Jim Gorant/CNN Underscored

“Become a better golfer in just 12 weeks.” That offer comes from Forme, a personal training app that recently released a golf-specific program promising to connect users with a Titleist Performance Institute-certified trainer who will “measurably improve your flexibility, range of motion and power.”

The 12-week program includes eight face-to-face streaming sessions with a trainer, who will also post assignments in the form of pre-shot video workouts with other instructors (everything from 20-minute yoga recovery routines to ache-inducing strength-building sessions) or customized workouts made up of individual exercises.

Forme sells two versions of an interactive mirror that works with the app. The Home Gym ($6,495) has two arms attached to cables the provide resistance training while the Home Studio ($2,495) offers a way to see your instructor at life size and keep an eye on your technique. Neither is required to partake in the program, which costs $799 for the 12 weeks.

Did a test run of the 12-week program deliver? It’s too soon to say if the golf got any “better,” but flexibility and strength improved, as did independently measured swing speed.

This virtual training program uses an app and a personal trainer to improve your golf game in just 12 weeks. Though it may take a little longer to see a marked improvement, Forme Golf Fitness did help our flexibility, strength and swing speed.

What we liked about it

Getting personal

Sign up, download the app and set up an account. You’re assigned a trainer (you can request one upfront or ask to change if you prefer) who emails to set a time for the first session. Gary B. has TPI certifications in “power” (Level III) and “fitness” (Level II), and a tap on the screen at the appointed time brings him to life onscreen.

Gary reviews my golf history, game level, etc., and he asks about my fitness history, which includes a pair of limiting injuries (chronic shoulder problem, long-lingering tennis elbow). He’s certain we can work through and around them. Most of his clients, he notes, are men over 40 who have some nagging pains and creeping limitations and are looking to maintain or regain their swing. He also wants to know what equipment I have on hand (none needed but he’ll work with what’s available).

After that, he conducts a fitness assessment, which includes 16 movements that will uncover weaknesses, inflexibilities or imbalances. Most of the appraisals involved are easy, even if some require an awkward arranging of props and limbs.

Gary groups the results in three areas — green light (good), yellow light (needs work) and red light (hints of rigor mortis) — and says he will design a program aimed at turning the yellows to greens and the reds to yellows.

The videos

The first video routine was “Bodyweight strength training—intermediate,” which is typical of how the rest work. It’s hosted by Breezy J, a terrifyingly fit instructor with a tsunami of brown hair cresting above her forehead. After a brief intro, Breezy leads a warm-up, explaining clearly that we’ll do two movements and then demonstrating them. A series of dots appear in rows onscreen, and each dot represents a set we’ll complete during the workout. As we finish the first set of stretches, the first dot fills in. A countdown clock shows the time we’re to hold each pose, although it’s impossible to look at it while doing the stretches, so Breezy usually counts us down.


The meat of the workout includes three movements we’ll do for 30 seconds each—bridge marches, bear crawls and reverse lunges—with a 15-second rest in between. Again, she demos each and adds tips as we go: keep your foot here, arm straight, inhale, exhale. The workout moves on to another set of three exercises, then a cooldown and we’re done. Intense but reasonably brief.

Over the weeks, Gary assigns three golf-specific videos hosted by the even more intimidating Andrea D., who claims to have once worked out with a British Open champ and to start every round with three shots of tequila. That’s remains unverified, but she’s clearly a golfer because she talks the game during the workouts and explains how the exercises she’s putting you through will impact your play. In fact, a number of them involve either a golf club or assuming a golf stance.

Custom workouts

On days Gary’s hand-curated workouts are scheduled, they appear on the screen as a list of activities in a similar format to the pre-recorded videos: a few warm-ups, two groups of three exercises done in sets and a cooldown. Press “start” and a video shows an instructor performing a movement. In the bottom corner, a text block indicates the number of reps or the amount of time assigned for that particular exercise. For the timed sections, there’s a brief countdown clock that gives way to a timer.


