The Art Of GolfPhil Franké draws the perfect swing
A golfer has one simple goal: lower their score. Likened to a religion, the world of golf is a precise sport that relies on expertly executed movements to achieve that ultimate goal. To attain this, instructional writing with quick, short tips has been the simple yet profound tool for golfers of all abilities. Acknowledging the power of visual aids, artist Phil Franké shares how he has carved out a distinct niche for golf illustration and instruction, elevating the players’ game.
Wanting to forgo overly complicated, analytic instruction to reach the end result is human nature. Golfers are looking for step-by-step tips, something that has proven to be the perfect fit for Franké and his technical style. “I myself am not a golfer,” he says, adding most of the pros like those at the US Open had their start at a very young age. “I didn’t grow up in that world. As I started to get sports assignments because of the nature of my work being linear, fluid, and accurate, I was a good fit for this type of stuff.”
Though well known for his work in golf illustration, Franké’s client list is expansive, including major production companies like 20th Century Fox and Paramount Pictures, brands like Coca Cola and M&M’S, The New York Times, Time Magazine, and numerous sports related clients. The Brooklyn native and Long Island resident holds a BFA from Pratt Institute and has worked as an illustrator for nearly 20 years. His work in golf illustration came just before golf went from an elite demographic to a mainstream sport with the introduction of Tiger Woods.
For his art, Franké says he relies on the professional golfer to understand the science of the golf swing and its mechanics to create a drawing. “Over the years I’ve gotten a great understanding of the lingo and techniques,” he says. “Combined with my natural ability to draw, it was a good fit. What I have never lost sight of is that when I get the assignment to illustrate text into an image, I always felt it was a great responsibility that my job was to analyze what I’m reading and then think if I was the reader, what would be the best angle and vantage point to get that narrative across to them visually.”
One of Franké’s most widely known works is the syndicated column, “Master Strokes,” featuring his illustrations alongside short tips from PGA-certified golf instructors Jim McLean, Keith Lyford, and Dana Rader. The column’s popularity was in high demand, so Franké and author Nick Mastroni published a 400-tip concept book that is a culmination of these columns. A second was later published focusing on the short game.
McLean and Franké also worked together on McLean’s book, The Slot Swing, identifying that the design of your swing didn’t matter, it was how you came down into the slot before impact. “As long as you were in the proper position when you got down to the slot you would hit a nice straight shot, which is everyone’s quest,” Franké explains of drawings depicting different swings with golfers Tiger Woods, Sergio Garcia, and Bruce Lietzke. “We mapped out the three major swing shapes, which was never done before. You see how the club starts away from the ball to the top of the swing, gets readjusted on the way down, and ends up into that slot.”
The pair are in the process of creating a new seven-book series of illustrations and tips, releasing one every six months. Franké’s process involves drawing from memory and using photo references, conducting photo shoots similar to Norman Rockwell, blending the best features of different photos to create a master drawing. “You combine them together to redesign your figure, design your image to the best of your ability,” he shares. “There is a lot of construction, design, and editing that goes into it. It’s almost important what you leave out as what you put in.”