The surprising moment Rick Shiels realized the magnitude of his success

Former professional golfer Rick Shiels has quickly become one of the most recognizable faces in the world of golf online.

The 35-year-old Englishman boasts an eye-popping 1.95 million subscribers to his YouTube channel, Rick Shiels Golf, where he covers everything from instruction to equipment to his experience playing the world’s best courses.

As Claude Harmon noted on this week’s episode of Off Course with Claude Harmon, Shiels’ subscriber base is greater than the population of just about every city in the UK other than London — an impressive achievement. Shiels joked that, with 65 million golfers in the world, he’d love to talk to even more of them, but agreed that his reach still feels crazy.

“It only really becomes apparent when I go to a big sporting event,” he said. “Last year, I went to the semi-final of the Euros, England vs. Denmark at Wembley Stadium, huge stadium in London. Holds about 80,000 spectators.

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“I must admit, I was enjoying myself. Had a few beers. A few too many probably saw me in an intoxicated state. But it was at that magnitude you sit back and you go, this is a lot of people. This is a huge amount of people. And what was crazy — I’d released a video maybe that same day or or the day before, and I was looking at my YouTube analytics, I think I’d had, on the first day, an average video gets about 250,000 views in the first day. And as I’m looking around the stadium going, hold on a minute. That’s like three times this many people have seen my video in one single day.”

For Shiels, the physical manifestation of that many people in one place was eye-opening.

“I thought, because it’s numbers on a YouTube app, [you think] they’re not real people, surely! But it’s only when you obviously start to interact with people, or been to a few golf events this year again once the pandemic’s kind of eased off a little bit here, and you start to go, oh yeah, they’re real people watching the videos, and it’s all around the world,” he continued. “I must admit, that time when I was at Wembley, I really did sit back and go, oh wow.”

For more from Shiels, including the addictive thing he says he misses about teaching full-time, and the huge opportunity he believes we’re missing when it comes to growing the game, check out the full interview below.

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Jessica Marksbury

As a four-year member of Columbia’s inaugural class of female varsity golfers, Jessica can out-birdie everyone on the masthead. She can out-hustle them in the office, too, where she’s primarily responsible for producing both print and online features, and overseeing major special projects, such as GOLF’s inaugural Style Is­sue, which debuted in February 2018. Her origi­nal interview series, “A Round With,” debuted in November of 2015, and appeared in both in the magazine and in video form on