8 minute read

Jeff Coston • Swing King

The incredible teacher and pro has a full schedule of lessons and golf schools, and is still beating the region’s best

Two hours before we’re scheduled to meet, Jeff Coston texts a couple of photos. It’s sort of his day off — “Just a few online lessons” — but the first image shows him hitting balls. In the second, he’s performing an elaborate stretch on the True Stretch cage he has installed in his home gym. The message is clear – even at 65, Jeff Coston rarely, if ever, truly takes a day off and, despite his advancing years, is still eager to learn and improve. “I’m just that kind of guy,” he says. “I need to be the best I can be at whatever it is I’m doing – father, grandfather, husband, instructor, golfer…”

Forty-five years of marriage to Diane; three successful, grown kids — Tyler, Kyle and Courtney; and eight grandchildren who dote on ‘Pa Pa’, suggest Coston has been fairly successful with the family-related stuff. He’s also clearly doing well with the instructing part as his loyal students, whether they live in Whatcom County, drive up from Seattle, or fly in from further afield, leave glowing testimonials about their time with him at Semiahmoo Resort outside Blaine, where Coston began building his now highly-acclaimed academy 27 years ago.

Those students come for a comprehensive mix of sound mechanics, a homespun wisdom that only a man with Coston’s experiences can offer, an unrelenting passion for his vocation; and a devotion to everyone fortunate enough to call him their teacher. “I care about the people I teach,” he says simply. “I enjoy helping people reach their goals.” Spend five minutes with the man, and you know it’s not just talk.

His many Twitter followers know that while Coston certainly champions textbook (preferably Ben Hogan’s textbook) technique, he has a knack for explaining potentially complex theories in a way that makes the movements refreshingly simple to grasp. “It’s no good my understanding a student’s swing problem if I can’t explain it to him/her in a way that they’ll understand,” he says. “It’s very important they’re able to repeat what I’m telling them. That’s why I’m always asking them questions to assess how much they’ve picked up and see if they know what to work on during their next practice session.”

You’d expect him to have identified a few great swings in his time, but Coston actually has a surprisingly varied list he admires. “Canada’s George Knudson had a terrific action,” he says. “And I liked Nick Faldo, Moe Norman, Nick Price, and Stuart Appleby’s swings for different reasons. Freddie Couples and Adam Scott’s too.” And though they certainly didn’t have the most beautiful, satisfying moves, he also mentions Lee Trevino and Jon Rahm. “Trevino may have bought the club back way on the outside and looped it back inside in a sort of figure of eight motion,” he says, “but his impact position was perfect. The hips have cleared, his weight is shifting to the left side, he approaches the ball from the inside and his head is behind the ball.”

Same with Rahm, he adds, pulling up video from the U.S. Open, which the Spaniard had won just a couple of days before. “His backswing is short and looks a little hurried perhaps, his left wrist is bowed and the club is laid off,” he says. “But look at that…” Coston advances the video frame by frame and, sure enough, following a quick transition, Rahm slots the club back onto the ideal plane, and performs a sequence of movements that puts him in perfect position at impact to hit another powerful, laser-beam iron. “Then you have (Jim) Furyk and (Matthew) Wolff,” says Coston. “Their swings are obviously pretty funky, but they position the club beautifully on the way down.”

However many swings he likes though, Coston invariably returns to Hogan whom he often references in his videos. “I do believe you will get better if you swing the club on the proper plane, like Hogan did” he says. “He always thought about the pane of glass going through your body and tilted at about the same angle as the club shaft, and the club then swinging beneath the glass. Your spine is a tilted tetherball pole, and the ball moves fastest when it rotates at 90 degrees to the pole. So, going back, the club should bisect the spine at 90 degrees. This is not my opinion, it’s just physics. It’s science.”

Coston credits a number of mentors that have shaped the instructor and coach he’s become – mental game experts like Bob Rotella, Deborah Graham, David Cook, Chuck Hogan and Fred Shoemaker, and swing technicians like his coach from Seattle U. Bill Meyer, Andy Plummer, Mike Bennett, Mike Adams about whom Coston says he could watch teach for several hours at a time, and perhaps the most influential of all, Mike Bender.

