It’s been a very long time since I’ve worked with junior golfers, and since summer is only a few months away, I figured it would be a good time to share my thoughts on my experiences with junior golfers, both in clinics and in leagues, and how parents can provide the best experience possible for their young golfers.
Before I get started, there are a few things I need to clarify:
1) I was never involved in any kind of junior golf clinic, league, or tournament program as a golfer. I spent my early days (age 14+) playing adults for lunch money, and I never had the experiences that most of my peers did.
2) As of the writing of this blog post, I am not a parent. There’s a good chance I will be a parent someday, but as of now, I haven’t the slightest clue what it is like to raise a child.
3) However, there was a time when I was deeply involved in teaching clinics and camps for the YMCA and one of the prominent junior golf associations in Arizona. I also co-directed a summer league at a golf course in Arizona, so I’ve had some hands-on experience with youngsters on the golf course and on the driving range.
The following is a brief overview of those experiences:
Choose the Right Lane for Your Junior Golfer
When I helped with the junior summer league, it was made abundantly clear that it was meant to be a fun junior golf league. We were not trying to mold these kids into the next wave of great competitive golfers; it was designed to provide an affordable avenue for kids to learn the game with their friends and maybe (God willing) have some fun.
While most parents grasped the concept, two in particular didn’t, and would approach us almost weekly to try and “give us suggestions about making the league more competitive.”
If you want your kids to be involved in competitive golf, register them in junior golf tournaments. I know for a fact that the main Junior Golf program in Tucson has extremely affordable entry fees and play some pretty sweet golf courses. But don’t annoy the director with your requests and input when they’ve made it clear they aren’t interested in listening.
Lower. Your. Expectations.
Anyone who has played golf for any number of years can attest that golf is really, really hard. Even if you’re a skilled athlete as an adult, being able to make decent contact requires time, patience, and practice. Yet, some parents feel the need to harp on these poor kids about their golf swing before they can walk a straight line without being distracted by an insect.
One example that stands out in my mind is this grandmother with her 2 granddaughters who couldn’t have been older than 4 or 5 at the time. The younger of the two must have watched a lot of Happy Gilmore’s putting or Slap Shot because she would have her hands on the club like a hockey stick, take the club barely past her foot-high knees, and slap at the ball. She did this every day, every session. For two weeks.
From day one, the grandmother was on every instructor’s case, trying to get her to swing the club like a normal person, I guess. The point is, if you want your kids (or grandkids) to enjoy golf, let them figure it out on their own. Especially if they can barely count to 20.
Let Them Have Fun With It
One of the best reasons to get kids into golf at a young age is it coincides directly with the development of their creativity. The best way to help their interests up and develop their creativity to its fullest capacity is to make it fun and challenging.
For example, don’t give them more than a 5-wood, a wedge, and a putter, and let them go figure it out on the golf course. Eventually, they are going to need to learn how to hit a slice with a fairway wood around trouble, or de-loft a wedge to make it fly further, so why not instill those habits early?
Once they develop their hand-eye coordination to the point where they can hit the golf ball well, then you can introduce more golf clubs. Even with a full set, those early days of manufacturing golf shots will help them enjoy the game for years to come.
I’d love to get parent and instructor feedback regarding this article, and your input in the comments is invaluable. Please keep it civil with me and other commentors.