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October 2020

Golf in the Digital World

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By Scott Kauffman

When Americans went on their coast-to-coast COVID-19 quarantines in March and locked down at home for the better part of three months, one of the few businesses that did not experience significant downturns was video conferencing technology services.

Zoom, for example, practically became a household name and overnight technology sensation as families and business professionals began regularly setting up free Zoom conference calls to stay connected. An array of videoconference services keeps realizing strong user growth as companies continue having meetings with employees via digital networks like Microsoft Teams, and doctor’s offices keep connecting with patients through a variety of telehealth online platforms.

Of course, long before COVID-19 forced much of the world to adopt these web-based communication platforms, golf professionals have been accustomed to doing business and communicating with golfers this way. And to no surprise, many instructors are doing brisk digital business these days, even though much of America’s course landscape is open for “live” rounds and practice.

For instance, V1 Sports reports a record number of digital lessons were given using the V1 Pro (for teaching pros) and V1 Golf (for golfers) mobile apps during the month of June. Last month’s digital lesson delivery on V1 Pro and V1 Golf was nearly 25 percent higher than V1’s five-year average for lessons given in June, and the company surpassed four million online lessons earlier this year.

The latest innovation from V1’s swing analysis software is the new V1 Game mobile app, which is a Golf GPS device on the course and a performance data tracker for post-round analytics. The new app allows golfers to take a deep dive into their statistical data, showing them “strengths and weaknesses so they can shape their practices around real, practical improvement,” the company notes.

It is now the third mobile app offered by V1 Sports, following in the footsteps of the V1 Golf app that golfers use  to capture (video/record) and send pros their swings and to receive video lessons in return; instructors use the V1 Pro app to teach and communicate with students. PGA Tour coach Jake Thurm, who is hosting webinars and training sessions with the V1 Sports technology, is even more bullish about the future efficiencies and enhanced revenues these remote lessons bring versus in-person sessions.

“If you saw quarantining as an opportunity and bought into growing your online lesson platform, you discovered, like I did, that an hour of your time can be better spent and more profitable doing remote lessons,” says Thurm, who operates out of Ruffled Feathers Golf Club and The Learning Center at Fresh Meadow in the greater Chicago area.  “My rates are $200 an hour in person and $100 for a remote lesson. I can author a remote lesson and send it to the student in less than 10 minutes and give the same insight and diagnosis that I would in an hour lesson. The difference is I can now do 6 to 10 lessons per hour from my home or teaching studio.”

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina-based Tom Saguto is another instructor greatly benefiting from the V1 Pro/Marketplace platform, picking up more than 50,000 new subscribers to his YouTube channel since February. The software is so widespread,  Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield is now using the technology to improve his football footwork mechanics.

Offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt, who learned about the technology from a golf lesson 10 years ago, likes the ability to share his V1 screen with Baker and zoom all the way into just the feet so “you can talk about each step, the position of each step and the length of each step.

“It’s actually a pretty cool tool,” Van Pelt was quoted as saying on Cleveland.com. “It is the first time I had really used it extensively to teach footwork, but it’s been useful.”

If there is a “new-order” to things, virtual instruction appears to now be in over-drive. Although certainly not a new concept, it continues to evolve as a valuable tool to improve instructor and student communications and help golfers not only better their games, but also increase their enjoyment of this wonderful game of golf.

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