"Social distancing" sounds like an ominous outcome for face-to-face golf instruction, at least in the near term. But just because you can't be physically present in the practice area with a coach doesn't mean you don't have options for improvement.
It's not only possible to work with a coach remotely—many top instructors have a thriving online-teaching business—it's actually a terrific option for the next weeks and months when many golfers could have more unstructured time than ever before.
Golf Digest Best International Teacher Shauheen Nakhjavani fills his popular Twitter and Instagram feeds with snippets of the interactive video lessons he supervises with students all over the world. Most of them have never set foot at his teaching studio at Mystic Pines Golf Club in Montreal.
But with judicious sharing of carefully shot slow-motion video, students get regular checkups and drills, and then show off drastic improvement, remotely. "The typical online lesson is roughly a 10-minute voiceover, where I talk above the slow motion video a student sends, and I can draw lines or other markings on the video," says Nakhjavani, who has nearly 90,000 followers across his Instagram and Twitter feeds. "That's followed by a 10-minute video of me on camera, explaining drills and showing them everything I just mentioned in the voiceover."
Top South Carolina coach Jonathan Yarwood and top California coach Brady Riggs offer similar services, and all three teachers have seen a large uptick in virtual lessons as more golfers have been pushed home because of coronavirus restrictions. Yarwood's website offers a simple interface where users can upload a video and receive a virtual lesson for $49.95. Riggs offers the service through ThrivSports.com, and charges roughly the same for an online lesson.
"If you come and see me in person, it's $250 per hour," says Riggs, who is based at Hansen Dam Golf Course in Pacoima, Calif. "This a great way to get a roadmap for what you should be doing with your time over the next few months."
Nakhjavani offers his lessons through the Skillest app for $175 each, and the student can use the app to directly upload video from a smartphone and then track Nakhjavani's responses.
All three coaches say the experience isn't the same as an in-person lesson, but it gives anybody access to expert guidance—and students make real changes. "If you got some help every 10 days or so, in two months, you'd see big changes," says Nakhjavani.
The key is to work with coaches that offer the same comprehensive diagnosis of a player's fundamental swing pattern virtually as they would in person. "If the player doesn't know why certain things he or she does affects other variables in the swing, they're going to get frustrated. Every player that works with me gets a deep dive in everything that is taking place, and the 'why.' The proof is on my social media. There are dozens of case studies there. There are a lot of great coaches helping students this way."
There are a number of top instructors like Nakhjavani who will offer their services virtually. Connecting with them via social media is a great first step.
Riggs knows the advantages of a virtual coaching relationship: He routinely worked with tour students like Brandon Hagy over text and FaceTime when they were playing around the world, and he saw how that detailed, high-stakes work could be adapted for both his regular in-person amateur students and ones who lived far from California. "Interacting this way is a basic part of life now—and it's clearly going to be even more than way in the coming months," says Riggs. "And getting good information any way you can is better than getting bad information."
Yarwood has been busy building specific practice programs for virtual students stuck at home, and has even produced a series of social-media videos demonstrating some of his favorite indoor tips. "Even if you're watching your 15th consecutive episode of Game of Thrones, you can still be working on your grip, making sure you get the left hand in the fingers and the trail thumb and index finger in a trigger so you can control the club," says Yarwood, who is based at the International Junior Golf Academy in Hilton Head. "You can pop outside and get some sunlight while you work on backyard chipping, or go in the garage and take advantage of the low ceiling to prevent your swing from getting too much arm lift. Make the best of the situation we're all in!"
Lastly, we would also point you to Golf Digest's vast library of curriculum delivered by the best teachers in golf—from Butch Harmon to David Leadbetter, Michael Breed and dozens of the game's best. The offerings include step-by-step follow-along lessons on every topic in golf. For more about Golf Digest Schools, click here.