. I don't think it was David. The information was incredible. It was more of there was some underlying thing that I really couldn't figure out, and that's what kind of set me on my journey to try and discover that. And that's where we can tell that story.
Willy Walker: Yeah. And I want to get to that story. So just one quick thing, which is that as you and I share, Jay Haas is our friend. That's the way the two of us met each other. When I was talking to Jay last night, I actually mentioned the chapter of being in Lake Nona and going down and watching Courier. And you may not know this, but Courier is a dear friend of both Jay's and mine. And so, it was really fun last night because Jay didn't know that part of your history, and it was fun to bring him in on that.
So, you've got the video side, kind of, if you will, the technical side, Dave and now you've incorporated the physiology of it. You ended up going up to Caves Valley and setting up what I believe is one of the very first performance centers at a club. I'm assuming that when Cave said to you, “Come be our golf professional”, they were expecting you to kind of show up as any typical golf professional would and give lessons and set up a good group that would provide the membership with lessons. What got the work at the Performance Center set up at Caves Valley?
Dave Phillips: Well, you know, one of the things Dennis Satyshur, who was the director of golf there for many years, has been incredible to me and was a great mentor of mine. When he asked me if I would consider coming back, I said I would. But I want to build something that nobody's built. And he said, “Well, what do you mean?” And I basically told him this concept of building a performance center. And we went to some of the members there who were incredibly generous, and they helped us put this thing together with the backing of the time, Titleist. Titleist was part of a lot of those golf professionals on their staff. And we told them what we were doing, and they were very interested in supporting it.
So we built back in, I think it originally opened in 1998, the first really high performance center where we had the video bays and force and pressure, and then we had some other bays and a small putting studio and then what was a lounge became a gym and we built a really beautiful area and I had my own driving range and we had cottages at Caves Valley, which they still do today. It's just an incredible club with incredible members that are very supportive. And I started coaching the members there and their guests, and then I would have elite level players at the time, Tom Cade, and Hal Sutton. And some of those players would come and I'd have different tour players visit me and it was incredible. It was an incredible start for me as a young golf professional, and I was getting more and more success and more and more recognition. And I was actually nominated as the youngest ever, Top 100 Teacher by Golf Magazine at 32 years of age. So, at the time when I got that, I was actually a little shocked because there were some people on that list that were my mentors that weren't Top 100 Teachers, and it actually slapped me in the face and said, you need to be better at what you do. And that kind of led me on this path to solve some issues that were glaring in the golf instruction business.
Willy Walker: And so, we've got the video with the technical side, we've got the physiology with what would you learn down in Lake Nona - you put all that together into an actual performance center. Now, talk about the medical side of it and how you came into contact with your partner to create TPI.
Dave Phillips: Yeah, well, you know, it was an interesting story. I was sitting and it was raining one day. I was in my learning center and lessons were canceling and one gentleman had showed up and we were like, “Do you want to go outside in this pouring rain?” And I was actually reading The Washington Post and there was an article in there about a gentleman by the name Dr. Greg Rose, who's my partner in crime, and he had opened the first golf performance center at the base of a gym in Gaithersburg, Maryland, called Club Golf. And he basically had hitting bays, 3D biomechanics, physical assessment, and he even had treatment areas. And I was like, “What is this? And who is this guy?” He's a chiropractor. And I just picked up the phone and I called him, and I said, “Tell me what you do.” And he said, “I'll tell you what.” He goes, “What are you doing today?” And I go, “Well, it's raining. I'm not really doing much.” He goes, “Why don't you jump in the car and drive down? And if you've got a student, bring him in, I'll show you what we do.” So, I did. The student was there, we jumped in the car. We drove 45 minutes in the rain down to Gaithersburg, Maryland.
And I remember meeting Greg at the door, and he basically said to me, he goes, “Listen, why don't I just show you what I do and then we can talk.” He took the student of mine through a movement screen, a basic assessment of how the body moves. And he was writing down on this piece of paper and it took about 5 minutes, and he turned this piece of paper out to me. And he said, “That's what they're going to do in their golf swing. And if you try and do anything else, they're going to struggle.” It was kind of like one of those bright light moments that go on in your head, because I was like, first of all, I was like, okay, how did you do that? Because you've never watched him swing. And second of all, once he told me, I was like, This is it. This is what's been missing in the golf instruction space for so long that we as golf instructors ask you as the lesson-taker to do something, but we never physically assess you to see if you can actually move in that way. And in many ways what I built in the technology space probably hurt more people than it helped because when we started we would put you up next to Ernie Els or Nick Faldo and go, Here's what you do, here's what they do. Let's go and do that. And in many ways, that's impossible, right?