The idea is to look at what the person onscreen is doing and replicate the movement. As you finish an exercise, you swipe up and the next video begins to play. There are built-in rests along the way. The biggest difference between these workouts and the videos is that they’re targeted specifically for the areas where you need improvement. My body is good at doing the things it’s been asked to do over and over, but many of these moves are new and hit areas my workouts miss, so they have immediate impact.

Back With Gary

At the next session, Gary fields questions about technique that popped up and notes which of the exercises aggravated my injuries. He’s happy to have the information so he can avoid those problem areas as we progress.

As with Andrea D., Gary explains how our sessions relate to golf but, again, targeted specifically to my situation. We’re building up my right leg and hip (which are weaker than my left), reducing my stability on the backswing and restricting my ability to drive through the ball on the downswing. Those hip exercises and stretches will not only give me greater hip turn but foster dissociation between my lower body and upper body, another key to power and maybe the biggest difference between pros and amateurs.

The results

Because of timing issues with the story and a tweak to my left hip flexor, I only participated in the Forme program for eight weeks instead of 12. Despite the obstacles, a repeat of the 16-point assessment showed that I’d lowered what Forme calls my “fitness handicap” from 32 to 28, and I’d improved in multiple areas, turning five yellows to greens and three reds to yellows, for a total of 10 greens, four yellows and two reds.

More importantly, I went to a local PGA Tour Superstore and hit 10 drivers and 10 six-iron shots on a Trackman simulator both before and after starting the Forme program. I did not play a round between sessions, but I had hit 150 or so balls while test driving a launch monitor, the Bushnell Launch Pro. The good news: My swing speed increased by about 2 mph with the driver and 3 mph with the six iron. The less-good news? My warm-up included an unusual number of clunkers — near shanks and low, thin screamers — and my carry distance stayed about the same.

The specialist running the Trackman explained that this was a common result. When golfers take on intensive training or lose or gain a lot of weight, their swing changes subtly and the quality of contact goes down.

To prove the point, he displayed the smash factor data (a measure of how consistently I hit the ball near the center of the clubface), and my consistency had gone down. As I continued to play with the new faster swing, I would adjust, he said, and my smash factor would return to its previous level, at which point I’d see the distance gains.

What we didn’t like about it

The individual exercise demonstrations in the custom workouts Gary provided did not include audio instructions, meaning you had to scrutinize the trainer in the video to pick out subtleties. For an exercise called “bird dogs,” previous trainers have explained that one of the keys is keeping your shoulders and hips level, but on the custom demos, that detail is left for users to figure out on their own. While watching a trainer demo for “kickstand dumbbell raises,” it’s hard to tell if she is lifting the dumbbell straight up or moving toward her hip as it rises. Adding an audio component that clarifies the finer points would improve the experience.

Also, the custom videos did, as promised, avoid exercises that tweaked my injuries, but the pre-recorded video sessions at times included such moves. Gary tried to pick ones that minimized those instances, but there were limits to what he could do.

Finally, Gary built in some rest days but otherwise posted something for me to do every day, sometimes seven days a week. He had mentioned that I should set my own pace, which typically gives me time for four of five workouts a week — a solid commitment. But looking at the app and the icons for workouts that are not accompanied by a check mark and the word “completed” always made me feel delinquent and lazy, not to mention wasteful. The practice created a pressure to do more that reduced some of the positive vibes of the overall experience.

Bottom line

The progress was incremental, but it was still progress. Better yet, the program provided a cadre of new exercises that cater to known areas of weakness. That should allow for further gains. If those increase or hold up, I would consider another 12-week run with Gary next winter because I think there’s still more opportunity to boost my numbers.

Beyond golf, research on aging shows that general atrophy and muscle imbalances contribute to increasing infirmity and injury, not only because they contribute to falls but because they hasten the loss of smooth muscle movement, coordination and the strength for everyday tasks. In that sense, the regained flexibility and strength provided a sense of better health and, maybe, youthfulness?