As the co-host of Golf Channel’s Instruction show, School of Golf, alongside GOLF Top 100 Teacher Martin Hall, pro golfer Blair O’Neal has seen it all. All manner of swing faults and swing fixes — who knew an actual screwdriver would could be such a good training aid? — so we decided to catch up with her to pick her brain about the show, her favorite golf swing drill, and the terrible piece of ‘advice’ that all amateurs should ignore.
The content of this article has been lightly edited for clarity.
1. What’s life like as the co-host of ‘School of Golf’? What goes on behind the scenes?
Blair: It’s crazy to think about how much preparation goes into every show. We’re thinking about the best camera angle to show each drill, which household item we can use, help them and help their game, pulling up clips of certain tournaments, Martin is obviously fabulous with his instruction and the people in the control room who make it run. It’s our whole team working together. That prep work is so important because what people don’t realize is that 95 percent of the show is filmed live. Some of these drills I’ve never used before, I never done this, and we’re not going to re-shoot the entire segment because I don’t hit one good shot. I love the challenge of it, and we have so much trust with each other.
2. There are a lot of drills on the show, but do you have a favorite swing drill?
Blair O’Neal: There are a lot of drills that I like but my favorite is one I started using with my coach [GOLF Top 100 Teacher] Mike Malaska. It’s the drill where you get into your address position, hinge your wrists 90 degrees on your takeaway, turn to the top and then swing. I love it because you pre-set the club and it puts your body in the correct position every time. It’s visual, so you can start the drill and then look to check the club; and it’s really great because you can actually hit balls on the range using it. I’ve used the drill
3. What’s the best advice you can give to amateurs, high-handicappers or anybody else who may just be getting serious about the golf?
Blair O’Neal: Golf takes a lot of patience and practice, and if you’re working with an instructor, be realistic with your goals. It’s not going to happen overnight, it’s just about making progress. To people watching our show — beginners, professionals, those in that middle ground — we have an array of people who watch — we show so many drills. Don’t do all the drills and think you’re going to improve overnight. Pick one or two drills throughout the show that resonate, then take it to the range. You have something you can work with.
4. On the flip side of that, what’s a terrible piece of advice you hear golfers giving each other all the time?
Blair O’Neal: There are always those people who they know more than you. They want to give you advice, but they don’t know what you’re working on, what your swing history is or anything like that. You can’t listen to everyone. Only take advice from people who you trust. One thing I hear all the time is that people should take the club straight-back straight-through on their putting stroke, but that’s just not how the physics of it works. When the clubs at at angle, it’s natural for your putting stroke to move on a slight arc. Don’t fight it.
5. Finally, what’s a quick tip for amateurs out there that can help them improve the next time they hit the range?
Blair O’Neal: Now that I don’t play golf all the time, I feel like my game is almost better than it was before. The main thing I think about, whether you’re a professional or a high-handicapper, is the setup, specifically to your alignment. I’m always thinking, ‘am I feet set up where my eyes are looking?’ I hit a lot of shots with my alignment rods. The setup is something that gets looked over by so many amateurs, but you’ve got to set up well. It’s so important and it really can prevent a lot of issues. If you’re not checking how you’re setting up, your swing can creep around and you’ll spend the rest of your swing trying to compensate.