Rick Shiels: How I went from a range pro to YouTube’s biggest golf star… and what the future holds!

We traveled to Manchester, England to find out how YouTube star Rick Shiels has gone from an amateur dramatics lover to one of the most successful men in golf… and why he owes a lot to a whiteboard.

When a young Rick Shiels gave a sterling performance as an unlikeable bully in a school rendition of The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, he could never have imagined, some 20 years later, crediting the role with helping him become one of the most influential people in golf.

In the two decades since treading the boards as Barry Kent, Shiels has gone from acting for a group of parents and students in a Bolton school hall to entertaining millions as the world’s leading golf YouTube star and host of one of the game’s leading podcasts.

Rick Shiels in his podcast studio.

“I wasn’t great at school, wasn’t the brightest, but I loved drama and I loved PE,” he smiles as he recalls several acting roles, including Young Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. “I left with an A* in drama and an A in PE, and now I effectively make my living by performing golf in front of cameras, so it’s done me alright.”

“Alright” is something of an understatement. At the time of writing, Shiels’ YouTube channels (Rick Shiels Golf, H.IT Golf, and The Rick Shiels Golf Show) have more than three million combined subscribers and his videos have attracted more than 750,000,000 video views. THREE. QUARTERS. OF. A. BILLION.

“It’s a bit crazy, isn’t it… surreal,” he smiles as we chat at his uber-modern Salford base, home to his golf and podcast studios and just a couple of minutes from his beloved Manchester United’s home stadium.

Rick Shiels pictured in his Manchester studio

“It’s our goal to crack that billion mark over the next year or so. But sometimes it feels like it’s just numbers on a website. We did a live podcast record recently where 300 people had paid to come and listen to me and Guy (Charnock, Rick’s co-host and Head of Brand & Content) and we sold the tickets in four minutes! It’s when you meet the fans that it really hits home, whether the videos have helped them get a little bit better at the game, helped them buy the right club or just provided entertainment and helped them switch off. We even have some people who don’t play golf who watch just because they enjoy it.

“This year at The Open, was the craziest it’s been. I barely saw any golf because every time I went out to watch I was getting stopped for selfies and autographs, or just for a chat. It was similar at the Ryder Cup. Amazing as it is, I still haven’t truly got my head around it.”

Slow burner

But Shiels isn’t one of the modern influencers who has just blown up overnight. The 37-year-old’s success has grown gradually ever since a younger, beardless, IJP-jumper-wearing version pressed record on his iPhone, filmed some tips and uploaded them to YouTube in a bid to attract more golfers for tuition at Trafford Golf Centre. Little did he know that 11 years later he’d have recorded more than 2,500 (slightly better quality) videos and become a global star.

“It was never the plan. ‘YouTuber’ wasn’t a term – it didn’t exist then,” he says. “It was just a platform to advertise yourself or share funny videos. It certainly wasn’t about financial gain, I just wanted to bring in some more lessons!

“But YouTube has evolved massively – it’s not just pandas sneezing and kids biting fingers anymore. Evolve or die is our motto and we’re constantly adapting because it’s ever-changing. People are watching most videos in 4K now, so I couldn’t still just be filming on a shaky tripod. YouTube is where people go to switch off and watch entertainment – it rivals what was once seen as traditional television – and there’s an expectation, certainly of established channels, that videos be well-produced, professional, and have incredible sound quality. Would you watch my content from ten years ago on a 60-inch TV? No, you’d get seasick or vertigo!”

Shiels’ journey into golf was almost accidental with the keen footballer not picking up a club until he was 11.

“It was 1997 and my Mum went to a driving range with her partner at the time and told me to entertain myself in a range bay for an hour,” he recalls. “I was bored but towards the end, I hit a couple of half-decent shots so the next time she was going she didn’t have to drag me.”

As he joined High School, Shiels’ fondness of golf grew, and, alongside his mum, he joined Hart Common Golf Club in Westhoughton.

“1997 was the year golf seemed to really boom. Tiger won the Masters and it felt like it was on more people’s radars. I’d go to school and say I was playing golf at the weekend and rather than people thinking it was strange it had flipped around and the stigma was slowly lifting.”

