Forget about mail-order swing fixes. Well okay, maybe those won’t ever go the way of the gutta-percha ball, but between advances in technology and a growing desire for virtual options, its online golf instruction that’s more accessible and popular than ever.
“In many ways, 2020 has served as a tipping point for the utilization of technologies that enable people to be productive from home or anywhere they may be,” says V1 Sports CEO Bryan Finnerty, whose company produces products that capture, review, and analyze golf swing videos for the creation of sharing lessons and instructional content.
When it comes to golf, the online and digital offerings available today are almost dizzying: social media swing tips and teachers, subscription-based platforms, game-improvement apps, swing analysis systems, and much more.
With golf emerging more and more as a popular activity and escape, there’s unquestionably a growing desire for improvement. Heavy play is always a leading indicator for lesson demand and, since the spring course shutdowns, golf rounds have been booming. So too has instruction, with the remote variety having a particular appeal.
— GolfPass (@GOLFPASS) November 3, 2020
So, what’s the right fit for you?
GolfPass, the digital content platform from Golf Channel, has seen its membership count jump by more than 50 percent in 2020 in large part due to instruction, which accounts for more than two-thirds of total content. With a diverse lineup that includes a host of top teachers such as Martin Hall, Chris Como, and Martin Chuck, more than 40 million minutes of instructional video had been streamed through October, up 10 times year-over-year. Memberships begin at just $5 per month.
“Content consumption from a streaming perspective is just beginning to start. It’s going to entrench the way we consume content more and more,” says Justin Tupper, who oversees GolfPass and all its content. Tupper is the former CEO of Revolution Golf, which was acquired by Golf Channel three years ago, and started in the business producing and selling instructional golf videos on DVDs in 2009. “The world we’re heading towards now is content that’s delivered on the results or outcomes from the way you play the game. It will be much more individualized as we move into the future.”
Others seek out interactive offerings such as V1, which recently tallied 44,000 monthly lessons on its V1 Pro (for teaching pros) and V1 Golf (for golfers) software and mobile apps—a 55 percent increase over last year. About 10,000 teaching pros use the swing analysis system along with approximately four million golfers. While some consumers opt for both in-person and remote instruction, Finnerty says many rely completely on remote lessons due to simple intimidation. Given that golfers of all ages have a handheld camera in their phone, it makes for an almost seamless platform.
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“Some people don’t want to stand on the range and talk to a pro for the fear—not reality—that they’re going to look at the person and be like, ‘You hold the club like that?’ or ‘You can even make contact swinging like that?’ The intimidation goes beyond golf,” Finnerty says. “We’ve had an online platform for years, which has been generally used, but now people are saying, ‘I’m okay with recording my swing with my phone, sending it to someone I don’t know (and maybe by design I don’t know them), and letting them take a look at my swing. I found it wasn’t intimidating and there’s someone on the other end as a golf pro that does care about me getting better and having more fun.’”
Then there’s social media, with bite-sized instruction available—for free in most instances—with a tap of a finger.
Instructor Rick Shiels has sizeable followings on both YouTube (1.36 million) and Instagram (448,000+) while other prominent teachers on the various platforms include Me And My Golf and George Gankas on Instagram, and Clay Ballard, Danny Maude, and Mark Crossfield on YouTube.
Want to hit your driver straighter, stop an over-the-top move, or quit hitting the ball fat? A quick search is all you’ll need.
For many golfers though, nothing tops in-person instruction. It’s why GOLFTEC, the biggest employer of PGA professionals nationwide, is thriving. While many of the company’s instructors gave virtual lessons when its 200 physical locations were closed for two months in spring due to the coronavirus, GOLFTEC has since set all-time monthly records for both lessons and club fittings.
Despite the depth of offerings, however, only around 15 percent of golfers actually take formal instruction. But given the increased interest and access, perhaps that might be changing.
Have you taken golf instruction? If so, what types have you tried and which have you found most beneficial?