So, I built this piece of tech that was revolutionary at the time and is still out there today. But was totally wrong because we missed this missing link. And so, when I would see players get better, that was because they could physically do what we were asking them to do. When I could see players get worse, it was because they were trying their hardest, but they couldn't actually physically do it. That's when Greg and I started spending a lot more time together. I convinced the CEO of Titleist to come down and see what we were doing. We were having a lot of success with players and studying a lot of things that people weren't looking at. Titleist came to us and said,'' Why don't you build the first Olympic training center for golf?” And they gave us this opportunity in 2003 to move to Southern California, where we founded the Titleist Performance Institute. And we have a 40-acre facility in Oceanside, California, that's really dedicated to looking at everything and anything that we need. And it's phenomenal.
Willy Walker: Dave, what I find, first of all, the whole story is fascinating how the two of you got into partnership and then brought in Titleist. There are a number of things about how you built and scale the TPI that I think are fascinating as a business. One of the things is that it's not the Dave Philipps Academy and understanding that you had a partner in that there's more to it than calling it the Dave Phillips Academy. Why didn't you call it the Dave Phillips Academy?
Dave Phillips: Well, first of all, it's never about me. You can only be successful if you build the team, right? And if you are a one man show, if you're good, you're going to get so busy that it doesn't matter how many assistants you bring on. They're going to want you. They don't want your assistant, right? So anytime you're successful calling it a name, having a brand behind you, which is now TPI, or the Titleist Performance Institute is really where we went. And Greg and I ran into that issue in that within two or three years we couldn't keep up with the demand. I mean, we would put eight months in advance with people coming in and going through experiences.
That's how I originally met Jay, and we really quickly realized that in order to scale a business, it can't be just Greg and me. We've got to figure out a way to take what we're learning and bring it to a bigger thing. So, we developed the TPI certified brand, and we said, well, why don't we do an online education platform and let's teach people to do what we do? So, in the golf space, we did something very unique in that we created something for medical professionals, fitness professionals, which had never been done as well as golf professionals. And that just expanded our market. So, we built a certification brand. We now have over 30,000 TPI certified experts in 64 countries, and we educate in ten different languages. And that has become a huge business. We’re pretty proud of that.
Willy Walker: Was Titleist a private company when you started the TPI because it's now part of a rather large conglomerate that owns also Footjoy and Pinnacle and a bunch of other brands. Was it private when you all started TPI?
Dave Phillips: It was private when we started TPI and when they went to become a public company, Greg and I actually spun off from Titleist and we purchased our piece out of them. Part of that reason was we wanted to go into other sports because we wanted to study rotary athletes and Titleist was a golf company and didn't really understand why we wanted to do that.
But again, in order to grow your brand, you have to look outside the box. So, we started a product called OnBase University, where we did the same thing we did in golf for baseball. And we looked at pitching and hitting and we actually have 16 major league teams that send us athletes and we study them and work with them and then we develop something called Racquet Fit in the tennis world, which looks at serving and groundstrokes and uses the physical screening process the same way. We also have a soccer project in Mexico where we have 270,000 kids that we put in a PE program to help develop primal movement patterns that they didn't have. And we are expanding into other sports. So again, it's scaling that business. And then about a year ago, Titleist knocked on the door and said, hold on a second, we need to reown you. So, they acquired us back, which was incredible. It was incredible to come back to them and they've been extremely supportive. We're actually rebuilding our facility right now and building a couple other facilities in the future around the country that can service all sports. So, pretty exciting.
Willy Walker: I believe that the holding company is actually expanded. They just bought KJUS, I think I'm pronouncing that right. But they're both golf clothing as well as a skiing apparel manufacturer, which is a fantastic company. And I was very interested that they've gone and bought them. And I think it does go to you all focusing on golf and then expanding out into other sports. And my assumption is that they're looking to do the same thing.