A young Rick Shiels from his early days as a golf YouTuber

Shiels spent his spare time and holidays at the club, rapidly falling in love with the game and developing a real talent… or so he thought.

“I didn’t travel to play elsewhere much as a junior so in my head I was the best thing since sliced bread! I’d play with older members or players that weren’t as good as me at our club and at 13 or 14 they were telling me I was great. It elevated my perspective of how good I was.”

Shiels left school age 16 with the aim of becoming a professional golfer and joined Myerscough College, taking a diploma in golf studies, but reality soon kicked in.

“My bubble burst. I realized I wasn’t as good as I thought I was,” he reflects. “I went from the big fish in a small pond to a tiny fish in a huge pond. I walked into this class of 30 students thinking I’d be one of the top three players and I wasn’t even in the top half. I was off decent single figures but there were lads playing off scratch. And it would be even worse now – there are 16-year-olds off +2 and +3!”

As one dream dies

After a couple of years “getting battered” both in the bar and on the course, Shiels left college knowing his hopes of playing at the highest level were all but over (only Chris Hanson went on to achieve DP World Tour status from that course).

He began writing to golf clubs around the country in a bid to become an assistant pro and quickly found himself working at The Mere in Knutsford – an affluent Cheshire club (and one of Britain’s best golf resorts) frequented by highly successful businessmen and some of sport’s biggest names.

“I’m this lad from Westhoughton and suddenly I’m plopped in the golf shop of a club where people like Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Bobby Charlton were members,” he recalls. “I remember hiding my little Citroen in the car park because every other car was a Bentley, Ferrari, or Range Rover. But it was one of the best things that ever happened to me. It helped me understand business and get guidance from these great minds.”

The Mere also gave Shiels the chance to rub shoulders with some of the world’s biggest golf stars with Andrew ‘Chubby’ Chandler’s ISM (International Sports Management) based at the club and Lee Westwood, Darren Clarke, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel and Branden Grace among frequent visitors.

“The South African guys based themselves at The Mere so I played with them loads. In fact, Branden Grace was in the third video I ever posted on YouTube because I’d got to know him really well. I think some people might have looked at these guys with jealousy, but it was an inspiring time and made me want to do what it took to be successful.”

Initially, Shiels continued to push for his ultimate dream of becoming a player, but he was quickly forced to accept his future in golf lay elsewhere.

Rick Shiels poses with the golf YouTube plaque he received for reaching one million subscribers to his channel.

“I shot a couple of under par rounds in tournaments and I’d be walking down the 18th writing my winner’s speech, knowing I couldn’t play any better than that. Then I’d walk into the clubhouse and the winning score was six or seven-under. And that was local level! So, I knew I wouldn’t make it as a player, but I still wanted to do something that meant I’d be putting my golf shoes on every day and calling it my career.”

Despite rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous at The Mere, it was Natalie Adams, one of the club’s PGA Pros, who provided Shiels with the biggest inspiration.

“She’d run junior coaching sessions and the kids were engaged, listening to every word she said about how to play the game, and I liked that.

“I talked to her, shadowed her, and eventually set up my own junior classes. Natalie would do the morning and I’d do the afternoon classes or vice-versa. We’d have loads of kids in, we’d go out to schools and put on summer holiday sessions. I felt like a pied piper, walking down to the range with all these excitable kids following. It made me realize how much I enjoyed coaching and helping people.”

Naturally, Shiels progressed to coaching adults and knew he’d found his forte but even then, he had visions of better things.

“I just wanted to progress,” he says. “I wanted to get more lessons, more people, and show everyone how much I loved coaching, so I started advertising via posters in the toilets and in the clubhouse, then in the local media and big local publications such as Cheshire Life.”

Shiels’ social (media) life begins

It was during the 30 hours per week he’d spend working in the club shop that Shiels first tasted social media success, using Twitter (now X) to promote his own lessons, give out quick tips and reply to amateur golfers who were seeking advice from renowned coach David Leadbetter.

