An enthusiastic 15-year-old took a golf lesson in Manorville recently. A pro carefully surveyed his grip, his stance and every aspect of his swing, then told him what was good and what needed work. This is all very typical of a lesson, except for the fact the young man never left South Carolina.
Being very savvy with a video camera, he shot his own swing from two angles, emailed the video to Jason Cohen, a software engineer in Manorville, who forwarded it to a pro, who analyzed it. Within a few days, the golfer's lesson was posted in his "locker" on a website, where the golfer always will be able to refer to it.
Cohen believes this is the future of golf education, a future in which a golfer anywhere can take a lesson from a pro anywhere else and have a digital record of it. That is the vision of Cohen's startup company, SwingPlane Productions, which operates out of this niche on the Web, swingplane.biz.
He does believe in traditional face-to-face lessons as well, so his clients don't all have to be as tech smart as a camera-wielding teenager. Cohen has a working agreement with head pro Jimmi Conway at Pine Hills Country Club near his Manorville home and he does do live shots with his own camera. But the process is the same, with the analysis done by one of the young assistant pros on SwingPlane's staff and posted on the site.
"This is an up-and-coming trend in the golf industry. You don't see a whole lot of pros doing online lessons, but there are some. It's coming about," he said. "What SwingPlane is really doing is bringing the technology to the PGA [club] pro. We're like the turn-key technology system. We provide the camera, we provide the infrastructure for PGA pros and for golf courses in general that don't have the time or the means to do it on their own."
As an Oracle database administrator and golf fanatic, he decided to blend his expertise and his passion. He became a believer in the use of video during his own development over the past 10 years, from a beginner who shot in the 130s to a respectable 12 handicap now. Cohen realized, though, that not every golfer could afford what some video lessons cost and that not every course could afford the equipment.
He offers a one-time swing analysis for $29.95 and he offers the use of the software service to any pro anywhere for $50 a month. He gives free advice on how to take your own swing video. Whether it will take off is anyone's guess - he still has his day job. But he is convinced of the upside.
"We give every student a locker on the website. Then they can see progress from their first analysis to their last analysis. The software we use, V1, is phenomenal," he said. "We put their video side-by-side with a [tour] pro's, so they can have confirmation of what we're saying is true."
In fact, a certain golf writer agreed to serve as a test case. His swing is paired with the flawless motion of Ernie Els. At one point, the position is remarkably similar, but then the writer's swing succumbs to the dreaded "coming over the top" syndrome. It is there for the world to see as this month's featured lesson at swingplane.biz.
Cohen, who will do swing analyses and host a clinic at Pine Hills Saturday afternoon, is excited about the possibilities. His software has an iPhone application, so a golfer could watch a breakdown from a first-tee swing while he or she is on the fourth hole. "Of course, the worst time to get analysis is when you're playing," he said. "But it's something we do. Our motto is, 'Seeing is believing.' "