Shalhoup siblings Kristina and James were both talented competitive golfers at a young age and continued to play through college (NYU for Kristina, Johnson & Wales for James). But even for seasoned teens, retention of lessons and targeted development proved elusive, says her father Jim.
That experience prompted Jim Shalhoup, a former executive in the golf industry, to create a digital training platform called. to develop Iconic Gathering insights, cementing communication, and providing an archive of video tutorials for a student to learn the sport under the guidance of a trainer.
“My first thought was, why don’t we flip the classroom and bring all study materials to the fore and let the students do the process, not the coach?” Said Jim Shalhoup, CEO of Ikonik, who was previously Regional Sales Manager for Callaway Golf and CEO of the golf business platform Back9Links. “And I thought that would be a more appropriate way of getting to what they want to achieve, which is learning.”
Ikonik officially launched this week with Elysian Park Ventures as investor, LPGA as strategic partner and PGA as collaborative partner, with 14 of its 41 regions signed. Ikonik’s Smart Chat facilitates the exchange of comments and videos between players and coaches by tying them to a specific lesson or practice session. The app includes more than 300 teaching modules, each with a pre-installed video tutorial and the flexibility a trainer can customize by adding their own. And it collects all of a student’s diagnostic test and assessment data for easy reference.
Shalhoup designed Ikonik as a B2B2C app. Trainers, he believes, are necessary gatekeepers who and when to access the module as they have to guide the players through the material. This is also reflected in the business model, because coaches pay US $ 20 per month for each student who uses the platform. (There is also a $ 250 certification course to train trainers on the platform and other digital resources.)
“Most of the applications we’ve seen that go straight to the consumer are generally inadequate because the consumer doesn’t necessarily know how to teach themselves,” says Shalhoup. “That is why we find the interaction from coach to student valuable. So this really gives the coach the tools to teach and train the students more effectively. “
One of the coaches contributing videos to this platform is Brian Jacobs, an instructor based out of Rochester, NY who has won multiple teaching awards and is a senior instructor on the Golf Channel Academy network. He generally maintains a roster of 60 students at a time, but has added 10 remote clients through beta testing of Ikonik – with skill levels ranging from novice to a former NFL player (Eric Wood) who owns a GCQuad simulator and has reduced his handicap to five.
Jacobs says he particularly appreciates Ikonik’s data-driven teaching approach, with an emphasis on regular assessments. “I love the ability of the diagnostic tests,” he says. “I am a great collector of data. You must do it with your upper level players first of all. So if they do a diagnostic test that will help me develop their plan so we can stay on point. Your model is to test, teach, train, and then test again. ”
“You spend less time turning the wrench,” adds Jacobs, who was trained by renowned instructor Hank Haney. “So it’s slimmer. In a way, you replace yourself. But that’s a good thing, because you want to give the students the opportunity to think for themselves, to act for themselves, to play for themselves. “
Ikonik promises to provide even more information in the future. Shalhoup says the app has an AI engine and once it ingests a critical mass of gamer data it will use machine learning to guide relevant classroom modules based on the user’s play style and preferences. The CEO also plans to bring in more objective sources to guide the gaming experience.
“We’d like to use some of that data from biomechanics, launch monitors, force plates, and stat training – all of these things to feed the data to create more programs for coaches,” says Shalhoup. “At the moment we will remain agnostic there and do this via API.”
Jacobs is one of the featured instructors who provided Ikonik videos. He shot 16 training videos for the Golf Channel and recorded 40 to 50 of his own videos, all of which can be imported into the platform thanks to their individualization.
Other coaches include LPGA Tour player Tina Tombs and PGA pro Brendon Elliott, founder of the Little Linksters youth program. Early in the development process, Shalhoup said he had conversations with well-known instructors David Leadbetter, Jim McLean and Michael Breed, whereupon an advisor to the project joked about the potential involvement of these “icons of the game” – a joke that ultimately led to the app -Name Ikonik.
Most established instructors have made a name for themselves in physical locations – Ledbetter runs his own academy in Orlando, McLean runs a golf school at The Biltmore Miami – but Jacobs believes business models will change, especially considering some clubs are up 50% of the trainer’s fee for using the course. Ikonik is a platform that could accelerate this new trend.
“There will be more and more teachers turning to an on-demand platform,” says Jacobs. “And you know, there are already guys and girls in this business who do everything they do. They only do on-demand lessons or virtual lessons because it doesn’t cost them anything for grass, for carts, for using the golf course. And then they put the burden back on the student, and that’s where it should be. “
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