Virtual coaching changed my golf game for the better with 1 simple drill: 30-Day Challenge

swing comparison skillest

Virtual instruction apps like Skillest can make a major difference in your game from thousands of miles away.

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Welcome to the 30-Day Challenge sponsored by Medterra, where one GOLF.com staffer leaves no stone unturned in the pursuit of a simple goal — breaking 90 — with the hopes of helping you do the same. This is the fourth in a seven-part series detailing his no-holds-barred journey to the 80s — all in just one month. You can read part 1 about the program he’s using to get better here, part 2 (a swing fix from his front lawn) here, and part 3 on his game-changing club-fitting here.

I hate video calls.

As far as I’m concerned, they belong in the same category as bumper-to-bumper traffic, stubbed toes and three-putts — all afflictions from which I suffer frequently and would give large sums to occur less often. (For legal reasons, I’m excluding the daily GOLF.com edit call from this criticism.)

At the beginning of March, I watched in horror as one of my great pet peeves became a daily habit of the working world. The word “zoom” might have become a verb for most of the globe by the beginning of the summer, but it was still very much a four-letter noun for me (and frequently engendered the use of many other four-letter words as I struggled to properly articulate my thoughts).

As for why I hold brilliant technology in such contempt is simple: I’m not comfortable with it. I try hard to maintain eye contact when I speak, practice deference toward my contemporaries, and wait my turn before it’s time to speak. In a normal, civilized society, these traits are positively received. But in the lawless hellscape of video calls, they’re impossible.

In the meritocracy of video calls, those with the fastest internet and loudest, most audacious personalities pull rank. Those still struggling with dial-up or their inner-extrovert are left by the wayside.

30 day challenge before swing

What you can learn from one high-handicap hacker’s month-long sprint to breaking 90

By: James Colgan

You can imagine then, given my ringing endorsement of 2020’s most innovative tech, how I responded to the proposition of receiving virtual golf instruction. I’m bad at golf and I’m bad at video calls. Two wrongs don’t make a right, particularly when that ‘right’ is a proper golf swing.

But when you’re as bad at golf as I am, you can’t afford yourself the luxury of being “better than” some forms of instruction. So, I did what any self-respecting golfer would do, and begrudgingly accepted the offer to download the Skillest app for free.

Soon after, I learned the stakes of GOLF’s 30-Day Challenge. For the next month, I would keep track of my progress through daily videos with my personal swing instructor in Malaysia, Steve Giuliano. By now, it should come as no surprise to hear that I wanted a daily video call with a swing coach like I wanted a hole in my head, even if that meant breaking 90 at the end of the month. Foolishly, I assumed that it wouldn’t be “my thing,” even if helped.

Oh how wrong I was.

A month later, just about the only reason I’m upset about my videos with Steve is that I can’t give the guy a hug in person. My golf game is dramatically different, and there’s no secret to my success (in fact, my only secret is that the CBD gum I received from Medterra is great for use on the course and on video calls).

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As it turned out, the (near) daily sessions weren’t live, but pre-recorded. And the fixes weren’t large scale, but foundational. In fact, most of what I did didn’t even require me to take a full swing. And one drill proved more valuable than all the rest. Here’s what I did.

Steve Giuliano’s impact position drill

First, grab a mid-iron and a few golf balls. Then, line up in proper posture over the ball (hips hinged, weight over the toes, knees slightly bent, back straight).

From here, the key is to take several half-swing “punches” at the ball, as Steve calls them. Take a half backswing and focus on keeping your wrist cocked at impact, which will allow you to properly compress the ball. Be sure to also extend your arms, hips and head out in front of you after making contact.

If you’re doing the drill correctly, your ball should have a low, piercing flight (much like a typical punch shot), while your body should look something like this.

Impact position affects the way we compress the ball when we swing, and can lead to major issues with consistency and distance. This problem occurs when we allow our lead wrist to bow (or extend), which leaves us susceptible to sky-high ballflight and inconsistent length off the tee.

By over-practicing proper impact position technique with a half-swing, Steve explained, we build proper muscle memory. Later, when it comes time to extend to a complete swing, it becomes more comfortable for us to find the proper wrist position.

For more than half of the 30-Day Challenge, Steve and I worked on this one, simple drill. Every few days, I’d send Steve an updated version of how I looked hitting my punches, and he’d give me a few more things to adjust. On one occasion, it was speeding up my hips through impact. In another, it was moving a fraction closer to the ball.

Ultimately, this is where Skillest’s platform helped me the most. The “big” problem with my swing was still coming along, but that didn’t stop Steve from helping me also tweak a lot of my smaller problems in the meantime. Those little things add up, and only came thanks to the constant support provided to me by my subscription, as opposed to a traditional, hour-by-hour approach.

By the end of it, my problems at impact were largely an issue of the past, and so were a lot of smaller tweaks with my setup. As for the video calls … well, I’m still working on that.

Follow along with the rest of James’ 30-Day Challenge on GOLF’s social media channels (@GOLF_com) and on GOLF.com, where new articles will be posted every week through the end of October.

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