Avoid the Golf YouTube Trap

Get Out of the Trap

It’s midnight.  I’m laying in bed, but I’m not asleep.  Instead I’m watching recaps of the day’s matches at the World Chess Championship.

I’d like to tell this only happened once, but that would be a lie.

As I wrote about HERE, chess has proved to be a wonderful lens for studying golf.  In this instance, however,  I needed my golf experience to help my chess and save me from the YouTube Trap.  I hope this lesson helps to save you.

This Lesson Is For You If:

You’ve ever found yourself diving down the rabbit hole of golf YouTube videos

Defining the Problem

When I use terms like “YouTube Trap,” “deep diving,” or “going down the rabbit hole,” I’m talking about sitting in front of YouTube for extended stretches of time watching video after video.  I would also include being subscribed to dozens of golf channels.

The other half of the problem is thinking that these videos are helping your game.  To that point, I find swing videos much worse than equipment videos.  I don’t think anyone watches a driver review expecting to play better golf.  However, many people watch swing tips and expect them to magically fix their game.

It’s easy to laugh at this notion from a distance.  Even as I sit here and write it, it seems comical, outlandish.  But those channels don’t rack up thousands of views without reason.

Why the YouTube Trap Is So Attractive

The first thing that makes the YouTube Trap so attractive is that it’s easy.  With a couple clicks or taps, you can pull up a video and potentially learn something about the game.  It takes a lot less effort to watch a video than to fix your swing, and you can do the former while sitting on the toilet.

Not only is it easy to watch one video on YouTube, it’s easy to watch ten.  YouTube’s algorithm serves an unending stream of videos tailored perfectly to our desires.  And if they cue up a stinker, one click brings up a better one.  There’s no limit!  We can watch all night if we want to.

On top of the ease, it’s fun to learn.  When we watch a video, a light may go on – “Oh, I’ve never thought of it like that!”  Even more intoxicating, the video might ignite hope – “That’s it!  Now I’ve got this figured out!”

Finally, one of the most attractive things about the YouTube Trap is one of the worst things for your game: the wide range of different voices.  There are thousands of explanations of how to hit a draw.  None of them are inherently good or bad, but putting all of them into your head is a recipe for disaster.  And that’s exactly what YouTube does: “Here are five different instructors with five different ways to feel a draw.”  Good luck focusing the next time you pick up a club.

My Experience

Outside of golf, my two favorite hobbies are chess and playing guitar.  While I consume virtually zero golf media, I am voracious with YouTube videos, TikToks, and websites about chess and guitars.

Despite watching hours and hours of high level chess games, I am a very mediocre chess player.  Even though I watch attentively, listening along and trying to engage with the dissection of each position, watching and playing are two completely different things.  I think I know the right moves to make, but when I have control of the pieces, I know nothing.  Because I haven’t actually practiced.

The same holds true of my guitar playing.  I’ve watched dozens of videos on music theory, but I haven’t put the work in myself.  Watching a tutorial is fine, if it’s the prelude to actual practice.  Without having my fingers on the instrument, those tutorials might as well be episodes of Jeopardy.

How to Get Better at Golf

Practice.  That’s it.  There is no magic.  That said, I do have some specific, practical advice for those that are down the YouTube rabbit hole.

If you really want to get out of the trap, delete the YouTube app off your devices.  If you can’t stomach that, unsubscribe from the golf channelsTurn off the notifications.  Stop letting your phone tell you, “Hey, it’s time to watch another golf video.”  If you truly can’t live without golf videos, pick one channel.  Find one instructor that you think is good and watch them exclusively.

The other key thing that you must do to avoid the YouTube Trap is to recognize that watching videos is not practice.  In most cases, watching a video is nothing more than entertainment.  If you take it as that, there’s no problem.  And when you recognize that, you might start using more of your time for actual practice.

If you’d like more information on successful practice, I have a great lesson on creating habits HERE.  I also have a lesson on free ways to improve your game HERE.

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Matt Saternus

Founder, Editor In Chief at PluggedInGolf.com
Matt is the Founder and Editor in Chief of Plugged In Golf. He's worked in nearly every job in the golf industry from club fitting to instruction to writing and speaking. Matt lives in the northwest suburbs of Chicago with his wife and two daughters.

17 Comments

  1. Hi Matt,

    This is one of my favorite articles that you have written. Youtube is a great resource, but it is very difficult to find a credible source that works for your unique swing. Also, most Youtube club reviews are biased or not very helpful given their small sample size. I appreciate what you have been doing with this blog, you are insightful and really help golfers understand that sometimes all you need to get better is a little time, effort, and creativity.

    Cheers,
    Zach

  2. TheMuffinMan

    Amen Matt. I’ve come to this conclusion myself fairly recently. It’s quite easy to get overwhelmed trying to implement “simple” fixes from YouTube to a point where you lost sight of the overall objective. I now only subscribe to a few amateur low budget channels, as you say, for entertainment.

  3. Jim Pecoraro

    YouTube swing fixes are death. That said, there are some great channels that showcase primarily course management and other strategy-based things that can massively help improve people’s games. GolfSidekick for the win.

