The back-to-basics swing thought that helped vault Justin Rose into Masters contention

Justin Rose at 2021 Masters

Justin Rose during the second round of the 2021 Masters on Thursday.

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In a little more than two and a half years since reaching World No. 1, Justin Rose came into the 2021 Masters the 41st in the world. He had temporarily split with his longtime swing coach, GOLF Top 100 Teacher Sean Foley, and at 40 years old, you may have been forgiven for thinking Rose’s best years were behind him.

Then, right on cue, Rose fired an opening round 65 at Augusta National, then salvaged a second round that threatened to slip away to retain the 36 hole Masters lead.

After a brief stint apart, Rose and Foley are back together again. And while Rose’s good play came slightly sooner than even Rose expected, it’s the product of the pair’s hard work the month leading into the tournament.

And behind it all was a simple, back-to-basics swing thought that Rose had used to ascend to World No. 1 in the first place.

Rose’s thought: Keep the face square to path

On the range this week at Augusta, Rose has been practicing with a specific range setup: Two parallel alignment rods on the ground, one along his foot line and the other along the target line. The alignment rod closer to his feet is to make sure he sets up square to the target; the target line rod is there to provide a visual cue for Rose so he knows where the target line is as he swings.

The third and final alignment rod is sticking at an angle out of the ground, is meant to prevent Rose’s golf swing from getting too shallow. You don’t need to worry about that one too much.

That may sound like a lot, but the goal behind it is actually simple: To practice keeping the face square to the target line, for longer.

“What Sean and I are working on, it’s very simple,” Rose said. “It’s about keeping the face as square to the path for longer. Sometimes when I get my body of out of position, my clubface gets a little too active through impact.”

A square clubface at impact is one of those first principles in golf that is the biggest separator between golfers of all skill levels If you’re missing the ball to the right, your clubface is open. If it’s going left, it’s closed. There could be underlying reasons why that may be happening, but remember that above all else, your clubface is king.

Rose may not be in peak form, but reminding himself of that fundamental truth of the golf swing that has helped vault him into contention at the 2021 Masters — and two rounds away from a green jacket.

“Rosey is such a pro,” Foley says. “We’re helping him create time and space in his swing to square the clubface. That’s it.”

If you’re heading to the range this weekend, you can practice this too. Follow Rose’s range setup by placing a club along your feet, and then one parallel to it down the target line. Take your setup, then start making miniature swings, paying close attention to how the clubface is moving. Slowly work your way up to bigger swings and faster speeds. It’s all about giving yourself an awareness of how and where the clubface is pointing. You may not be playing the Masters, but like Rose, your game will be the better for it.

Luke Kerr-Dineen Contributor

Luke Kerr-Dineen is the Game Improvement Editor at GOLF Magazine and In his role he oversees the brand’s game improvement content spanning instruction, equipment, health and fitness, across all of GOLF’s multimedia platforms.

An alumni of the International Junior Golf Academy and the University of South Carolina–Beaufort golf team, where he helped them to No. 1 in the national NAIA rankings, Luke moved to New York in 2012 to pursue his Masters degree in Journalism from Columbia University. His work has also appeared in USA Today, Golf Digest, Newsweek and The Daily Beast.