Much like the current campers he teaches as PGA Junior Golf Camp Director at Camelback Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona, John Stahlschmidt used to be an avid junior golfer himself.
Picking up the game from his dad when he was eight-years-old, Stahlschmidt started playing in tournaments by age 12, honing his game into good enough shape to earn a golf scholarship to the University of Alabama.
After trying to play competitively for a few years post-college, Stahlschmidt found a love for teaching and pursued his PGA membership in 2000. By 2008, he was a full-time PGA Member, working with the Tour Academy at TPC Sawgrass, and later on at TPC Scottsdale.
Last September, he began his tenure at Camelback, where he teaches all skill levels and all ages. Harking back to his junior golf days, Stahlschmidt remembers what he tended to struggle with, or what he should’ve practiced, and uses that knowledge to help the youngsters he teaches throughout the year.
Below are five tips from Stahlschmidt that he uses during summer camp to help his junior improve, placing them on a path to becoming a complete, all-around player.
1. Putting: Avoid the Three-Putt by Controlling Distance
“When it comes to putting, distance control is the No. 1 part of their games that juniors need to improve,” says Stahlschmidt.
“Too many three putts,” he adds. “You have to focus on hitting putts solid to become efficient with distance control. Practice your 10-40 foot putts more than you normally do. Try to get them within three feet of the cup, which will eliminate three putts.”
2. Driving: Focus on Balance and Tempo
“Junior golfers have a tendency to overpower the golf ball, especially when they play with others who hit it farther than they do,” notes Stahlschmidt.
“Over-swinging leads to losing control of the backswing and lower body, which will lead to yards lost off the tee. To avoid that issue, a junior golfer should focus on tempo and balance throughout the swing. The yards will come as they grow older. Getting a solid hit is what’s most important at a young age.”
3. Fitness: Play Different Sports
Although focusing on golf is good, too much of one sport can lead to burn out. “It’s important for junior golfers to play other sports when they’re younger, as the window to learn movement skills shrinks after 14,” states Stahlschmidt.
“Playing baseball, tennis, soccer, really any sport, helps them develop better fundamental movement skills, hand-eye coordination and speed. Learning those skills early on will serve them well as they get older and is one of the reasons we incorporate non-golf athletic movement into our Camps curriculum.”
4. Mentality: Separate Practice from Play
“It’s tough, but once you get on that first tee, it’s time to turn off the technical thoughts, and focus only on balance, tension levels, tempo and visualizing the target,” says Stahlschmidt.
“And remember to stay patient. Consistency in golf is a myth. I remember back in my junior golf days, I wanted to hit every shot perfect and be consistent. That’s impossible, and when you get upset and emotional about a bad shot, you’ll get a bad performance. Patience is a virtue for a reason!”
5. Scoring: Short Game, Short Game, Short Game!
Fact: 75 percent of your score is dictated by shots 100 yards and in. Which is why Stahlschmidt believes to get better scores, you need to be better at your short game.
“I highly recommend junior golfers work on pitching, chipping, bunker play and putting for 75 percent of their practice sessions,” states Stahlschmidt. “If they can get their short game sharp, scores will dramatically improve.”
And for those who believe short game practice is mundane, Stahlschmidt says to play competitive games, similar to those he uses in his weekly PGA Junior Golf Camp, that simulate on-course situations.
“Play nine-hole up-and-down contests, trying to get up and down 50 percent of the time or more,” he adds. “Hit different shots – bad lies, in the bunker, long pitches – and don’t leave until you get a certain amount up and down. There are no repercussions without end goals, so you need to make your practice sessions worth something.”
John Stahlschmidt, PGA is the Director of Instruction at Camelback Golf Club and a Camp Director for PGA Junior Golf Camps in Scottsdale, AZ. You can learn more about PGA Junior Golf Camps, held at more than 90 facilities nationwide throughout the summer, by visiting PGAJuniorGolfCamps.com or calling (888) PGA-PLAY.