  4. Thank you for the sobering and common sense comments, Matt. You will likely be on the receiving end of some snark from the YouTube and InstaGram crowd of instructors, but your comments hit home, especially during the dregs of winter. Part of golf instruction’s biggest failing is the multitude of conflicting opinions online and in print. Any of us can pick up an issue of GOLF (or the like) and find different instruction on ball striking, stance, ball position, and most of all, “shallowing the club” on the downswing. Golfers, even the most level headed among us, are only left to scratch their heads over the well written yet conflicting info anywhere we care to look. It doesn’t help when a YouTube pro starts his harrang by spewing …..”everything you’ve been told about starting the downswing is wrong!”, Lol. Tell me you haven’t heard it.

    • Matt Saternus

      Steve,

      I’m glad you enjoyed the piece.
      That line is like nails on a chalkboard for me, largely because it confirms that the person delivering it has the mistaken notion that there’s one correct way to swing a golf club. The main thing I’d like people to take away from almost all my instruction is that it’s ok – in fact, more than ok – to find your own way.

      -Matt

  5. Such a good article! I have found that watching videos, especially prior to rounds, really messes with my game. Usually the mentality is something along the lines of, “that guy is normal, this sport is easy”. That’s quickly followed up by bogey plus opening holes and frustration that I’m not as good as joe blow youtuber.

  6. Everything I know about golf I learned from Manolo.

  7. Good article again. You have to be pretty gullible to believe there is only one correct swing – pick up even one single magazine and you will see 10, 20, 30 different ones. You are very right to say you have to practice. Watch as many YT videos as you like, pick what makes sense to you BUT give it a good try. If it doesn’t work, discard it.

    In the 10 years I have been playing golf I must have watched thousands of golf videos. Of those I can only remember 2 golden tips that actually worked for me:

    1. a chipping tip (yes, Rick Shiels again.. at least I stick with one YT guru). I could literally go halfway or 2/3 quarters around the green before finally landing on it (no joke) – shank-galore… I finally found the one that worked FOR ME and dropped 9 strokes of my HC in the space of 5+ months. I am not necessarily chipping it close to the pin all the time (that will require many hours of practice) but at least I am on the dance floor;
    2. a take-away tip that has helped reduce me slicing my driver.

    Two out of thousands is not particularly good, lol! But at least it keeps me busy with golf and is part of the fun.

  8. Ronald E Owens

    So true. As a golf instructor of 27 years, I often get students who tell me that they’re using this coach’s short game method, that coach’s method for pitch shots and another one for full swing. And nothing is working. Take lessons from someone who can use what you have initially and make it better. You don’t have to dump everything you’ve been doing to learn someone else’s method.

  9. YOur article is spot on, so I don’t even bother with the swing tip videos. I do however find course vlogs enjoyable to watch. It allows me viewing experience to places/courses, I’d prolly would never have experience to play at. RGC and Kyle Berkshire are some of the channels that provide these enjoyment.

  10. Great article Matt and I do have to laugh at myself for the golf swing rabbit trails I have needlessly adventured down. I read something the other day where an instructor said we none are built exactly the same so why do we expect some swing fix work for everyone. I have gleaned a few things, but they were only valuable when it applied to what I was working on. Most of the time the tips only set the stage, it then becomes my responsibility to apply through much time with the club and not the U-Tube! Thanks for keeping us honest.

  11. I love your articles and reviews, and I think this one may be your best and most impactful yet, at least for me. Thank you!

  12. Ken Olshansky

    I’m an episodic YouTube junkie; if I’m having a specific problem I’ll watch several on the topic. What I then become on the course is like the machine that spits out Powerball numbers. Unfortunately, like Powerball, I don’t pick the right numbers.

    The promises in video titles are terrific. “The only lesson you’ll ever need”, “Never 3 putt again”, “Increase your driver distance 20 yards in 20 minutes”. Compounding all the gains promised in the yardage gain videos could have me driving the length of a golf course. Any video title that has %, mph, yards, best, only, secret, or perfect in it, for example, is to be viewed cautiously.

    It wasn’t until I began taking lessons with before and after video analysis that I began to improve. Like most of us, I had little idea of what I was doing in my swing. The most glaring crime in my swing supported by visual evidence has the best chance of being solved.

    I’ve many more thoughts on your subject, Matt, but I’m concerned that my boss may be getting wise to what I’m doing right now.

  13. Ah, you are so right Matt. Truer golf wisdom has never been revealed.

    I’ve fallen down that hole more than a few times, mesmerized by insights and phenomenal outcomes that I know I can grasp if I just watch one more video, because I’m so close.

    It is evident when I’ve watched too many videos the night before a round — when I set my iPad down at 2.00 in the morning to groove newly discovered swing moves next to the bed using a shoe horn — the next morning, my normally predictable and consistent swing that has yielded excellent results for years, decades even, is suddenly producing erratica. My partners, who know me way too well, will laugh at me and quip, “YouTube?” As I said, too well.

    Between the mixed salad and spaghetti swing cues brain, coupled with the sleep deprivation, I’m a nut bag of swing thoughts and distorted kinesthetic feedback. Stay off YouTube! @@. No good will come of it.
    (Wait…just one more…I think I got it.)

  14. Forwarded this to one of my oldest, dearest friends – this is totally his exact problem… :(

    We were both taking lessons at the same place .. and from the same coach .. yet he would go home and just what Matt explained on the article: sit up at night, looking at YouTube videos looking for *what he thought was ‘the fix’ he needed* .. regardless of what he’d been shown in his lessons….. 🤦‍♂️🤷‍♂️

    He’s switched to a different instructor .. and still browsing YT vids .. and still frustrated with the state of his game….. I’ve stuck with the same instructor, do the recommended drills and have been making *great* progress with my swing! 👍

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