When getting a child started playing golf, there needs to be a plan that addresses certain issues. This article will help you come up with a plan and offers advice on these topics:
- When to Start. Ideas on what you can do to determine when a youngster is ready.
- Equipment. What is necessary and what is not necessary.
- Developing Skills. Learning by watching and formalized instruction.
- Playing Partners. Getting friends involved is vital.
- Courses to Play. What to look for in courses that are best for juniors.
- Parental Involvement. Thing parents need to do and thing parents need to avoid.
- Helpful Resources. Organizations that can help a junior golfer get started.
1. When to Start. Dave Kendall, director of the Kendall Academy at Miles of Golf, feels the time to start is when the child appears interested in playing. I know of some youngsters, besides Tiger, that are totally taken by the game at a very early age, like 3 or 4 years of age. For most youngsters this is too young with most starting in the 8-12 range. For some, the right time is never because they just have no interest in the game. I am convinced that at a very early age most of us know sports we like and sports we do not like. Things you might do to help determine when and if a youngster should start are:
a. Take them to a golf tournament or watch golf on TV to see good players playing the game.
b. Give them an opportunity to hit a golf ball without giving them your ideas on how it should be done. Just let them try it.
c. Take them to a course and have them watch you play. Let them hit some shots.
If there seems to be an interest, you need to make a plan that addresses equipment, playing partners, courses to play, and lessons.
2. Equipment. The equipment to get started need not be a big expense. You can get a junior set that includes a bag and enough clubs for $80-$200. These sets will start with a lofted wood, a mid iron, short iron, and putter. Most companies have three sizes of junior clubs depending on the youngster’s height. The biggest company in junior golf, US Kids Golf, has 9 sizes. If a junior is on the fence about playing, even one or two clubs are plenty to get started. I personally would rather see a youngster with a few clubs that are the right size and moderately priced versus a full set of expensive clubs that are too big or too small. Golf is a hard game to learn and clubs that are not the right size can make it impossibly hard. When just starting things like golf shoes and gloves are not essential.
3. Developing Skills. Most youngsters learn athletics at a young age by mimicking what they see. Give a kid detailed instruction about the golf swing and watch their eyes glaze over and their excitement about the game fade away. If a child watches good players, most times they will pick up the game in the same natural way kids learn, by watching and trying. I like this plan. Take a child to a golf tournament, and it really does not matter if it is a junior tournament, professional, or amateur. Then take them to a range or course and let them hit shots saying little or nothing to them about how to hit the ball. My stomach gets upset when I think of all the bad golf advice I have heard given to a child from a parent. Probably the best formalized instruction for a child getting started is to have the person they will be playing with have a lesson so the child will have something good to emulate. At some point, if a child is interested in the game, you should consider formalized instruction. There are plenty of good programs in the Ann Arbor area that offer juniors instruction. See 7. Helpful Resources for information on instruction in the area.
4. Playing Partners. If a child is going to become a good player and enjoy the game, the most important thing that must happen is that he or she has buddies to play with. Parents or grandparents are OK, but they must also have golfing buddies their age. If you have one priority in getting a kid started, this is it. Get a group of kids interested in the game playing with each other and developing friendships and rivalries.
5. Courses to Play. The “best” courses in the area may not be the best place for junior golfers to get started. In the Ann Arbor area, many of the best junior players started playing at Georgetown, Huron Hills, and Brookside. What makes them good is that they are not real difficult so a young golfer can be successful relatively early in their playing career and they become accustom to shooting good scores. At these courses, kids “rule”. They can play in relative equality to adults and they can play a ton for not much money.
6. Parental Involvement. As mentioned, I am not crazy about parents giving their child golf instruction. Parents need to give thought to developing the plan for getting a child started in golf. As far as playing with your child, here are some suggestions: (1) Let them play without a lot of helpful hints or instructions. (2) Sometimes go out with your child and act as a caddie, letting your child be the boss and having the joy of being the center of attention of a parent. (3) If you play with your child, use limited flight golf balls so everyone hits it about the same distance. Almost Golf makes my favorite limited flight balls. (4) Set up your own course. It may be only 2 holes and you may tee off 100 yards from the green.
7. Helpful Resources.
a. Kendall Academy – offers after school, spring break camp, summer camp, beginner clinics, and private lessons. http://www.milesofgolf.com/kendall.html
b. City of Ann Arbor – offers junior golf programs through the City Recreation Department. www.a2golf.org
c. First Tee – a national organization teaching kids golf plus life values. http://www.thefirsttee.org/Club/Scripts/Home/home.asp
d. Michigan PGA – tournaments and instructional programs. http://www.michiganpgagolf.com/junior-golf/
e. Kensington Junior Tour http://www.kensingtonjuniorgolf.com/
f. Callaway Junior Tour http://cjrtour.com/
g. Meijer Junior Golf Tour (Ages 7—19) http://meijer.juniorgolf.org/
I really appreciate your points about parental involvement in golf. At the end of the day, golf is meant to be enjoyable. And being constantly instructed by a parent will almost certainly increase stress. The helpful resources is also a wonderful addition, many parents don’t know where to look for junior golf tours.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts. My husband and I golf as well as our son. Our grandson who is 6 loves to golf with us and asked for clubs for his birthday. So we bought him a small set of junior clubs and he loves that he has his own clubs. He has been practicing so that when our son, who is stationed in Japan returns, we can all go golfing and he can show his dad how much he has improved.
Our grandson is a loud talker so being on the golf course has helped him find his quieter voice. The main thing we teach him is Golf Etiquette all the rest will come with time.
Wonderful to hear how golf is adding to your family life.
Wonderful article. Golf is a sport of accuracy.
I really like how you said to just let them try it before you try and coach them. Anything can be made unfun if there’s an overbearing instructor trying to tell you how to do everything. If you’re allowed to get into it yourself and then get tips on how to do it better afterward, you’re a lot more likely to enjoy it. I can’t wait until I learn to golf better!
Great article. when I was 7 my sister got me started. I enjoyed that day. you mad great point about whenever your child starts golf.
Wonderful article! I completely agree that golf is perfect to get the kiddies playing. It really is a tough game to master, but does wonders for you. The kids are outside in the sunshine, not so dangerous and pushes their mind and mental abilities.However, I would recommend to never bother buying new clubs for younger players. The extra cost is rarely worth the price.
Ernie, as you probably are aware, we sell new and used golf club including junior clubs. I agree that new clubs for a junior are not necessary but getting the right clubs is essential. You are dooming a kid to failure if they have clubs that are not the right length or are too heavy. I am not sure why this is the case, but we rarely get used junior clubs in our golf shop, so finding the right fit in junior clubs can be a challenge.
Thanks for this great article on getting a child started playing golf. I think you made a great point about whenever your child starts golf that they need golf clubs that are appropriately sized for them. It’s also nice that you suggest that things like golf clubs and shoes are not essential when they are young. I will have to consider what we can do to get my son started with golf this school semester.
Great article. My dad got me started when I was 6, and I really enjoyed getting out once a week and playing 9 holes with my dad and my brother. My son just turned 5, and he had expressed some interest, so I’ve been taking him to the course behind our house every week or so to play a couple holes. You’re spot on about not giving formal instruction to a small kid – he just wants to watch me and then “do it on his own” – like so many other things with kids that age. I agree that the main thing is just to try to make it enjoyable, and the kid will want to play more and more, and it might become a good way to spend father-son time together.