Dave Phillips: Yeah. I mean, the powers that be, I think, see that the brand. Why not, right? We've learned so much from what we've done in this space, can we do it in other spaces? We've proven very quickly in the baseball world that we can. No one was really doing the movement screens and the assessment that we do and looking at the things we were looking at, and when we took it into baseball, I think it blew them away. And it's been very good.
Willy Walker: Is there anything, Dave, as it relates to the age at which you're working with athletes, is there any difference between when you need to get in to start working with a young baseball player versus a young golfer versus a young soccer player as it relates to all the work you do? I think about all those sports and when people sort of hit their peak. And I would think that in at least soccer and baseball, it would appear, and I may be completely wrong, but you got to get in earlier than you do in golf, but you're probably going to tell me I'm wrong. It's all about the exact same time.
Dave Phillips: Well, yeah. I mean, listen, everybody matures at a different time. So, you know, the difficulty for all of these sports as they try to acquire talent at a very young age. And there's no recipe for that. And it really works when they finish their growth spurt. So, you can put a kid into one sport early. We usually don't see those as the most successful. You see the most successful kids that have played multiple sports because they're way more moldable and teachable when they've learned different aspects from different sports. So, we kind of like that multi-disciplinary athlete and then when they're in their early teens is when we really see them kind of pick their sport and maybe 14, 15 commit to that sport. But, you know, I would suggest that at young ages, they should play everything. We would much rather have an athlete that can play anything than just have somebody that's played one specific sport.
Willy Walker: That's really interesting. Going back to Courier was as good a baseball player as he was a tennis player. And I think I've talked to Jim a bunch about our kids, and he would always say make them great athletes and they'll be able to be great athletes. And my kids are not at any level to be able to play professional athletics, but just that well-rounded athlete. Do you find that much in golf? Because clearly there's John Elway, who is as good a baseball player as he was a football player. We can go down the list of a lot of the major athletes. But in golf, it would appear to be that as much as elite athletes are, that they have to specialize in golf. Is there anyone out there who actually was a tennis player at the same time as becoming a top junior golfer?
Dave Phillips: There's a lot.
Willy Walker: Oh, really? That's really interesting.
Dave Phillips: Yeah. There's definitely. There are kids that specialize in the sport and become great. But honestly, if you look at the very best, if you go and look at major champions and ask them what they did when they were a kid, they'll all tell you we played everything. And there's many that could have gone and been professional baseball players, professional swimmers. I mean, I think Dustin Jonson could have played anything. He's an incredible athlete.
Now we're starting to see a much bigger athlete come into the game. I mean, Jon Rahm is 6’3”, 240 pounds. I mean, he's like a linebacker. He's huge. He's a big, big body. And if you look at the PGA Tour today, you know, 25, 30 years ago, they used to say being 5’10” at 170 pounds was the ideal golfer. Today, even though there's a lot of those, there is really more of a bigger mass because you put less stress on your body. So, 200-220 pounds, 6’3”, or 6’4” creates effortless speed because of width. So, we're seeing a bigger athlete come into the game that could have gone to baseball or those other sports. And I think a lot of kids are picking golf because it's pretty cool. You can make a lot of money and it's a lifelong thing. I mean, we've got players, like Phil, 52 years old, making millions of dollars, and finishing second at the Masters. I mean, how cool is that?
Willy Walker: Yeah. One of the things, as you were talking about those body types, it made me think about Viktor Hovland, who looks as cut as any athlete I've ever seen, at least on television last weekend, you could just tell he's got great upper body strength. He probably spends a lot of time in the gym. On the other end of that is Jon, who's got this huge sort of body. How do you work with Jon as it relates to, I mean, would you rather have the natural size and scale of Jon and allow him to be a little bit less in shape than a smaller Viktor Hovland, who is in the gym all the time? What do you find from the physiology there as it relates to both clubhead speed as well as just overall performance management? Obviously, Jon won last weekend and Viktor did not. So, there's that. But what about that? Because as I watched on television, David, you could just tell how physically fit Viktor Hovland is and how many of the other athletes on the PGA Tour, the Netflix series is showing all of us how much time they all spend at the gym.
