Go online for help with your golf swing, and you’ll find more tips than a waitress at a five-star restaurant. Minute-long YouTube videos show men teaching men how to crush the ball like the pros and then automatically advance to another video doing more of the same.
If you are a man who wants to emulate the tour pros, these smash-the-ball video tips might be your friend. If you are a woman who wants to learn the nuts and bolts—what is an iron? what is a wedge? what do you do when you get to the golf course?—your fingers will soon tire of searching.
Jacques Ungerer, a 31-year-old videographer, producer, husband of a golfer, and new father of a baby girl, asked, “Where are the women?” And in 2017, he launched Phase Golf, endeavoring to create the most comprehensive online instruction platform ever experienced by golfers male or female, but especially female.
“I love the ladies of the LPGA,” he said. “So, I started thinking, let’s see what products are out there for women’s golf instruction. And to my surprise, there weren’t any. There is a lot of golf instruction, but not golf instruction focused on women and the things they should want to learn vs. the normal, egotistical guy who just wants to learn to smash the ball.”
Ungerer inherited a knack for video production from his father, who founded and operated one of the top sports video production companies in South Africa, with credentials that include soccer’s World Cup for ESPN in 2010. Jacques’ first love, though, was golf. He met his wife when they were both on the golf team at Florida’s Northwoods University, and he quickly built a career around filming high-quality instructional golf videos.
Those videos featured men teaching men, but very little was out there for women teaching women. Thus began the idea behind Phase Golf, with the tagline “for women, by women.”
One problem with that: Ungerer is not a woman. He saw his role as facilitator. He could build the website and ace the video production, but who would serve as the face and golf gurus for Phase Golf? Answering Ungerer’s email cold calls was a diverse slate of golf teachers from the LPGA Teaching and Club Professionals and the PGA of America: heralded Cindy Miller and Kellie Stenzel, both former touring pros with respected teaching credentials; Kate Tempesta, founder of the Urban Golf Academy in New York City; Erika Larkin, PGA of America teaching professional who has been ranked No. 1 in Virginia; and renowned golf fitness specialist Karen Palacios-Jansen.
“There’s so little quality instruction out there for women, it’s almost kind of sad,” said Stenzel, who teaches in Florida. “When Jacques approached me, I did some research to see the products he’s done. And the video quality is really great. I felt that Phase Golf would represent me well and put me in the public eye. And we can help women who don’t know where to go, give them a place to come upon at any point in their learning experience, and give them a trusted voice.”
Ungerer quickly went to work, filming each member of the team, who delivered as many as 40 short tips of one to three minutes in length, in a single day. Then he categorized the tips into sections for Learner, Putting, Chipping, Pitching, Bunker, Full Swing, and Mental Game and uploaded them to his website.
But there are not only tips, there are courses—for example, Stenzel’s 17-episode video series “Let’s Get It Rolling” focused on putting, and Miller’s 12-part “Pre-Shot Routine”. These ordered programs are a key, distinguishing feature of Phase Golf that differentiates it from other online instruction.
“I like structure,” Ungerer said. “Places like Revolution Golf and some others, they’re full of tips from great instructors, which is fantastic, but what they don’t do is give you a plan to follow, week by week. To really improve, there has to be some structure.”
Ungerer and his coaches hope that men, as well as women, enjoy Phase Golf. But they definitely have set out to serve women.
“There’s a real difference between men and women,” Stenzel said. “Not to stereotype, but I think stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason. Men will just dive in. We like to know what we’re doing and where we’re going, and not look stupid trying to figure it out. The language of instruction can be super confusing. If you haven’t played golf for a lifetime, I don’t know how you understand half of what these teachers are saying. We’re going to tell women what they need to know, and then they can kind of fake it until they make it.”
Ungerer hopes Phase Golf benefits not only golfers but female golf coaches. In the early days of development and building social media, no one knew there was a man behind the project, and so, he says, “I got to be a woman for a couple of months, and the messages we were getting were absolutely terrible. I won’t go into detail, but the things people said—and they were all men—lit the flame under us to really push the women’s game to the forefront and carry out our mission to give every woman in the world the opportunity to learn from the best coaches in the world, some of whom do happen to be women. We still get those messages: ‘Oh, please stop teaching, you don’t know what you’re talking about,’ This notion from the general, male public that women coaches don’t know what they’re talking about infuriates me.”
There’s a limited, free membership at Phase Golf, but the full membership costs only $99 a year, or $9.99 month-to-month. So far, the value is greater for those who haven’t yet taken lessons or are just getting started in golf. The Phase Golf of the future will develop features for more experienced golfers, including long-form (30-minute) lessons, PDFs with exercises to take to practice, and a big red button that says “HELP ME!” for emergency, customized coaching in time for the club championship or big golf date.
“Our No. 1 goal for 2019 is to add the ability for golfers to upload their swings, and to create this emergency button where someone will get back to you in a quick and timely fashion,” Ungerer said. “I can’t say more, but we have some fantastic ideas moving forward.”