“It’s where the addiction started,” admits the man who still checks his YouTube analytics multiple times each day. “I’d put out a Tweet and get three replies and I liked that feeling. Then I’d get a reply or like from someone in America or Australia and that was exciting, so I started setting goals to get more followers and likes.

“Back then it was public if you Tweeted someone else so when people asked for golf swing advice from David I’d just reply and say ‘Hi, I’m a PGA coach, if you don’t get a reply from David, here’s what I think’ and I’d use #ifyoudontgetanswered. It became a bit of a game for me, and I’d use spare minutes in the shop to do that and grow my following.”

Having become PGA qualified Shiels left The Mere to become a full-time teaching pro at Trafford Golf Centre (formally PlayGolf Manchester) in 2010, working alongside Pete Styles, who he credits alongside Adams as having the biggest influence on his career. But it was a whiteboard in the office that ultimately inspired the birth of his YouTube channel.

“We’d have bi-weekly meetings and the whiteboard showed how many lessons each pro had sold. I was bottom and didn’t like that, so I started looking at different ways to fill these 60 x 1 hour-long slots each week,” he explains. “I had clients from Mere and I’d talk to people on the range, but a lot of them were already having lessons with one of the other guys, so I couldn’t really poach them!”

A couple of years passed and having unsuccessfully reached out to the UK’s golf magazines for help (sorry, Rick!), he made what proved to be the best decision of his career, posting his first YouTube video in a bid to drive more clients.

It worked and Shiels rapidly went from the bottom of the whiteboard to the top with clients traveling from far and wide. He set himself the target of doubling everyone else’s lessons in a bid to make enough money to buy a house.

“It was costing me money to make videos, but the return on investment was coming from the lessons I was booking into my diary from new students,” he says. “More YouTube content equaled more lessons, so I kept stretching myself.”

The big turning point came when YouTube introduced monetization, meaning creators could make cash from their content. Gradually he was earning enough from his channel to be able to drop a day’s coaching and use the time to film more content.

Rick Shiels pictured with friends Peter Finch (right), Andy Carter (left), and Matt Fryer (farthest left)Rick Shiels pictured with friends Peter Finch (right), Andy Carter (left), and Matt Fryer (farthest left)

Imitation is the sincerest etc…

Unsurprisingly Shiels’ early YouTube success meant fellow Trafford coaches and friends Peter Finch, Andy Carter, and Matt Fryer all followed him onto the platform.

“When Pete first started making videos, I remember thinking ‘Why’s he doing my thing?’ I was almost a bit annoyed. But he’d seen the success I’d had from doing it, seen me move up that whiteboard, and the only thing I’d done differently was YouTube, so it made sense and actually, it was nice to have someone to chat to about it. Before that, I’d only ever really spoken to Piers (Ward) and Andy (Proudman) from Me And My Golf (pictured below) about it and they were really good to me. When I first started some other YouTubers, who shall remain nameless, were less welcoming, but Piers and Andy reached out and offered me advice.

Rick Shiels credits Me And My Golf's Piers Ward and Andy Proudman with helping him at the start of his YouTube journey.

“Pete started sacrificing coaching time to film videos because he understood the value of being on the channel, so we’d go out and play together.”

Shiels appointed his first member of staff, video editor Tim Silcott-West, in 2014 and with their channels growing rapidly he and Finch left Trafford to join Lytham Golf Academy, setting up Quest Golf and splitting their time between coaching and YouTube.

A year later the pair moved to Prairie Sports Village in Burnley with Shiels’ coaching now down to just two days out of six. He appointed Charnock in 2017 to manage dealings with the equipment brands, but it quickly became clear the new arrival had an eye for content and wasn’t afraid to question his new boss’s ideas.

“It was the first time I’d had someone saying, ‘I don’t know if that’s going to work.’ I’ll be honest, up until then I was just putting out anything. Genuinely, any old rubbish. It was more quantity over quality, getting videos out almost daily because no one really knew what worked at that stage. There was no real science, just keep feeding it and see what sticks.”

Rick Shiels was a judge on Driver vs Driver 2.