Dave Phillips: Yeah, so I think everybody's different. That's why we created a movement screen, right? The movement screen is designed to look at what we call the stability mobility model. I look at the foot, I look at the ankle, I look at the knee joint, I look at the hip joint, the lower back, the thoracic spine. It's an alternating pattern of stable segments connected to mobile joints. We do that screen to see if that's functioning first. If it's not, we try and get that moving because that's what you were when you were a baby. So, let's bring that back because that's longevity in your sport.
If you've had an actual injury or something that stopped you, then we need to address that immediately. But when you look at the different body types, you know, Jon can create pretty effortless speed with a very short swing because he has mass, and he moves exceptionally well. So, most people would say that, “oh, he has a short swing, he has a tight thoracic spine, tight hip mobility.” He doesn't. The reason he has his shorter swing is because he had a clubfoot when he was a kid and they had to break his ankle and that ankle won't flex. So, if I lengthen the swing, which I could, I'm going to put more stress up the chain and that could break him. So that's kind of why you have to understand your body swing connection, right?
Viktor Hovland is a different body completely. So, Viktor tends to have long legs and shorter torso, and very long arms. He's a lot leaner as Rory McIlroy is, as Will Zalatoris is than Jon. They need to use the ground more effectively to create speed. In terms of longevity, this is a sport you're going to play for a long time. There's a lot of research that shows that having a little bit of body fat is actually good for you because it actually helps you burn energy better when you're out there burning energy better. So, don't get confused by a golf body. If I showed you somebody that looks a little overweight and out of shape for their golf swing, they may move perfectly.
Unlike some of the other sports, I mean, if you go back to baseball, there are some baseball pitchers that were pretty big and out of shape looking but could throw at 100 miles an hour. There are still some baseball players today that you wouldn't actually say, wow, that guy's ripped. But they still smash it over the fence. So, everybody has their own little model.
And that's really the secret, as kids, we idolize because in the generation we are today with the media and so on, we idolize certain players, and we want to be those players. What I always tell you is you need to be the best you can be, and you need to understand your physiology, your makeup, because that's who you should be focused on. I'm looking for that kid that tells me when you ask him, “Who's your favorite player?” I've had kids that are elite that say, “I don't really have a favorite player. I'm just trying to be the best I could be.” That's the greatest line in the world, right?
Willy Walker: I think Jordan Spieth said that to you. Did he not?
Dave Phillips: He did, actually. He did. And many others. I mean, they admire what other players do. I mean, Jon admires Seve Ballesteros for what he did. He admires Phil. There are certain things, but what he takes from them is certain things, and then he makes them his own. And that's really the secret to the elite.
Willy Walker: It's absolutely fascinating. When I hear you talk about the physiology of it. Dave, It's so evident of the way that, I mean, when you walk that through anyone as a layman, I hear that and it's so technical, it's so precise, and it makes so much sense. How much of your time is on the physical side of it versus on the mental side of it? And when you work with your players on the mental side of it, what types of things do you work with them on? Do they meditate? Do you walk through courses and shots with them? Golf is such a mental sport. How much time do you spend with someone like Jon talking about the mental side versus the physical side?
Dave Phillips: Yeah, the mental side is huge in anything, right? But you also have to have a certain level of skill. So, if you're a beginning golfer and I get you in front of a mental coach and he says you need to visualize good shots, you can't even hit a good shot. So how are you going to visualize a good shot? When you talk to somebody like Jon Rahm, they're at a whole nother level. So, they're not thinking about the way their golf swing is or this during the golf swing during a tournament. If they are, that's my fault. I haven't done my job.
So really what you're looking at is what is that connection that the mental side of it, how can I get you in your own space and out of your head in many ways and it's really deflecting all the clutter. This is kind of the next phase of what Jon's going to have to go through, there's going to be more cameras in his face, there's going to be more requests from the media, there's going to be more and more eyeballs on him. He had just figured out his kind of way. And now he's won a major and there's a bigger expectation. So now it's really sitting down with our mental team. We have two great people on our team that Jon uses. One is Dr. Brett McCabe and another one who is from Spain and he's great because he can talk to Jon in his own language, which I think is important because you could get some things lost in translation and now it's their role as he grows to try and get him kind of where he is. My role is to identify that we have a problem and then call in the team member that's most appropriate for that problem. As a coach, do you do mental stuff? Of course, we do. We always do. We're always trying to get our players to achieve what we know they're capable of. And that's the art of coaching.
