So your son or daughter turns to you and says, "Hey, I want to learn to play golf." What should be your next step?
PGA Professional Kevin Weeks, Director of Instruction at Cog Hill Country Club in Lemont, Ill., is a top teacher of junior golfers, and he offers four suggestions that will provide a positive experience that could lead to a lifetime of enjoyment.
1. Let the child decide
When are children ready to learn to play golf? When they ask to try it, Weeks said.
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"Whenever they want to learn, that's when you start them," he said.
2. Start small and work your way up
Don't expect your child to understand the mechanics of the full swing right off the bat. Instead, Weeks said, start with a club that allows the child to make contact, like a short iron.
"I'm a big fan of teaching little wedges to start with, hitting shots around the green," Weeks said. "Then after practicing that, a little full swing and then a little putting."
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If you do take your child onto the course, make the experience as positive as possible. Let them play from places that allow them to gain experience without becoming frustrated.
"Play them very short, even if it's too short. That's OK," Weeks said. "That way if they hit a decent drive and a decent iron, they can be on the green. And then as they get better, you can back them up."
3. Leave them wanting more
Learning anything can be overwhelming, especially for younger children. So even if they're enjoying the experience, be cognizant of their limits.
"The big thing I tell all parents when they're starting their kids playing golf, is always leave the golf course before the kids are ready to," Weeks said. "Don't make them stay. Make them leave, so then they'll want to come back."
One of his students plays three holes with a parent. Then they go and get ice cream.
4. Find a PGA Professional who fits your needs and expectations
Your child has caught the golf bug. How do you find the right instructor to grow that interest? Weeks said don't be afraid to inquire as to how much experience they have with younger golfers.
"Look to find ones who are teaching juniors, and ones who are teaching a lot of them," Weeks said. "Do they teach younger kids? Do they have groups of them? Do they know how to communicate with younger golfers?"
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In his case, he'll offer a consultation for parents, giving them an opportunity to see the facility and allow them to see if there's a good fit.
"If they want to come out, I walk them through what I have going at our place," Weeks said. "I let the kids do what the kids do. And I show the parents around and tell them, 'Hey, this is what we do.' I want to see if they're interested and if the personalities mesh."
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