Mustard Golf’s Mark Blackburn on his Coaching Philosophy

Mark Blackburn Golf Digest No. 1 Teacher in America

In December of 2023, Mark Blackburn was voted by his peers No. 1 on Golf Digest’s ranking of the 50 Best Teachers in America. Born in England, Blackburn came to the U.S. in 1994 to play college golf at The University of Southern Mississippi, where he received a BS in Coaching. During his own professional career, inconsistencies and injuries inspired him to question golf’s overarching coaching theories and apply a more holistic, scientific and personalized approach to golf instruction. Today, he works with golfers at all levels, including PGA Tour professionals Justin Rose, Max Homa, Charley Hoffman, Adam Hadwin, Trey Mullinax and Daniel Berger, all of whom have very different swings. Blackburn prides himself on helping each individual golfer produce impact alignments that work with his or her body mechanics to produce the most effective and repeatable swing possible. Through Mustard Golf, he’ll be able to provide you with the same coaching he shares with his pros.

Amateur golfers are no different from the best players in the world. This is the first point I want to make. You can argue, but it’s true. Every golf swing is very, very similar. Each one is like a recipe, and recipes have ingredients. Each golfer brings certain ingredients to the mix, and invariably, each golfer will be missing some vital ingredients. That’s when the coach – or the chef – has to sprinkle in the ingredients that you need. My goal is, with the help of the Mustard Golf technology, to identify your personal, unique set of swing characteristics – your ingredients – so I can give you what you’re missing.

The goal of every golf swing is to put the golf club on the golf ball. The way we move our bodies and our hands is responsible for the control of the club face and its relationship to the ball. To play good golf, or even just golf that’s competent, you simply have to manage that relationship. And the cool thing about golf is there isn’t one way to do it. In fact, there’s almost an infinite number of ways, and there’s going to be a way that’s best for each individual that is unique to his or her own physicality. You have to understand how you move and how to orientate the club so it marries well with your body and your movement patterns, and Mustard Golf will help you do that.

It is unlikely that imitating the swing of any golf professional will work for an amateur golfer. Look at an athlete like Justin Rose. He moves really, really well and he’s fortunate he can pretty much do whatever he wants to with a golf club. But unfortunately, the average golfer probably doesn’t move quite like Justin, or spend the amount of time he does in the gym or with his trainer and his PT working on his body. So, it would be unrealistic for you to try and swing in the same way as him. But, there are things all golfers do, no matter their skill level. We all set up to the ball. We all move into the backswing, transition to the downswing and then deliver the club. As a coach, I want to look at these different phases of your swing and, through Mustard Golf, help you make adjustments accordingly.

It is easiest to make changes in the golf swing at the set-up. When there are no moving parts, simple position fixes can make a huge difference in your swing and shot outcome. As the club starts to move, it becomes more challenging, but you can manage it, especially in the backswing when the club is moving its slowest. But as soon as it really starts to get speed and changes direction, it becomes very difficult. If you’re living in the downswing, you may be able to play well for a short period of time, but the shelf life for adjustments made as the club is moving down towards the ball is very, very short, even for the best players in the world. However, if you can control your setup, your backswing and how you load the club, the rest of the swing just happens.

The golf swing is an arc. Your job as you’re standing side-on to a golf ball, whether you’re really upright or really flat, is to get the club around your body and down towards the target. Most people make the mistake of thinking they’re trying to swing the club at the target. But the reality is the ball is just going to take off in the direction of wherever the club face is pointed. If your golf swing is really upright and steep, your shots are probably going to curve left to right, and you’re probably really good with the short clubs but you struggle with the longer ones. If your swing is shallower and really around your body, your shots will probably move right to left and you probably do really well with the long clubs and don’t hit the short ones very well. Everybody falls somewhere in there and it doesn’t matter which way you do it. You just have to figure out which type of golfer you are and work with it, and learn to square the face relative to the way you’re swinging.

The best players have the best clubface control. You can have a perfectly on-plane swing and a clubface that’s either way left or way right and the shots will be 150 yards apart, but if you looked on video, the swings would look really good. Ideally, I want to give you a grip that allows you to manage the face so you can make good contact with the ball. Some people find grip changes really invasive, but depending on your handicap, I’d encourage you to have an open mind. If your handicap is somewhere between 10 and 36, you’re probably not quite good enough for the grip change to be a problem for you. When you’re one of the best players in the world, that’s a different animal. But for now, be open to trying a new grip configuration.

Impact is everything. We all want to set ourselves up to make the best possible impact with the golf ball. How you do that is going to look different for all of you, in how you grip the club, your positioning at address and your thoughts about what kind of shot you want to hit. And please, be realistic and open about your shot shape. Everyone wants to draw the ball, but in reality, if you walked down a range full of PGA and LPGA players, you’d see lots of draws and lots of fades. You have to go with the shot shape that complements how you move. If you have a really hard time doing certain things physically, it makes no sense for you to try and draw the ball, while a fade might be very realistic. There are many options to accomplish the same thing, and that’s the cool thing about golf.

The Mustard technology is going to help me to help you. It’s going to give me a closer look at the different phases of your swing. It will isolate those areas in which you’re really struggling and identify what you as an individual player need to do to hit your shots well. This will help me to give you the best coaching possible to give you a better and more efficient golf swing. I do also always give everybody a few quick hacks so you have some strategies to control that clubface, because everyone needs a few band aids that can address their big errors when it’s not going well on the course. My goal is to simplify things so you can get on your way to being the best golfer you can be. I always say most great coaching isn’t super sexy. It just gives you good foundations and fundamentals that have a long shelf life that will work on the course, day in and day out, and help you get the most enjoyment possible out of every round. So, download Mustard Golf today and let’s get started!

If you’d like more great content from Mustard Golf, and you’d like to evaluate and improve your own golf swing, download the Mustard Golf app today.

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Lindsay Berra

Lindsay Berra

Sports journalist Lindsay Berra formerly worked with, MLB Network and ESPN Magazine. She has been on #TeamMSTRD since 2020.

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