By 2018 Shiels’ star was rising fast and he found himself on the judging panel for Driver v Driver 2 – a primetime American reality show that saw contestants put forward their designs for the new Wilson driver. It helped his audience grow even further and by June 2019, he overtook Me And My Golf as the No.1 golf channel on YouTube.

Despite his success, Shiels continued coaching, but when Covid lockdown kicked in 2020 he made the tough decision to quit teaching and focus all his attention on channel growth. By June he became the first golf creator to surpass one million subscribers – an achievement recognized by more than just YouTube.

“That was the lightbulb moment for my kids,” smiles the father of three. “You get a gold plaque from YouTube when you reach a million [it sits in pride of place above us during this interview] and that was something they’d seen YouTubers they like and watch receive so it was a realization for them.

Rick Shiels celebrates receiving his one million subscriber plaque from YouTube.

“They used to wonder why people would come up ask for selfies or a chat when we were out but now they’re much more used to it.

“My eldest, Ivy, is nine now and some of her mates at school watch the channel, so she’ll come home and tell me ‘Daddy, Oscar from my class watches you on YouTube, and my piano teacher likes your videos’ which has helped her understand. And I’ve done some big collaborations with Dude Perfect and How Ridiculous and the kids watch their channels and then ask me how I know those guys. I think they’ll understand it even more over the next couple of years as Ivy goes to high school and Pearl (7) and Jude (5) get a bit older.”

Despite the rewards, Shiels maintains that stepping away from coaching was one of the toughest decisions he’s ever made and if it wasn’t for family commitments, he’d likely still be spending his weekends in a range bay helping amateurs improve. Thankfully seeing his channel crash through the two million subscribers barrier with views and comments growing means he still enjoys that ‘pied piper’ feeling he used to love at The Mere.

“I still love hearing that people are watching old tips videos and improving or have found or come back to the game because of my videos. Positive reinforcement and comments don’t ever get old.”

Shiels can’t recall the first time he was recognized by a fan but as the channel has grown, so have the requests for selfies and a quick golf tip as he tries to do a bit of shopping or enjoy a break with the family.

“We could go to Trafford Centre now and I might get stopped two or three times but then we could go tomorrow, and it is 20 times,” he says (“He gets stopped a lot,” Charnock adds).

“Claire (Rick’s wife of ten years) spots it a lot more than I do – she’ll see people do a double take as they walk past us and then get their phones out to explain to their partner or friend who I am. She still finds it bizarre, and I don’t think it’ll ever be normal.

“Obviously I get stopped the most at golf events, but it happens a lot on a night out, when people have had a drink and got a bit more Dutch courage, so they’ll come over for a chat. It’s great, but it does mean I’m more conscious in that situation because I don’t want to be an idiot or be worrying that I’ve had too much to drink, but generally people are respectful.”

Rick Shiels engaging with fans at the 151st Open Championship

Haters gonna hate

Somewhat inevitably when someone enjoys success and positivity, there will always be those looking to pour scorn and Shiels isn’t immune from the trolls and negative comments and admits he’s had to develop a thicker skin to cope.

“I get abuse and it’s hard sometimes. I’ve definitely had unhealthy relationships with negative comments in the past,” he admits.

“I’d try to rationalize with them, fight them, correct them and change their opinion, but I realized that you just can’t.

“It’s hard – often I could read 100 nice comments, but it’d be the one negative that would stick in my mind. I can live with comments about my golf – I’ll happily take any of those on in a little match,” he smiles. “It’s more the personal attacks, like if I’ve put on a bit of weight and the comments come in. Those ones hit hard, but perhaps it’s because I know there’s a bit of truth in there. I’m guessing the people who leave those comments must all have Viktor Hovland’s physique!”

Rick Shiels sat with Viktor Hovland

Critics often suggest negative comments are just the ‘nature of the beast’ for those who have chosen the spotlight, but it’s a statement Shiels flatly refutes.

“That’s the sort of thing I see a lot when my fans have pulled someone up for a comment, they’ll reply with ‘nature of the beast’.

