Starting Juniors in Golf: The Right Start Lasts a Lifetime
Golf is a game you can play for a lifetime. You can start when you’re old enough to hold a club, and play until, well, the rest of your life. So if your son/daughter is going to get into the game, do it the right way and let them learn the game in a way that will help them enjoy golf for their entire life.
So, am I saying “You MUST enroll your kids in golf lessons!”? NO. However, it is a good idea, as there are some important points for them to learn, and golf lessons or clinics can be a great time for them and their friends.
Here’s what I find to be the most important points to focus on with your kids:
Don’t focus too much on technique. Depending on the child’s age, technique doesn’t matter as much as some may think. At some point they can work on their technique, but for the first little while (especially when they are younger), let them find out how to use their eyes and body to hit the ball, no matter how they do it.
SWING HARD! As we get older it becomes harder and harder to gain speed in our swing. It most certainly can be done, but it’s much harder to do. So, when the little swinger you’re introducing to golf gets going, get them swinging as hard as they can, while staying on balance! (Rule 1 – Swing hard! Rule 1.5 – Stay on balance!)
Please, please, please get them clubs that are right for them. While it may seem simple to get some old clubs cut down and get grips put on them, you’re only hurting their game and possibly their enjoyment. Get an ultra-lite set of clubs (US Kids Golf is a great example) that they can swing. The reason we don’t want to cut down clubs is the weight, the length, and the stiffness of the club. When you cut a normal steel shaft way down, it is way too heavy and has no flex at all! Kids won’t hit these very far and will have a hard time swinging it with any speed (Remember what Rule 1 was?). If you have ever picked up one of these ultra-lite clubs, you’ll know that it’s super light and very flexible. This is what a kid needs! Think about it for your own game – which are you able to swing faster and manipulate easier; A tree trunk or a thin branch?
Kids are smaller than adults. Don’t force them to play the front tees designed for adults. Start them at the 150-200 yard marker. Want to see a junior golfer happy? Let them drive some greens, or make 4-5 birdies in a round! Most of the time a younger golfer doesn’t care about the length of the hole. The object of the game is to get the lowest score, so what better way to help them! Last year we had some junior golfers at our course upset that they had to play the forward tees for Junior day. After a couple weeks playing these tees, one of the juniors stopped me in passing as I was going to play the 8th hole and they had finished their round. The junior asks “Hey, Garrett! Think you can beat me today?”, I laughed and said I would try my best to do so. The junior then tells me, “I made 7 birdies today! Beat that!” Think he was happy? Think I could stop laughing for 10 minutes? Think I started to try a little harder to make birdies?
Teach them the etiquette of the game, but don’t get too bogged down with the rules. Especially for first time golfers and the very young, let them tee the ball up every single shot if they want to, or let them ground the club in the bunker. If they get too focused on the rules, they lose focus on the aspect of fun. After a couple of years of fun golf, or when they start to get really interested in the game, then yes, they can start to learn additional rules. What’s more important is that they know how to play as if they were playing with you and your weekend foursome. Don’t walk in people’s lines on the green. Don’t stand in their eye line while they are taking a shot. Be as quiet as you can while others are playing. The basics.
These are 5 fairly easy points to focus on while introducing your junior to the game of golf.
Golf is such a great game and it is a lot of fun to watch a junior golfer grow. If you start them on the right path in the beginning, they will enjoy the game for a lifetime. My dad got me started when I was about 4 years old, and I can’t thank him enough. I mean, I still make him buy the drinks after the round, but hey, that’s how it works! Right?
PGA of Saskatchewan Professional Garrett McMillan is a regular contributor to the SaskGolfer community.For help with your golf game, contact Garrett at The Golf Academy of Regina, www.golfacademyofregina.com.