Over the past decade the Junior Golf Industry has become big business. Numerous Junior-only equipment, training aid, and apparel companies have sprung up, not to mention the countless number of junior tours and college recruiting/resume services that have come along. Undoubtedly, there is amble opportunity for junior golfers, starting even as early as a few years old, to develop their game and have numerous opportunities for playing both recreationally and competitively. With so much out there to choose from, where should a parent start in planning the roadmap for their junior golfer’s development? No need to worry, I'm here to help.
First Things First
My first bit of advice is simple; no matter what age your child is when they get started, make sure that having fun is #1. Whatever your aspirations may be for your child with golf, you need to remember (and remind your child) that it's just a game. In my mind golf is the greatest game known to man, and perhaps you feel the same, but if your child does not see things that way that's fine. Even if your child does grow to love the game and winds up devoting a great deal of time with it, make sure they grow up to be a well rounded individual. Encourage them to play other sports or develop other talents in areas such as art and music.
Before They Pick Up a Club
I highly recommend that you start your child out by teaching them some of the most important principles of the game. These initial teachings do not even require a club or a ball. The most wonderful thing about the game of golf lies in these principals. What are these principals? I'm speaking about the Etiquette and Rules of the game. Golf is historically an honorable game, the idea of a game where a participant is more or less self policing themselves cannot be found in many (if any) other games. The aspects of etiquette within the game mirror that of the way people should act in everyday life, with respect and concern for others. The moral core of golf which will resonate throughout your child's entire life are unquestionably what makes golf, in my opinion, the greatest game in the world. For more information on the Rules of Golf log onto the USGA's website and there page on The Rules. For more information on Golf Etiquette log onto Mr. Golf Etiquette and the USGA's website and there page on Etiquette.
Finding an Instructor
Now that your child has been primed on the core values of the game, its time to look for an instructor. One great resource for starting your search is right where you're at right now, PGA.com. Look at the top of the page at the site page options, go to PGA of America and in the drop down box and go to Juniors at the bottom OR go to the Instruction page. Both areas have a search area to find a PGA Professional in your local area. Another great resource is the Junior Links website. Junior Links is the ultimate junior golf website.
Finding the Right Equipment
When it comes to looking for the right equipment, you have a lot to choose from. Most of the major golf club companies make junior sets. I would suggest however to initially look at a junior specific golf equipment manufacturers such as Accu-Length or US Kids Golf My personal recommendation is purchasing a set of clubs from US Kids Golf. Studies have shown that a large number of juniors develop their swings using faulty equipment that leads to lifelong swing flaws. Historically, kids learned the game with adult clubs that were cut down to junior size, but were still way too heavy and unbalanced which made learning the game difficult for even the most athletic kids. That's why equipment from companies like US Kids Golf or Accu-Length makes the most sense for junior golfers. Log onto www.USKidsGolf.com and www.acculength.com for more info.
In addition, a great new junior golf company called The Littlest Golfer has developed a great set of clubs for the very young golfers, ages 3-6. Their clubs, with a patent-pending forced grip will be ideal for the “Pee-Wee” golfers. Look for those clubs to be released very soon. Log onto www.TheLittlestGolfer.com for more information on these clubs and everything else that TLG has to offer.
Where to Play
Most golf courses are very accommodating to junior golfers. Some set aside specific times when juniors are allowed to play so be aware of that. I suggest looking for a course that offers junior or "family tees." Recently, the PGA of America and U.S. Kids Golf announced the establishment of The PGA of America Family Course Program. This program is a nationwide initiative that is intended to provide PGA Golf Professionals a means to make golf enjoyable for all members of a family, regardless of age and ability. Log on to the Play Golf America website or the US Kids Golf website for more information. We recently installed these tees at my facility in Winter Park, FL and the initial response has been extremely positive. Keep in mind that this is a new program so more and more golf facilities will be adding these tees as time goes by.
What to Wear
Now that your child has a grasp on the essence and rules of the game, has a quality instructor, good, well fitting equipment, and a place to play, they need to "dress the part" of a golfer. As with most of the major golf equipment companies, most of the major golf clothing manufacturers have junior apparel lines. I however suggest checking out a newer junior golf apparel company called The Littlest Golfer (www.TheLittlestGolfer.com). TLG has an excellent selection of shirts, hats, outerwear, and accessories for boys and girls of all ages. Their apparel is second to none in quality and the clothing is tailored specifically with children in mind.
If your junior golfer turns out to become a good golfer you need to remember to be realistic in your potential expectations for them. The quantity of quality junior golfers today is great, and in reality there are only a handful of college scholarships available for the vast number of juniors out there. If your son or daughter can make the cut on the course, make sure what they do off the course is equally as impressive. Make sure that they are true student-athletes and that their grades are up to par. Also make sure that they are well rounded and are active in extracurricular activities away from the course. This will make all the difference. From a competitive playing stand point, make sure your child plays in as many quality and high profile events as possible. Log onto the American Junior Golf Association website and the National Junior Golf Scoreboard site for more information on playing opportunities. If your son or daughter indeed has what it takes to play at the college level then you should consider using one of the several golf scholarship and resume writing services out there. I personally recommend checking out The Golf Bridge Company.
Professional Golfer vs. Golf Professional
A Professional Golfer is an individual who makes a living by playing golf (i.e. Tiger Woods) and a Golf Professional (notice the order of words) is an individual who makes a living in the business of golf.
If your son or daughter is not quite a tour quality golfer (Don't worry, very few are) there is still tremendous opportunities out there for a career in golf. The PGA of America offers an in-depth training program for those interested in a career in the golf business. The PGA Professional Golf Management Program is the vehicle needed to have your child navigate their way toward a rewarding career in the golf business. Log on to the PGA CareerNet website and go to the PGA and You section for more information. There are two ways to earn your Class A classification in the PGA of America. The first is going through the PGA PGM Program at one of the 20 universities throughout the country that offer this degree program. The second is by going through the program in a self study manor while being employed at a PGA recognized golf facility.
The 18th Hole
As you can see there are endless opportunities out there for your son or daughter within the wonderful game of golf. What I gave you is just a small sampling of the resources available to you if your child shows an interest in the game. If you have any questions on Junior Golf please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or log onto my website www.BrendonElliottGolf.com and go to the Junior Golf Central page for more information.