Rick Shiels is the biggest name in YouTube golf (Image: Andrew Redington / Getty Images)
If you are familiar with golf, you probably know Rick Shiels.
The YouTube star is one of the biggest names in the sport when it comes to online followers, with two million viewers subscribing to his channel, some of the best players in the world on his contact list, and the world’s most listened to golf podcast.
Not bad for a humble golf coach who just started uploading to try and sell a few more lessons.
“The very first YouTube video I made was in 2012, almost 10 years ago,” he said Metro.de. “The whole reason I started was because I thought this would be the most effective way to promote my teaching at Trafford Golf Center (in Stratford, Manchester).”
“I thought, ‘How could I possibly apply without spending any money?” I was a huge YouTube fan anyway. There were a couple of golf coaches there and I thought, “This could be great. I couldn’t really imagine like that something to do.”
He traces his transition to the camera back to his school days and says, “I actually graduated from school with two major degrees in sports and acting. Oddly enough, I somehow mixed those two skills together. I’ve always had a passion for acting in school, so it wasn’t too strange to be in front of the camera. It took me a couple of years to convey my personality. ‘
It worked and it was quick too, and Rick added, “I became a very, very busy golf coach in a very, very short time. In fact, probably the busiest golf coach in the UK at the time. I was delivering 60 hours plus classes per week and 90% of those customers ended up coming because they saw me on YouTube. ‘
It’s a good time to be in the game right now. The sport has seen explosive popularity lately as millions have been playing golf since lockdown – thanks to the fact that it’s almost the only sport you can play while social distancing – and Rick has helped new players get their game too improve tips and tricks on his channel during this time.
His videos are full of insights to help gamers improve, and it’s the kind of thing people had to pay for in pre-YouTube days – but does Rick ever worry about giving so much insights for free?
“At first I was concerned about giving away ideas,” he said. “And I remember a lot of other golf coaches who told me I was stupid to divulge all of my secrets and tips that I coach.”
His honesty is refreshing. While many vloggers like him shy away from showing off weaker elements of their game or removing their bad shots entirely from the final cut, Rick isn’t afraid to share the less impressive shots he hits on the golf course with his viewers.
“I think it took me a while to get comfortable with it,” he said as he showed the crowd his mistakes. “It took me a while to realize that people who play golf and people who have difficulty learning to golf value honesty. I am a perceived good player, but I also hit bad strokes. It’s just golf. The key is how you deal with it. I don’t get angry, I kind of laugh at it and the viewer really enjoys it. ‘
He added, “Sometimes you think you’re the only person in the world who hits bad shots. So for me it’s more humane to be able to show a duff shot every now and then. ‘
Rick’s most watched clips include everything from coaching tips to videos comparing real golf clubs with replicas of Wish, to challenges against comedian and avowed bad golfer John Robins – but he has a clear idea of who his dream video would show .
Rick’s idol Tiger Woods (Image: Andrew Redington / Getty Images)
“Tiger Woods is why my 11 year old me got into golf in 1997, coincidentally when Tiger won the Masters,” said Rick. “He’s the reason I do golf, he’s the reason I do YouTube, he’s the reason golf is what it is now.
“To be able to shoot anything with Tiger – even if it only cleans your golf clubs – would be phenomenal. It would be a passion for me, but as golfers we love tigers so much, that would be great. ‘
Bryson DeChambeau is another player on Rick’s radar (Image: Richard Heathcote / Getty Images)
Did he try to get in touch with him? “I try most days,” joked Rick. “I feel like I have to hire someone who just follows Tiger’s management.”
Someone else on his radar is Bryson DeChambeau, the groundbreaking and often controversial 2020 US Open that hits the ball a whopping 400 yards and that Rick believes is doing more for the sport than anyone since Tiger.
“Nobody has come close to Tiger in attracting new golfers in recent years,” he says. “Bryson has that – and I don’t like to say it – this X-factor that can really, really positively illuminate the sport of golf. I’m really excited to do something with him and see how he changes golf. ‘
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