“I’m quite lucky in that it’s all pretty surface-level stuff, but it doesn’t surprise me that big celebrities and reality TV stars have taken their lives. We aren’t programmed as humans to have thousands of opinions about ourselves thrown at us. It’s hard enough to deal with our own opinion of ourselves.”

In a bid to put an end to comments about the quality of his golf Shiels has been grinding in both his state-of-the-art H.I.T Golf studio, which sits in the room next to us as we chat, and on his home simulator.

“‘How can I listen to you when you play like that?’ is a pretty regular comment,” he reveals (“And that’s just from me,” Charnock interjects with a laugh). “But who do these people think the world’s best players have lessons off? Claude Harmon, who we interviewed before, openly admits he’s not a great golfer, but he’s an unbelievable coach. Pete Cowen’s not going out and shooting 65 every day but Major winners still turn to him for help and advice.

“The difference is that they’re not putting their own golf out there and, if I’m honest, that was never my plan. I never intended to make content about how I play. I wanted to make coaching content, then I stumbled into equipment and naturally ended up playing golf on camera and introducing things like ‘Break 75’ (a series in which Rick tries to score 74 or better at famous courses) which means I’ve almost put that pressure on myself.

“But as we sit here today, I can honestly say that over the last ten years, I’ve never hit as many balls as I have in the last few weeks. I’m working really hard on my game and I want to get to the level I know I can, but sometimes other things have taken priority, like family and work.”

Rick Shiels plays golf with Rickie Fowler

Like a dream

While there will always be people who throw shade on Shiels’ and other influencers’ work, no one can take away what he has achieved.

He still has to pinch himself when he reflects on his experiences, the places he’s played and the people he’s met.

“There have been a few of those dream moments but getting to play the Old Course at St Andrews in reverse – once with Min Woo Lee and once with Tom Watson, the five-time Open champion – stands out, because people just don’t get to do that. I was standing on the first tee with hickory clubs thinking ‘How has this happened to me?’. And the beauty of moments like that is they’re all captured on video so I can look back in ten or 20 years and relive them.

Shiels also cites hitting shots off the top of the Old Course Hotel with broadcaster and TG columnist Iona Stephen, and his stint on Driver Vs Driver among those moments, along with a very special phone call from YouTube.

“They selected a handful of creators who’d turned their passion into their career and were putting them on a billboard in their home city. We did a full advertising shoot and I ended up being put in the middle of Manchester on Printworks. It said, ‘Golf tips from Manchester, clients from all over the world.”

Not just clients, but viewers. With more than 750 million views it’s unsurprising that Shiels’ content has been watched far and wide but it was finding out that one of the world’s best golfers was a fan that shocked him the most.

The YouTube billboard that appeared in Manchester (and around the UK) celebrating Rick Shiels' success.

“I was at the Mercedes house at the Masters and Jon Rahm walked past. I’d never met him but I just said ‘Good luck for this week, Jon’. He stopped and said, ‘I recognise that voice’ then turned around and goes ‘Rick! I watch your videos and listen to the podcast’. That was just mad.”

In the last year alone, Shiels has closed in on three million subscribers on his main channel, a number he says he would have laughed at a decade ago. He has also played Augusta, Royal Liverpool, and Marco Simone Golf and Country Club, and created content with Charley Hull, Rickie Fowler, Brad Faxon, and Ian Poulter. But it’s an unexpected name that tops his list of most famous guests.

“Richard Hammond,” Shiels replies instantly. “Or perhaps Robbie Williams. But Hammond’s also the worst golfer we’ve had on the channel! That was a coaching project too far.”

Cutting off his arms

A list of dream guests, bucket list courses and video ideas are scrawled on whiteboards around the Salford office as Shiels and his team plan their growth for 2024. He has 11 staff on board, which he admits has brought its own challenge at times.

“I don’t think I’ve ever fully been able to trust it [handing over control] yet and that’s no disrespect to any of the team,” he says, honestly. “It’s only been in the last few weeks that some videos have gone out without me checking them off. Ideally, I still want to check everything and having done this for so long I’ve got valuable knowledge and I’m obsessed with that attention to detail, but I know that won’t always be possible.