The pair first met 40-odd years ago playing minitours in the Dakotas. “I beat Mike and Dave Rummells in a playoff one week,” Coston remembers. “I still tease him about it. We’ve taught maybe 150 schools together over the last 25 years, and I’ve learned so much from him. If Mike Adams is my father in golf and Plummer and Bennett are cousins, Mike Bender is my brother.”

Bender recalls those days in the Dakotas fondly. Tournaments there were popular with PGA Tour hopefuls who’d head north for the summer months, before leaving for Florida in the winter. “No one practiced harder or longer than Jeff and I,” says Bender. “We played a lot of practice rounds together and became close friends.”

Bender insists Coston is very underrated as an instructor because he still plays so much. “Jeff just works so hard at it,” he says. “If we have a school that begins at 9 a.m., he’ll be out at dawn to practice and get prepared for the class. Then, when it’s finished, he’ll practice some more. And because he still competes quite a bit, he’s never given his due as a teacher. But I’ve learned from him every bit as much as what he’s learned from me.”

As for being a ‘golfer’, Coston still holds up pretty well on that score too. A former member of both the PGA Tour and Korn Ferry Tour (Nike Tour back then), his record started becoming notable in the late 1990s when he began winning prestigious Pacific Northwest titles. It progressed to exceptional in the first decade of the new century, and it currently stands at ‘kind of surreal’. Listing all his tournament victories would likely need more words than we have space for, so let’s focus on just one. It came in May, and it would have been convenient to describe it as his most recent win. But, of course, Coston has had another since then.

What separates him from many of his peers is a self-belief and focus that are second to none

Beating a field of talented, young professionals at the Muckleshoot Casino Washington Open Invitational at Meridian Valley was an achievement few could have predicted — outside the Coston residence anyway. Indeed, it looked pretty grim after three holes of the final round when he fell seven shots out of the lead. “I was bleeding bad and got knocked to the canvas,” he told The Seattle Times. “I had a talk to myself. I try not to beat myself up on the golf course. I just took some deep breaths, tried to relax my body, and said to myself, ‘It’s OK, Jeff. Today can be easy. It doesn’t have to be hard.’”

Coston shot six-under the rest of the way, to win by two. “I guess the patience thing served me pretty well,” he says. On his bag was son Tyler who, many remember, caddied for his father at the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. “That day was pretty special,” says Coston. “Especially when my approach shot to the 72nd hole was in the air, and Tyler looked at me and said ‘Happy Father’s Day, dad’. But the day at Meridian Valley, winning my sixth Washington Open with him beside me may have been even better.”

Coston was touched by how many of the younger competitors approached him afterwards to offer their congratulations. And even though he’s been beating them for so long, players from the previous generation are only too happy to acknowledge the caliber of Coston’s play. “What separates him from many of his peers is a self-belief and focus that are second to none,” says Erik Hanson, the former Mariners pitcher and distinguished amateur golfer we profiled in the last issue. “Jeff has always had a lot of talent and has extensive knowledge of the biomechanics of the swing, but his ability to stay in the moment and execute whatever shot he is faced with, stands out above the rest.”

Two-time Washington Open champion Tim Feenstra, the Head Professional at Broadmoor Golf Club in Seattle, mentions how impressed he is by Coston’s continued success, but adds he isn’t surprised by it at all. “He has no weaknesses in his game,” says Feenstra. “He’s supercompetitive and takes tournament golf very seriously. I’ve played competitive golf against him for 15 years, and his will to win hasn’t wavered.”

Brad Faller, an assistant as Rainier Golf and Country Club who lost to Coston in a playoff at the PING Pro Pro at Wine Valley in 2018, says he is one of those players that just seems able to do whatever he needs in order to win. “He’s fit, composed, and plays the same way today as he did in his prime,” he adds, “which he might still be in. So many of us that have the ability to hang around the leaderboard are affected by outside influences like health, pressure, confidence, doubt, etc. He’s not like that. He controls his performance better than most because he’s seen it all.”

And Coston plans on seeing plenty more. “Don Bies, a former PGA Tour winner from Seattle, once told me that with the way I played and prepared for tournaments he expected me to remain competitive into my mid- 70s,” he says.

It seems highly improbable, of course, but perhaps we shouldn’t reject the notion immediately. This is Jeff Coston we’re talking about.