If there is a single word that has been used more in the last 18 months in a new context, it has to be the word “remote”. What used to be a reference for the device that changed the channel on your TV is now the descriptor of almost half the country’s employment model. In a June 2020 article by Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom, he cited 43% of the country’s work force was working from home, accounting for two-thirds of the US economic activity when based on earnings.
So how does this apply to getting better at the game of golf? With the exponential growth of technology and continued influence social media has on our lives, golfers are turning to the internet more than ever before for ways to improve their game.
A true win-win situation
The point of this article isn’t to state that golfers should be looking online for how to fix their slice, rather to show how connecting with a coach remotely gives both the coach and student a tremendous advantage. The old model has always been; take a few lessons per year with your local pro, subscribe to Golf Digest and hope that you can play your way to better golf. The current social media-driven model is; follow 15 different instructor’s accounts on Instagram, watch YouTube videos each night, get confused, take a lesson from your local pro and then compare what the coach said to what the coach on Instagram said. Needless to say, we’re not moving in the right direction. Depicted below is a description of changes in the golf instruction landscape over the last seventy years.
You can see above how the marketplace shifted toward virtual each time, but actually lost the human factor. The advent of remote coaching took the convenience of a virtual landscape and paired it with the connective human element. The biggest benefit this shift has for consumers is eliminating the distance barrier. As the online marketplace for golf continues to grow, it’s effectively making the world smaller, and there are now fewer barriers to receiving a high quality product for a fraction of the price.
Another benefit for the consumer is the cost of the service vs. what they receive in value. No golf lesson comes with a guarantee that you will get better. Left to their own devices, most golfers will revert back to old habits without a system in place to build accountability.
This growth and shift in focus to online platforms also has a two-pronged affect for coaches in the industry. One, it lowers the bar for entry into the field. Anyone who can access a cell phone can essentially call themselves a golf coach. Two, it raises the bar for coaching excellence. More competition means everyone involved must get better at delivering information to improve client performance AND get better at portraying their value in order to attract new clients.
the 20/80 principle
No, this is not the Pareto principle where 80% of your results come from 20% of your actions. For our purposes, I’m flipping it around to the 20/80 principle. 20% information, 80% application.
In my opinion, the structure of a golf lesson should be 20% information and 80% supervised practice. Where the one hour format falls short, is its ability to guarantee results after the hour is complete. The golf world is full of well-meaning students who took a golf lesson but lacked the understanding of how to take the information and apply it over a long period of time. These same students now have the ability to have their practice monitored by the same coach that prescribed the drills in the first place.
Let’s work through two scenarios, and you decide which one will produce better results over the period of the coaching session purchased. The prices below are my current offerings. Prices will vary from coach to coach and year to year.
One Hour In-person Lesson
The student arrives fifteen minutes before the lesson, stretches, and hits some shots to get warmed up. I talk to the student for the first five minutes of the session to go over, in detail, their goals for the session and what their time commitment to the game is.
The student will then hit some shots to various targets for me with different clubs, as I record video and monitor the pattern of their shots through the TrackMan radar. We discuss the issues observed in the video and the TrackMan data then come up with a plan of attack.
The next ten minutes establish some drills or stations for the student to alter the way they move their body and ultimately their club pattern to achieve the desired result. This is always paired with question and answer time and some descriptions of what should be expected in terms of a shot shape and trajectory.
The last thirty minutes of the session are spent reinforcing pattern changes and managing the exaggerations. I will also film a 60 second clip of me describing the lesson and and demonstrating the drills so the student has something to take with them as a reminder of the work done in the lesson.
Once the lesson is over, the student is left to their own devices. This has been the traditional in-person lesson model for decades. Recently, there’s been a push towards in-person monthly coaching programs across the industry, but these programs are normally only utilized by those with the financial means and a serious appetite for the game.
One Month Remote Coaching Program
On day one of the month-long program, the student will upload swing videos and a brief summary of what they are looking to improve. After I see the videos posted, I will watch them and provide a four minute voiceover on each of their videos and film a five to ten minute video of me talking to them about the video analysis, demonstrating drills to do at the range, and at home, and assign homework for their next upload in three days time.
Over the next three days the, student watches the voice-over video, the demonstration video and goes to the range to work on the assigned drills. They are also put together a list of questions to discuss live.
On day four, I schedule a Zoom call (the Skillest app has Zoom functionality built in) with the student for ten minutes where we can discuss any questions about the drills and clarify the direction we’re heading over the next 26 days. Following the Zoom call the student should leave feeling clear about the direction of their swing and motivated because they have a support team only a click away.
Every three days, the student uploads videos of their assigned drills and I offer feedback either through a voice-over, a video reply, or with some written comments in their lesson stream. The student also films a video of themselves giving feedback on their session and description of the ball flight. This process repeats for the remainder of the month, but is quite flexible depending on the needs of the student.
This model benefits both the coach and student immensely. For the coach, they are able to broaden their reach beyond those who are within driving distance of their driving range. Coaching online also allows coaches the ability to watch their student’s videos as many times as they’d like before offering feedback and analysis. The immediacy of the hour, where results are mandatory in a timely manner, doesn’t exist. While the money is less per transaction, it also requires less time. What the student really needs is monitoring of their practice for the 29 days after the initial information has been presented.
For the student, the benefits are many. For roughly the cost of an hour in-person lesson, they receive an entire month of remote coaching. They can choose any coach they can find online, and are no longer restricted to the handful of pros in their area. Finally, and most importantly, students will have their practice checked often, preventing them from reverting back to old habits.
the way forward
In this remote relationship, the emphasis is on connection and communication. As the student progresses in their swing mechanics, conversations with their coach will move to other parts of their game and eventually to course management and situational skills. The student can film themselves playing a difficult hole on their home course to which the coach can reply with a voice-over offering them strategies. In a Zoom call, the coach and student can do a screen share with a Google Map of the upcoming course the student’s next tournament is on, and talk about lines off the tee or areas around the green to avoid.
The possibilities are endless and you are limited only by your imagination. Gone are the days of sending a coach your swing and receiving a three minute video with lines drawn on it, leaving you confused about how to apply the recommendations. Coaching requires a holistic approach, where factors that influence performance are considered, not only the performance itself.
If more information was truly the only thing golfers needed, all of the content on YouTube, Instagram, podcasts, books, magazines, online forums, membership sites and DVDs should have me out of a job. If anything, as these sources of information become more saturated, my calendar fills up faster with well-meaning golfers who tried the “Do It Yourself” approach and were left more confused.
What golfers really need is education and accountability. What to do and, more importantly, how to do it for long enough to see a lasting result.