“It took me a while to feel comfortable handing things over to the team because I was so used to it all being mine. But there’s a great tech YouTuber called Marques Brownlee and he summed it up by saying when you start you’re like an octopus with eight arms but over time you have to cut one of those arms off. You’re far better giving things to other people who can do them well, sharing the load, and focusing on giving your best to one or two things than you are to doing eight things averagely.”

Rick Shiels and his team celebrate Christmas.

Of the 11, only Charnock ever appears on camera with his boss with the others responsible for everything from shooting and editing to helping their boss keep up with the trends (“They’re younger so they help me understand TikTok,” he laughs). Further additions are expected in 2024 with Shiels on the lookout for more front-of-camera talent.

“We’re looking at bringing more people on board who can be in front of the camera, likely as reviewers for the H.I.T channel and we’ll probably let the audience decide, almost X-Factor style. Let some people shoot a few videos and see what the audience thinks. We won’t rush into it because we want to get it right, but we’ve got the studio and know how much potential there is for that channel.”

Shiels will also launch a stylish range of merchandise, including headcovers, towels, ball markers, and water bottles (we’ve had a sneak peek and it looks fantastic), having worked closely with PRG to create the products.

Rick Shiels and Guy Charnock

But Rick’s vision goes far beyond merch. He has a ten-year mission to open the game to new corners of the world and all people, regardless of their walks of life or financial situation.

“I don’t want to give too much away but I’ve got plans to set up amateur golf tours, objectives to set up global facilities, a pathway to get more kids into golf,” he admits. “There are goals within YouTube and hopefully in a decade we’ll be knocking on the door of ten or 20 million subscribers, but there are 70 million golfers in the world and as it stands, we mostly talk to people in the UK and USA, so we want to be talking to all of them.

“I’m incredibly passionate about it, I want everybody to have an opportunity to try golf in some format, and I want to give as much back on and off YouTube.”

The charity connection

Giving back has always been a big focus for Shiels, who has undertaken some incredible and grueling charity challenges. As well as organizing the inaugural YouTube Golf Day back in 2019, he walked the 150 miles from Prestwick to St Andrews while carrying his golf bag ahead of the 150th Open in 2022, and cycled 500km from St Andrews to Royal Liverpool this year, raising hundreds of thousands of pounds for Prostate Cancer UK in the process (including a £10,000 donation from actor and presenter James Corden). So how will he top it in 2024?

Rick Shiels at the finish of his Charity bike ride to raise money for Prostate Cancer UK

“I’d like to bring back the golf day and I’m looking at a YouTube Major,” he says. “But the big plan is to keep connecting The Open venues, so I want to run from Royal Liverpool to Royal Troon (220 miles). I’m sure some of the negative commenters will laugh at that but I really enjoy running and it’s something I believe I can achieve.

“The buzz of completing it and raising money is comparable to us putting out a video and it gets loads of views. I think the audience donate because they see it as a way of saying thanks.”

Speaking of views, has there ever been a video that the team expected to fly that didn’t reach the heights? And has Shiels ever removed a video from the channel?

“Yes, to both. We tried to create some Mr Beast-style content, but it didn’t land,” he reveals. “We went to a driving range and gave people a pound for every yard they hit the ball, using whatever club they wanted, and all they had to do was hit the fairway, so they could pull wedge, driver, whatever they wanted. We gave away a lot of money and put a huge amount of time into it but it just didn’t land with the audience short-term. Over time it did well, but we expected that instant success.

“And more recently we invited four amateurs to play at Marriott Worsley Park and the first to make a birdie won £10k. We had more cameras than ever, put everything into it, and we were watching the numbers expecting it to fly but it just didn’t. It’s done better now but definitely not what we expected. I think they were probably a bit too groundbreaking and experimental for our audience.”

So what of the video that got deleted? Depending on how dedicated a Shiels fan you are (and if you’ve got your YouTube bell switched on), you may remember when he and old pal Matt Fryer attempted to play golf after being hypnotized.

