The game of golf is experiencing new life as youth are discovering the excitement of a day at the course. New facilities that offer children affordable access to play the game are being constructed throughout the country and the world. This article is written for parents to offer tips on how to attract their youngsters to play this “game for a lifetime”.
Ideally, your son or daughter will approach you one day and express an interest in learning to play golf. You may have to cultivate that interest in them because you appreciate the qualities that golf embodies and want your children to share those experiences. No matter, because you, the parent, are the person who will provide access and offer encouragement to your children.
One of the keys to getting your child interested in golf is finding a program where they can get started. Select a program that nurtures their interest and stresses having fun. A visit to www.worldgolffoundation.org is a good place to start. This site has information on the latest junior golf initiatives. Included are:
The above mentioned programs cover all aspects of junior golf. The First Tee was an initiative started back in 1997 to provide affordable access to the game and also stress core values off the course. The First Tee has local chapters that have aligned with local golf courses to provide instruction and playing opportunities along with a year round curriculum. The LPGA-USGA Girls Golf Clubs have grown tremendously over the last few years and have over 300 sites while introducing more than 300,000 girls to the game. The Drive, Chip and Putt Championship is a free competition with local qualifiers in all 50 states and the finals held at Augusta National Golf Club. The PGA Junior League is a fairly new idea that brings the team aspect to golf. Played with a fun scramble format, the juniors play as a part of team and even get a golf shirt with a number on the back just like other sports. This program has seen great growth since its inception in 2011 with 170 players to over 36,000 in 2016.
As you can see, there are a lot more options for parents now than just a few years ago, but ultimately, parents are the catalyst to the growth of their child’s interest in golf. A visit to the driving range where your child and you can spend time together is an excellent way to get started. Remember that the first trip to the driving range or golf course may not even involve hitting a golf ball. A ride in the golf cart or raking the bunker may be more fun to a lot of kids at a young age. Invite some of your child’s friends along so that they associate golf with FUN. Understand that this is for your child; don’t expect to work on your game. Try not to have any expectations and or goals. Having them hit 100 balls in a row before they can leave or get their treat may reduce their interest. Basically you are there to see if they like the game and not to force them to play. When they’re done, it’s time to go. If they like it, the sessions will get longer and longer.
Many parents ask, what is the correct age to start? There isn’t one correct answer. Any age is fine as long as they are interested. Body language and attitude will let you know. A treat at the end of the visit is great. It associates golf with fun, but if you have to bribe them to go to the golf course, they may not be ready just yet.
What to do about clubs and how many? To begin, get them a putter and a wedge that were made for a kid their height. No more cut down clubs, there are many options these days made specifically for juniors. Get them a wedge because it is shorter and easier to get in the air. Once they’ve been playing a while they will want the longer clubs, but a couple of clubs is a good start. Plus, you may not want to make the investment until you see if they like the game.
Once an interest has been developed, visit your local course or Par 3. The best time for your child’s maiden voyage in golf is during non-peak hours. This means in the afternoon so that your child is not subject to the pressures of pace of play requirements of a busy facility. A good tip is to start from the green backwards. Start with a few putts from 10 feet, and then move to chipping, and then to 10 yards off the green. There are no set of tees for first timers, so don’t start at the front tees. Start close to the green and let them have some success and enjoy the game. Move them back as their game improves and they can hit the ball farther.
Sooner or later they’ll ask for help. Parents are great in the beginning, just keep it positive and don’t have any expectations. Be aware of the point when you need to look to a PGA or LPGA Professional. Not only for their golf knowledge but it’s a different relationship than your child has with you. The best way to find a junior teacher is to ask other parents who have kids playing golf. If you don’t have that option, US Kids Golf (www.uskidsgolf.com) ranks the best kids teachers in the country and you can find one near you.
One last idea is to bring your child to a professional event. It really depends on what is near your home, whether it is the PGA TOUR or a smaller event. Most big events have a kid’s clinic and some like the PGA TOUR’s Honda Classic have a kid’s day. Getting to know or even meet one of the professional can spark some interest.
As a parent your role involves two things; access and encouragement. This will pass along your love for the game. Keeping these few tips in mind will also get your child’s golf career going in the right direction.