Willy Walker: You talked about baseball, tennis, and soccer. I know you spent some time focusing on F1. Is there anything specifically from F1 that you're pulling that is, if you will, the most applicable to golf, whether it be physical or mental?
Dave Phillips: Well, you know, I mean, obviously we've seen the series on Netflix. I think everybody has. It's really brought F1 into a different light. And I think they've got 30% more viewers now than they ever had before. But I started looking at it quite a while ago because I've done some performance driving and used to race motocross when I was a kid. And so, I understand that space. I just started looking at other sports outside of ours. Is there anything that we're missing?
One of the things I noticed is that Virago Italy, Formula One medicine, which is the medical arm of Formula One, has a mental acuity training gym and I've never really seen that before. That was eight stations you go through where they're measuring your brain and how you respond to different things. They're really training the brain and their whole understanding there was that if you're training your body and you're training your skill, but you're not training your brain an equal amount of time, you will never be able to optimize the other two. And that kind of hit home with me. So, I started looking at what they were doing and seeing if I could bring that into our space. A lot of it is visual acuity and you would expect that from driving performance is that your vision and seeing the gaps at the speed they're driving has to be very good.
But the visual side of golf is way bigger than people think, although it's not like baseball where we're hitting a moving ball, we're hitting a ball that's still. But the amount of information we have to take in to hit that ball is incredible in a very short amount of time. So not only are you judging the line, but you’re also picking the club, you're looking at the wind, you're looking at the conditions, you're looking at where you are in the field. Is it a go time? Is it a layup time? What is it? You have to process all this information. And the faster I can train your visual acuity to do that, the quicker you can make a decision that's decisive and you can hit your shot. So that's just something that Formula One I've been studying and learning and I'm kind of now bringing it into the Performance Institute at TPI.
Willy Walker: It's really fascinating. The breadth of what you focus on, Dave, and the constant desire to bring new ideas and new concepts into your world writ large, not just golf. Golf is obviously the primary focus, but beyond that, pulling in and expanding TPI into other sports and things of that nature. You grew up and you've lived in 24 or 27 different countries. You were British by origin but moved to South Africa.
What is it in the way you were brought up that has either created that incredible curiosity that you have for all things in the world or the grit and determination that there was never anything that was that stable around you. And because you moved so much and learned how to play golf in Papua, New Guinea, that you have this desire to either continue to learn or a sense of constantly trying to find the new thing just because that's the way that you were brought up?
Dave Phillips: Yeah, I mean, that's a great question. I was born and raised in East Africa, in Kenya. And, you know, through my father's job, he was in the military and then worked in the United Nations and some other crazy stuff, but basically had me traveling at a very young age. I had an older brother and sister that was sent to boarding school in Australia. And because I was a youngster, he kind of wanted me with him and my mother and I learned to adapt. I was like a chameleon, right? You're changing schools. I went to 13 different high schools. I went to lots of different places. You know, you need to blend in very quickly in these countries.
So, I think as a young person, I got very adept at understanding my surroundings, understanding what was good and bad about them and really understanding how to interact with people. And that gave me this very broad, expansive vision. So, my upbringing gave me this ability to look beyond what's right in front of me yet have that ability to focus because of how dangerous some of the situations we were in - in Saudi Arabia, the Middle East and so on and so forth at the time. And as a young child, you can get yourself in some trouble in Africa, too. You know, there's wild animals running around and some crazy stuff. So, it shaped me as a person and a coach and that it enabled me to see beyond what maybe some other people aren't looking at. That's what I've always continued to do. I felt like, to really be the best I can be and to be an asset to the players that I coach, I need to have this broad vision. I need to be looking at things that others are. And that's partly why we went into other sports, because I was like, Well, what are they doing in baseball? What are they doing in these sports? And by learning from those different athletes, can I bring what I learned from there into this? I just continue to do that.
