The future of paid golf instruction already has arrived. Technology allows celebrity instructors and even many of golf’s mildly ambitious swing whisperers to reach the masses via subscription services and the Internet.
Hackers longing for the secret are weaning themselves from magazine tips and turning to YouTube videos, social media instructors, Michael Breed’s Facebook chats, Hank Haney’s satellite radio show and $99-a-year services such as Revolution Golf.
Which means the forward-thinking vision of George Gankas may not seem all that cutting edge. It’s not really a vision but an organically built following with a paid subscription service demanded by the passionate cult of “Scwamdows,” as he calls his admirers. With 118,000 fully engaged Instagram followers and the most fascinating stable of budding young stars making him more than a cult movement, Gankas plans to offer his unique vision for game improvement at $30 a month. Others seem likely to follow in the coming years, though Gankas’ authenticity could make him different.
“I’m lucky that I have a pretty big following,” Gankas said. “I know a lot of people say, ‘You’re a good marketer,’ and I don’t think I am. I think I’m absolutely a horrible marketer. I just think that I put out pretty decent info. And sometimes I do funny stuff. And sometimes I do stupid stuff.”
The red-hot, flat-brim wearing 47-year-old Sherwood caddie-turned-instructor, who works with speed-seeking veterans such as Padraig Harrington and young talents such as Matthew Wolff of NCAA champion Oklahoma State, finally is nearing the launch of George Gankas Golf. The service has been delayed by a dispute with a former partner over another site concept and Gankas’ desire to prepare as much content as possible to address questions he would ask as a $30-a-month subscriber. There is no set launch date, but it should come early in 2019.
The site may push boundaries, because Gankas will promise way more of himself and already does not shy away from giving more lessons online than most instructors. He’s never even met several young players who credit him with helping their games, an almost unthinkable concept to anyone over 30 years old.
With George Gankas Golf, he promises not just content tailored to various swing and short-game issues, but elements of personal interaction from either himself or the Westlake, Calif.-based squad of lieutenants he’s been training.
While he may come off as cocky in print, part of Gankas’ draw on social media or on the Westlake range mats where he plies his trade lies in his respect for all who love the game. He remains cognizant of maintaining a connection both to his paying students and to those who want to learn, even though most ultimately just want to find more clubhead speed. But as with all great instructors, Gankas’ passion for seeing students improve is infectious even when filtered through technology.
“Do I think that it’s something someone can replicate? Yeah absolutely,” he said. “But I don’t think a lot of people can monetize it, because they don’t have a following. There are guys that are terrific out there and they could potentially replicate what I do. But the way I’ve done it was different than anybody else. I don’t use hashtags. I don’t do anything that I’m supposed to do. It’s just information that I’ve given.”
And as Gankas is well aware, his cause is not hurt by his students “playing pretty good.” Some things in golf instruction will never change. Gwk
(Note: This story appears in the December 2018 issue of Golfweek.)