“We were meant to get properly hypnotized, but we just ended up watching a YouTube video about being hypnotized, which was pretty crap,” he recalls. “It was a crap piece of content; we cut corners and missed the mark on that, so we deleted it. It’ll never see the light of day again.

“There are lots of my older videos that I cringe at now but that doesn’t mean they weren’t right for that time, which is why they remain on the channel, and generally if we film something it will be released, as was shown earlier this year when I played awfully and was embarrassed to set the video live but still did because I think it’s important that we’re honest with the audience.”

Rick Shiels has played at Augusta but would love to film there.

(Masters) green with envy

One video Shiels wishes he did have the opportunity to make is Dude Perfect’s All Sports Challenge, filmed with Bryson DeChambeau at Augusta National, and watched an incredible 15 million times since April 2022.

Filming a round with Tiger Woods at Augusta remains his ultimate goal and while getting the 15-time Major champion to agree could prove tricky – “don’t watch f*cking YouTube,” was Tiger’s recent advice when asked how amateurs should improve – he believes filming at the Masters venue could become a reality.

“I feel like Dude Perfect almost put the foot in the door and showed Augusta that we’re ok, we’re good guys and they can let us in. I played there after the Masters this year and couldn’t film, but golf is changing and evolving all the time, so we’ll never say never.”

One thing Shiels does tend to say ‘never’ to is switching off. With an aim of releasing 104 videos to his main channel every year along with 50 podcasts and plenty of additional content across his socials, along with recognition almost everywhere he goes, it’s hard for him to truly forget about the day job.

“I did try to switch off last year on a cruise. I had no internet but after a few days I paid for the expensive WIFI so I could keep in touch,” he tells us. “And I tried to take a fortnight off this year, but I couldn’t do it. But it’s not massively unhealthy – it’s a passion and I’m lucky to work in something that’s a hobby for most.”

It’s that dedication and passion, coupled with the numbers, that have seen Shiels make one of the biggest rises in this year’s ranking of the Top 100 Most Influential People In Golf, jumping from 24th to 16th. He was immensely proud of his inclusion in the 2022 list, dedicating the majority of an episode of his podcast to discussing the ranking and a copy of the magazine retains pride of place in his studio.

“It was a massive surprise when I found out last year, especially when you consider the names that were in there,” explains Shiels. “In a weird and roundabout way, it was more special because it was recognition from traditional media. We’ve used my inclusion in the ranking when having chats with brands and manufacturers and it genuinely meant a lot.”

Rick Shiels is the world's biggest golf YouTuber and one of the most influential people in golf.

Despite his position in the influential list, Shiels views himself as an ambassador rather than an ‘influencer’ because “influence can also be negative”.

Timely than that we’ve visited Shiels just days after the Saudi Arabian-backed LIV Golf’s failed bid to gain ranking points. With the country’s Public Investment Fund gaining more influence over golf than ever, we were keen to hear his views on the Saudis’ impact on the game he loves.

LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman with PIF Governor Yasir Al Rumayyan.

“There’s Saudi influence going into every sport and I think we’d be complaining if it wasn’t coming into golf and all their money was just going into other sports, like football and F1,” he points out.

“The way it’s come in has shaken people up and I’ll be interested to see what the relationship with the PIF becomes, if it does become anything at all because we’ve heard very little since the announcement. But I don’t think we’ve heard the end of the world ranking points situation and in the end, I think they’ll get something. And they probably should because there’s no way we can truly say that Talor Gooch is World No.180-odd, or that Bryson isn’t among the best players.

“Whatever happens with that, getting more money into the game, all be it at the top level, must be a good thing. I just want to see that money filter down through the game to benefit its expansion and future.”

Rick Shiels has big plans for the future.

The next generation

Speaking of the future, what happens when Shiels’ iconic beard has turned grey, the Lyle and Scott cap is taken off for the final time and his trusty ‘old bluey’ fairway wood down has hit its last shot on camera – will the trio of junior Shiels be waiting to step up and take over the empire?

“They’re showing glimpses that they’re interested in the game and they’ve all got clubs recently,” he says. “There’s no pressure from me, they just go in a bay and I might give them a little pointer, but it’s about having fun. We also go to mini golf a lot, but we’re not counting scores or looking at how we play, just enjoying it.