Now I'm doing that kind of in the functional food space and looking at products out there that elite level athletes are taking for longevity and lifespan, which is very interesting to me because I've seen my parents at an older age in my father specifically deteriorate through a stroke and it's not fun. And now I'm kind of in that mode where I'm like, I need to figure out how to do better at finding the things that are right in front of us in many cases. And so that's kind of my next journey and my journey now.
Willy Walker: Have you either followed it or read Peter Attia’s new book as it relates to longevity?
Dave Phillips: I have.
Willy Walker: Peter's quite something. I haven't read his new book, but I'm very much looking forward to diving into it because I watch Peter's podcast and see all of his medical side of what he does, but then also the lifestyle piece of what Peter focuses on is really quite fascinating.
Dave Phillips: Yeah, it really is. And you know, Peter is just one of many doctors who has been part of our team as well. And you know, he looks at the blood in a different way and there are so many things out there that we can be doing. And, you know, we have a health care crisis in this country, and we need to build a well-care system, not a health care system. People should take accountability for their own health. And there's so many things that you can do every day. And we're clogging the system up with things that doctors really don't need to be doing.
That's why, you know, there's an app like K Health that a friend of mine developed which uses A.I. to help you understand what's wrong with you. It's brilliant. It's actually more accurate than most doctors can be, in fact. And for most doctors, it's their first point now. So, things like that and the use of AI and how the world is going to change dramatically from AI is extremely interesting to me, especially somebody that's been in this physical screening a little bit space and back into that as well.
To me, movement should be a vital sign, right? You don't know if you've got a heart condition unless somebody plugs a monitor on you, or you go to the doctor. But, you know, if you can't get out of that chair or your knee hurts, right? So, to me, improving somebody's mobility, stability can affect so much in the future because most people go down from a fall and then their life changes dramatically because they can't move anymore. They can't do the things they used to love to do. So, movement is paramount to me. You've got to be able to move.
Willy Walker: You mentioned blood work. I'm assuming that most of your elite athletes do blood work on a consistent basis. And then I'm also assuming that they wear either Oura rings or Whoops. Is that a fair assumption?
Dave Phillips: Yeah. I mean, most of them are. We're doing some form of panel just to check what's going on, and some are more into it than others. But yeah, you know, just understanding really what's going on is important.
Willy Walker: Yeah. As people listen to you as a very successful coach and businessman, there's a side to you that I'm assuming many assume is there. But you're also an incredible golfer yourself. Talk about a day on the old course at St Andrew's that turned out to be a very interesting one for you.
Dave Phillips: Yeah that takes me back. I grew up playing as a junior golfer and idolizing the Open Championship like many do, and especially being born in England. That was what my dad always was like: “This is the greatest course in the world.” And in 1995, I got to play the old course at St Andrew's and had a Scottish caddie that basically told me where to hit it, and he'd be like, hit it over that bush and hit it over that. And I ended up shooting, tying the course record at the time I shot 63 at the old course at St. Andrew's. It was a spectacular day and it's one of those things in your life, the lowest I had a shot at 63 and to do it there and to tie the course record at the time it's actually 61 today and the course is a little longer so it's kind of long gone. But during that time that was a pretty cool thing. And I always remember it because I got to go back there last year for the British Open, and I still see some of the bunkers that I hit it over, and I'm still amazed where I actually hit it back then, because if I had known what was out there, there's no way I would have chosen the lines this caddie told me to hit it on and you just wouldn't do it. So, I just totally took the steering wheel and gave it to him. And I said, I'm playing pretty good, just tell me where to hit it. And he kept telling me where to hit it. And it was amazing.
Willy Walker: Beyond every course that has a view of the ocean because I've heard you talk about just being incredibly happy and blessed to be on a golf course anywhere with a view of the ocean. What's your favorite course?
Dave Phillips: That's a hard one. I mean, there's so many incredible golf courses in this world, and that's what makes golf such an amazing sport. I was actually at dinner last night talking to some friends from Germany and some other friends. And it didn't matter what level of golf we were at. We all shared this common experience. And if you think about golf for business, it's incredible.
