Published by : Stuart McLean - 16 April 2020

PGA professional John Dickson spends most of his daylight hours Monday to Saturday teaching at the Country Club Johannesburg golf academy. He’s in demand for lessons from beginners to professionals. The Covid-19 lockdown has disrupted his life, but while at home digital technology enables him to continue teaching through video and apps.

John Dickson is confined to online lessons with students at home during the lockdown.

“Online lessons are easy to set up, and during the lockdown I am giving an increasing number of them as golfers miss going to the course or range,” says Dickson, 51, who earlier this year was named by Golf Digest magazine as one of the world’s best 75 International Teachers outside the United States. Three other South Africans received this accolade – Peter Berman, coach of Branden Grace, Jamie Gough, who teaches several European Tour players, and Derek James of Southbroom Golf Club.

“With no one able to play, some of my students have set up nets in the garage or garden where they can continue swinging and hitting balls. Golfers should know that teachers are around to help and encourage them with drills and tips to work on during this unusual time. Everyone should make the most of it and remain positive.

“Several software programmes facilitate online lessons. I use V1 Golf and have the system on my desktop PC, laptop and phone. Golfers can download the app which enables them to take videos, draw lines and analyse their own swings. Most video their swing and upload it through the V1 app to a coach’s software so he or she can do an analysis and return that as a link to the golfer. My students use WhatsApp for the process.

“At Country Club Johannesburg I have an indoor studio where I look at swings with students on a big screen television using V1 Golf. The software allows me to show a swing at a high frame rate. For lessons I use a small hand-held Go Pro with a stabilising function. I film students from different angles, down the line, face on, and from behind to see what the spine does during the downswing. That helps with preventing potential back injuries.

“Video analysis helps the student see what the teacher sees. Describing a fault without it can result in some things being ‘lost in translation.´ I send each student a link to the video session allowing him or her to fully absorb the lesson and revisit it before the next practice session.

“I give between eight and 10 hourly lessons a day. Breaking it down, the first five minutes is a warm-up and chat. Then 10 minutes to film and gather information. We move into the studio and spend 10 to 15 minutes on the software where I point out what will improve the swing or body movement. The key is to make the swing as simple as possible, then tie it together and come up with drills and feelings the golfer can take to the range. We spend the remaining time on the range putting in practice what we have adjusted. The key to any successful lesson is to ensure it makes sense to the student, that the changes are logical and easy to adapt.

“With a smartphone the student can film his or her own swing to see if they are correctly doing the adjustments.”

John Dickson has three times been named Teacher of the Year by the PGA of SA, in 2007, 2012 and 2018.

Contact John Dickson at 082 990 7201 or 

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