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I’m going to be straight-up: golf lessons with a coach is usually the best way to see improvement.
There’s something to be said for the one-on-one interaction with a coach.
But it’s not the only way to get quality golf swing tips and lesson plans to learn how to play better golf.
Online golf lessons can be just as viable an option.
Yes, you read that correctly: you can get just as much improvement from watching YouTube videos or reading golf blogs (shameless plug: like Green Lantern Golf!) as you can with in-person instruction.
There’s a trick to it, though:
Only follow one coach. Two at the most.
There’s a handful of reasons why:
- Coaches that use different words to say the same thing
- A multitude of coaches- and they all have varying personalities
- Many coaches, all with various ideas as to what’s “best”
Let’s take a look at each of these.
Many Coaches Using Different Words
There are many ways to say the same thing in golf. Take the word “slice” for example. We can say things like:
- Hard Fade
And they all, in essence, mean the same thing- a flight path where the ball ends up going to the right of the fairway (or left, for us lefites).
Then there’s other fun words like:
- topped shot
- chili-dipped shot
- skulled shot…
It can get out of hand pretty quickly. Some will even interchange “chip shot” and “pitch shot”… what the hell’s that all about? Don’t they realize they’re different?
And what’s “getting crossed up”, anyway? I’ve been golfing a long friggin’ time and though I hear it, to this day I have no idea what the hell it means- if it means anything worthwhile at all.
If you stick to one golf coach, s/he’s going to use the same terminology, with the same definitions.
That makes it easier for you because it lets the lesson really sink in. Instead of hearing a word or phrase and thinking “wtf did he just say?” and Googling it, you can know what’s being said and continue the lesson uninterrupted.
It makes life easier for you.
Many Coaches, Multiple Personalities
No, I don’t mean that your coach is a modern-day Sybil:
Pretty wild. Who are we today, Sybil? All of them, apparently…
What I mean is, each coach is different.
Someone’s personality might be abrasive, which could rub you the wrong way. Some of you knuckleheads might need a little tough love, so an abrasive personality might work well for you.
Then again, maybe not…
Obviously, the exact opposite personality style might do the same thing. If you’re more in tune with a Bob Ross-type, that’s cool, too, man. After your lesson, you can both sit around and paint happy trees.
Seriously, though, it’s important that you find a golf coach that you vibe with.
Someone that speaks your language. It’s a lot like school. How many teachers did (or do) you have that you just couldn’t get on with? How many did they just say things that always created “light bulb” moments?
If you’re incompatible, whether we’re talking in-person or online, you’re not gonna get the most out of your time together. To put it plainly: you’ll be wasting your time, and you won’t get any better.
The good news is that with online lessons, you can stop at any time if you feel you aren’t getting anything out of the instruction and find a new coach. Most of the time, without spending a dime.
Seriously, this is one of those “you can’t lose” kinda deals.
Many Coaches, and Differing Ideas of What’s Best
Some coaches, like Butch Harmon, tend to lean more towards taking what you already do and enhance your strengths. For pros, it’s a different story… but we’re not talking about them, we’re talking about you!
Harmon really only has three major points to a swing. A quick summary:
- Stability in the lower body
- A wide and short backswing
- Keeping a focus on how the clubhead works through impact
But with coaches like Butch, it’s not an absolute; how you go about doing it is up to you and your ability, body type and flexibility. He’ll work with what you have, not try to turn you into something you’re not.
Injecting a personal opinion, as well as one of my teaching philosophies, this is the best way to go about it. It just makes sense; you don’t have all the time in the world to practice, not like a PGA Tour player.
You’ve got a 9-5, a wife or significant other, maybe kids and pets… there’s a lot going on in your life. Why try to demolish and rebuild something, when what you have will be just as good with just a few tweaks?
On the other hand, some (well… maybe most) teachers of methods, like the Stack and Tilt, will want you to drop what you’re doing and start doing it their way.
You need to ask yourself: do you have time for a complete swing overhaul?
If you do, great! Go about it, make the changes, and have fun doing it.
If you don’t… don’t sweat it. As I stated earlier, there’s nothing wrong with swinging your swing. You just have to ensure it’s something you can rely on. Getting your golf instruction online can help with that!
The point to all of this is, you have to find a coach that gives online golf lessons that work for you. In other words, you gotta gel with the teacher.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that if you want to make a drastic change, you have to dedicate a lot of time towards committing it to muscle memory. Doesn’t matter if we’re talking about lifestyle changes or golf swing changes; they both require a huge investment of your time and energy.
With online lessons, there’s one key factor you need to consider: feedback.
Here’s an interesting quote from Aubrey Daniels, PH.D. (via PM Ezine):
To reiterate, it is not the repetitions alone that make the difference. I have known rabid golfers who have practiced for over 30 years, and they are no better today than they were 30 years ago. All that practice did not lead to anything even close to expert status. What is important is the feedback and the reinforcement for improvement associated with the repetitions that make the difference. Under these conditions students become addicted to information that helps them improve.
Yes, it’s gonna take you a while to ingrain the muscle memory a new movement’s going to require, but you need the feedback that you’re doing it correctly, as well. It’s a little harder when you’re getting your golf lessons online, but it’s doable.
You have to be more diligent in holding yourself accountable.