For me, I got to play Augusta National. I don't think there's a better conditioned golf course where you can relate to what you've seen on TV, and you can't until you play it, and you see the hills. But in the small amount of space that they have and the amount of land they have, there is not a lot. It is an incredible layout of a golf course. I always like where Jay's a member. Marion is one of my favorite golf courses in the world. I just think the old designs just lend themselves so beautifully to the lay of the land. And thinking back to when these courses were built where they were using horses to move plows, to move dirt, and they didn't really do much. They took the topography and the terrain. The way they did it is amazing. Royal Melbourne in Australia is one of the most spectacular pieces of property in the world. And then there are some courses in New Zealand. And you know, one of the courses I played my first ever round of golf at my first ever 18 holes is Lay Golf Club in Papua, New Guinea. And again, I still remember every hole of that golf course and the first 18 holes I ever played my dad signed me up for the junior championship and I had never played 18 holes before. He put me in the junior shop, and I shot 118 in the junior championship in my first ever 18 rounds of golf. So that has a little place in my heart because that's where I started.
Willy Walker: So, Dave, you have an incredibly scaled business, and you are also the coach of the number one golfer in the world. What's the next challenge? What's the next frontier? It feels like you have built so much and to a great degree have been able to do exactly what you want to do, but do it in a way where you're not, I mean, if you had gone and just been Dave Phillips, the coach, as you identified previously, that is not a very scaled business model. You're beholden to your brand, you're beholden to that one player that you are coaching. And what you've been successful in doing is building a very scaled business that allows you to go and do other things and then also to coach the very best in the world and beyond going into new sports and doing baseball and whatever else. What's the next chapter for Dave Phillips?
Dave Phillips: Well, I think we're just getting started. You know, it's really amazing. It's like I don't feel like this is work. I love what I do. I grew up playing golf. I mean, I get paid to do what I do is amazing. And, you don't get to where you want without putting it out there. I'm a big believer that if you can't see it, you can't be it. So, everybody should have that vision of where they want to go and you're going to battle to get there. But as long as you keep looking at it, you'll get there, and you just keep moving. And that's what I did. That's how I got out of Africa and got to America. My dad didn't want me to go, and I was going to college in America, and I came here with $37 and a suitcase. And, you know, you do the things you got to do, but you gotta put it out there.
And Jon Rahm, he's only just getting started. So, when I look at him and everybody's like, he's number one player in the world, he's got all this stuff on, like it's like the start. This guy could be dominant. There's no doubt that he is getting better and better. But we still have a long way to go with him. So, I'm more excited for everybody to see what he can potentially do. And I think, as I said before, we have an incredible team. I play a role on that team. The rest of the team, from our fitness professionals to our medical, to everybody, to Adam, his caddie, who is absolutely amazing. I mean, he is the glue that holds us together during competition. He's the first person I talk to after round because I want to get his perspective before I talk to Jon, cause it's easy to see him in a bad show on TV. What did you do in 18 and then you talk to Adam, and he goes, Well, the wind was coming out of the left, and he was aiming a little, right, because he was worried about this. And that's why and you're like, oh, so we actually had a pretty good shot. It just went over there.
So, you know, you always have to understand where you're at. But I think the next phase for me, this longevity wellness side, I think everybody's talking about longevity. It's a big buzzword today. I think, as Peter Attia said, I think lifespan is more important and that is we want to live a healthy life for as long as we can, right? We don't want to get into that phase of life where we can't move, and we can't do anything. That's no fun for anybody. I'm seeing that with my own father today. That is something that I think we need to change. And there's things out there we can do. Learning from sports, learning from other great physicians like Peter Attia, like Dr. Andy Galpin, like the Huberman podcast and what they're doing is just exceptional and learning those things and going down that road of doing something a little different in this, this company that I built for wellness with Phil and the name itself lends to what we're doing. It's an incredible name and we're looking at things that you can put in your body that help you lead a better life, and not just food, but there's going to be other things as well. And I just can't wait to go on this journey with Jay and some of the other people that are involved.
Willy Walker: Well, Dave, it's super evident from talking to you for this hour why you're as successful as you are. The humility with which you carry yourself and all of your successes is noteworthy. I'm just super thankful that you took this time to talk about everything going on in your world right now. Safe travels to Australia. Have a great trip and I greatly appreciate you spending the time on the Walker Webcast.
Dave Phillips: Thank you so much.
Willy Walker: Great to see you. Thanks, everyone, for joining us today. Have a great week.
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