“Each of them has promise and potential but whether they do anything with that will be up to them. There was no pressure put on me, but if they want to do it then I’ll support them all the way. Right now, I just want them to try it and see if they like it because I think golf teaches youngsters really important lessons.

Thankfully for all his fans, Shiels has no plans to step back any time soon, but if YouTube did disappear overnight, he knows where his career would take him next.

“I’d be straight back in a bay coaching all day. I’d set up my own business and I think I could help a lot of other pros and bring them under my umbrella because I know I’d bring them a lot of experience and knowledge.

“But if golf were to suddenly disappear, that’d be much harder. I’d want to own a business and I think I’d want to be a landscape gardener. I could be my own boss, grow the business, and probably get less abuse… unless we did a bad job on the lawn.”

For now, the nearest Shiels will get to landscaping is repairing his divots as he continues to grow his brand in the face of stiff competition.

Good Good are among the biggest golf YouTube channels.

“Nobody,” he laughs when asked who he sees as the biggest threat. “But if I had to choose, GoodGood are doing a great job. I really like and respect their content and they’ve come at it from a different angle. They’ve got a clear business plan. Bob Does Sports are doing a great job with a different demographic. ClubFace UK mainly does stuff on TikTok and Instagram and he’s so creative, and I love watching F0urBr0thers because they’re hilarious.

“In terms of channels that I’d recommend and can see growing, I think Stacked Golf, Golf Life, Iona Stephen and Bryan Brothers would be my standouts and there aren’t many creators who I haven’t seen or heard of because I watch a lot of YouTube!”

Do it all again

From a handful of competitors in 2012 to 1,500 rival golf channels all eyeing him enviously in 2023, the picture has changed beyond recognition, but Shiels would still choose that shaky tripod at Trafford Centre 11 years ago over starting his channel now.

“I think about this quite a bit,” he smiles. “You could make mistakes. I used to release so much content that was awful but there wasn’t that much of an audience, so I got away with it.

“When I started, I think there were four or five golf channels and the biggest had about 20,000 subscribers. I remember thinking that was the ceiling because we can only work on the evidence in front of us. You could release crap content because you could get away with it.

Rick Shiels is enjoying an incredibly successful YouTube career that he wouldn't change one bit

“Fast forward to now and you know there’s an appetite and potentially millions of subscribers out there, but you cannot make mistakes. It must be brilliant from the get-go. With so many channels to compete against now, so your visuals, audio, shot tracers, etc all have to be great. And you’ve got to find your space, your unique selling point. But getting 20,000 subscribers now is much easier because the massive audiences and search for golf content are there – it’s just finding that way to stand out. It’s much, much more challenging. The ones that have blown up in the last few years, like Bob Does Sports, and GoodGood have personalities that were big outside YouTube or had platforms to draw people to their content.

“I still think it’s possible for a new channel to enjoy success and grow, but it’s tougher and it won’t blow up overnight anymore. That can happen on other platforms, like TikTok, but I don’t think it’s realistic on YouTube from a standing start.

“My advice to anyone starting out now would be to be consistent and persistent and find a niche.”

Unfortunately, if your niche was going to be videos that attract more customers to your lessons, that’s already been done. Back to the drawing board whiteboard.

About the Author

Rob Jerram is Today's Golfer's Digital Editor.

Rob Jerram – Digital Editor

Rob specializes in the DP World Tour, PGA Tour, LIV Golf, and the Ryder Cup, spending large chunks of his days reading about, writing about, and watching the tours each month.

He’s passionate about the equipment used by professional golfers and is also a font of knowledge when it comes to golf balls, golf trolleys, and golf bags, testing thousands down the years.

Rob uses a Callaway Paradym driverTaylorMade M5 5-woodTaylorMade P790 driving ironCallaway Paradym irons (4-AW), TaylorMade MG3 wedges (52º, 58º), Odyssey Tri-Hot 5k Double Wide putter, and Callaway Chrome Soft X golf ball.

You can email Rob or get in touch with him on X.

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