- If you’re going to the range or course, bring a friend or relative and have them watch you.
- If you’re a lone wolf type, record yourself- every swing. That can give you plenty of feedback!
Whether you go it alone or have someone there, make sure they’re watching you (or you record yourself) from both down the line, as well as face-on.
The reason is, you need both angles to truly see what’s going on with your swing. If you don’t know what those terms mean, here’s a couple of examples:
There are nuances in each way of looking at the swing, and you can’t always get what you need from just one way of looking at it.
Now, I mention that you should focus on one coach, but I also said: “maybe two”.
When you’re taking online golf lessons, simpler is usually better. It’s not the end of the world if you want to use one coach for the full swing and course management and another for the short game (including putting), though.
Just remember the KISS Method isn’t just an acronym. It works for golf, too.
The good news is, there’s no reason why you can’t practice the stuff you watch or read online wherever you are. Seriously; so long as you have the room, you can work on the motions and movements as soon as you get done with them.
I may get flogged for this, but you have a smartphone- use it. YouTube’s an app that’s literally preprogrammed onto every Android phone, and I’m sure it’s readily available on an iPhone. You have internet access!
It’s illegal in tournament play, but at this stage, is that something to worry about? If you’re on a lazy day at the course, or, even better, at the range, why not access the stuff you’ve been studying at home? Why not record yourself swinging, getting the feedback you need?
I’m not gonna lie: it’s a harder road to hoe, making online golf lessons work for you… but it most definitely can be done.
The best tip I can give you here is, don’t force it. Don’t try to do too much. When you’re going it alone with online lessons, it can be an easy thing to do.
But there’s this thing called “distributed practice”. Straight from the horse named Wikipedia’s mouth:
Distributed practice (also known as spaced repetition or spaced practice) is a learning strategy, where practice is broken up into a number of short sessions – over a longer period of time. Humans and animals learn items in a list more effectively when they are studied in several sessions spread out over a long period of time, rather than studied repeatedly in a short period of time, a phenomenon called the spacing effect.
What that means for you is, take it easy. Don’t try to do too much. You’ve got a busy life as it is, but trying to cram an hour or more’s worth of practice time into an already busy day isn’t going to help you at all.
Spread that practice time out where you can. A little bit here in the backyard. A range session there. Some practice in the living room- even if it’s just stuff like the PGA Method– during commercials.
Make a list of the things you want to work on with your golf swing.
Most people want to hit the ball longer and straighter, right? Well, how hard is it to find out how far you’re hitting it in your living room?
The good news is, that doesn’t matter- there are things you can do that’ll indirectly improve your distance. Some examples:
- Work on your flexibility. It’s not just for overall health, but a limber back can help generate more swing speed.
- Establish and maintain a proper setup position. Being in the correct starting point will allow you to swing more freely (faster) and with more confidence.
And you can split that stuff into mini-sessions. Make a list of things you can do in 20-30 minute sessions. An example:
- Monday: 30 minutes of Yoga
- Tuesday: 30 minute range session, focusing on impact only
- Wednesday: 20 minutes of back stretches
- Thursday: 20 minutes working on the PGA Method
- Friday: 30 minutes of yoga
I mean, it’s totally flexible. Work in short-game practice, putting, weight training, whatever you feel you need. It’s all going to positively impact your golf swing and scoring.
Most of all, stay the course. Distributed Practice works, and it’s not just me saying that. The Association for Psychological Science says it. They’re smarter than me, so I’m gonna take them at their word- and it’s a good idea you do, as well.
Another point to consider: you’re most likely going to regress while you’re learning.
It’s natural, and everyone, even the pros, go through it in the beginning when they’re retooling their swings. Remember Tiger Woods’ famous ’97 season?
It was pretty astounding, and it included a Green Jacket. Even with the success, he went to Butch Harmon, his coach at the time, and wanted to overhaul his swing, to make it “more consistent and versatile” as Harmon said. He struggled throughout the ’98 season… but he bounced back with a vengeance in ’99.
Am I telling you that you’ll be just like Tiger? Not exactly, but that part of his story isn’t some anomaly. Anything you change in your swing is gonna feel weird at first, and you’ll likely not play up to your current state. Tiger went through it, and you’re going to, as well.
What Tiger did was, he trusted that things would get better, that what he was doing at the time was going to pay off in the long run.
That’s where you can be like Tiger: have that same level of trust in the instruction, as well as in yourself. That what you’re doing is going to have a big payoff.
When you’re looking to go it alone with online help, you’ve got a few extra things to consider:
- That you’re being honest with yourself and your game
- Ensuring you’re doing your due diligence to make these new lessons stick;
- That you trust yourself to make it work
Remember, there isn’t someone there doing that part for you. To make this work on your own, you gotta go a little deeper on your own.
Let’s wrap it up:
When looking for golf lessons online, follow these “rules”:
- Find a coach you gel with, that speaks your language
- Make sure you’re getting good feedback through recording your swing
- Realize it’s going to be a slightly more difficult (but not impossible) road to travel
- Give yourself enough time to make the changes stick
- Trust that what you’re doing is going to lead to better scores
There’s plenty of resources out there, mine notwithstanding. Find them, and utilize them. Believe in the coach if you go that route. Believe in the process. Above all, believe in yourself.