I can’t overstate the value of great one-to-one coaching for learning any skill, let alone golf, but I realise it is not always possible. In this guide we’ll cover how to coach yourself using online golf lessons and the pitfalls to avoid.
The image at the top of this article gives you a simple, but effective coaching cycle – this is what we do as golf coaches: observe; diagnose and provide a solution. Online golf lessons do try to replace this process, but we’ll see that there are some gaps created – this is where you need to step in to ensure online golf lessons work for you.
Step 1: Set clear aims for your online golf lesson
The first step to any successful golf lesson is to find out what the golfer wants. Most golfers, regardless of skill level, have the same aim – ‘I just want to be more consistent‘. A valid point, but all golfers want to be more consistent – this broad aim needs refinement for a great golf lesson. To successfully use online golf lessons you need to consider narrowing your aim to achieve a specific result:
- Be more consistent in start direction of iron shots
- Be more consistent in strike of short-irons
- Reduce the curve on my drives
- Improve pace control of my putts from 10 – 20 ft
Being precise with your desired outcome means you can become really focused on your analysis and solution. This leads to simpler swing changes and quicker progress. Having an aim which is too broad results in you trying to change too much at once, and making little or no progress in your golf game.
Step 2: How to video your golf swing
The next step is to learn how to correctly video your golf swing. This gives you, or the online golf coach, the data needed to diagnose the cause of your poor shots. Videoing your swing from face on will allow you to analyse the technical factors that most influence your strike and distance.
Videoing down the line will allow you to analyse factors associated more with accuracy – swing plane and club face. You really need both angles for comprehensive analysis. Also consider taking a close up picture of your golf grip, as this is tough to evaluate from a distance.
When we video any movement we want to minimise the perspective error, so we get a true reflection of a golfer’s technique and can consistently re-measure the same golf swing at a later date.
To achieve this we set up the camera, level and in line with the top of the golf club handle (butt of the golf club) for both down the line and face on analysis. You can use an inexpensive tripod with attachments to help you do this with your phone.
Last up in step two, consider how many swings you want to look at. As golf coaches, we rarely make decisions based on one swing. The same principle applies when coaching yourself, consider videoing 3 – 5 swings from each angle to see general patterns, trends and to observe what varies from swing to swing.
Step 3: Understanding what to change in your golf swing
Great golf coaching is about finding the simplest way for a player to improve their performance (ball flight), not changing everything that doesn’t look ‘textbook’. After researching how to fix your slice, or how to improve your driving distance, you’ll likely have 2,3 or more points to consider. It is easy to feel lost, but you need to logically think what one thing will improve your ball flight – I hope the table below hopes with this process.
My one top tip for you is this – after researching, your problem should seem simpler, not more complicated. You should have a clear, simple plan to follow in order to improve your golf game.
Any online golf lesson and research should explain what impact factors are responsible for your poor shots, and provide you with a solution. The chart below shows impact factors (green column header) and swing principles that affect each (listed below). Any golf shot, from a shanked chip to a 300-yard drive can be explained using these five impact factors listed as headings below.
These five factors also explain the difference between your good and poor golf shots for every part of your golf game. You can find a more detailed description of these on this link for swing principles.
To improve your golf game, you just need to refine one or more of these impact factors. Each swing principle is listed under the appropriate impact factor. For example, to improve your swing path we could adjust your aim, set-up, swing plane, connection, timing of release, balance or golf grip.
There is no perfect solution and golf coaches have a preference for which one they suggest you work on. You’ll notice some swing principles in the table above appear in more than one column, such as grip and swing plane. This shows you that some swing mechanics are critical for more than one aspect of perfecting impact.
When comparing your swing video to coaching information, make sure you stay focused on what is causing your poor performance and ball flight. Stay well away from changing parts of your golf swing just because you don’t like the look of them – Lee Trevino, David Duval and Annika Sörenstam all had major visual quirks in their swings, but still managed to dominate the world of golf. Their swings were effective, not textbook.
Below are a few of my own free guides:
- Improving thins and fats
- How to fix a slice
- How to fix a hook
- Wedge play
- Pitching technique
- Chipping basics
- Putting stroke mechanics
Step 4: How to improve as a result of your online golf lessons
The last piece of information you should gain from an online golf lesson is how to practice. This is key – a golf lesson can tell you what to change, but no learning ever occurs without practice.
Online golf lessons can’t easily provide you with concurrent feedback, but they can tell you how to practice in a way that gives you feedback and explain to you how to use ball flight as your guide. Some simple ideas include:
- Using a drinks bottle or golf balls to give feedback on swing path;
- Place towels or tees before and after the golf ball for feedback on angle of attack;
- Use spray or impact tape to see where you strike shots.
Check this link for more simple ideas on how to improve your swing without getting too technical – including a constraints led approach (useful for any golfer to understand).
Step 5: Re-evaluate your progress
After 3 – 6 weeks consider re-filming your golf swing and think carefully about how your performance has changed over the past few weeks. Try not to focus on one or two rounds, but consider if generally, you are moving in the right direction.
Also, expect to see very little difference when re-filming your golf swing. Yes, it may feel very different, but remember an inch or two in shaft angle, or a degree or two in face rotation can have a considerable impact on ball flight. Remember, your ball flight and performance is the ultimate measure of how good your golf swing is, don’t get too obsessed over perfecting positions.
Even with regular one to one coaching, you’ll likely spend 95% of your golfing life without a golf coach present. When structuring your own development ensure you set clear aims, video your swing consistently and keep focused on improving one thing at a time. Choose your golfing material carefully, and ensure it makes your golfing journey seem simpler, not more complex. I hope this article helps you in your quest to become a better golfer.
If you would like some effective ways to track your practice, check out the Golf Insider Performance Diary. Also, if you would like a free article like this one emailed to you every Monday, come join the Golf Insider weekly post.
Happy golfing – Will @ Golf Insider UK
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