Golf is a great game, however, the sport is also all-to-often associated more with an older (and often retired) crowd than it should be. That stereotype is not without it’s merits either, after all, many of the requirements of the game, such as patience and remaining quiet while others are playing, are not exactly traits that come naturally to most kids. For those and many other reasons even the most-passionate golfer may choose to leave his or her child at home until they are old enough to handle everything that comes along with going to the golf course.
So, should you follow this same pattern and just keep your kids away from the course for the time being? Not necessarily.
While young children probably aren’t going to be ready for a full 18-hole round right off the bat, there are ways that you can introduce them to this great game without intruding on the experience of others at the course. With that said, here are a few ways to teach your kids to play golf and set them on a path towards a lifetime of enjoyment with the game.
Like anything else, it is best to teach your kids how to play golf in small doses. There is a lot to learn when getting started in golf, and all of that information can be overwhelming even for an adult, let alone a young child.
If you think you are going to simply take your kid to the driving range and teach them everything you know about the game, think again. Instead, you should work on just small parts of the game, so that they can learn one piece at a time at their own pace.
A lot of parents make the mistake of starting by taking their kids right to the driving range as soon as they are young enough to swing a club, but a wise decision might be to start with the putting green instead. The putting stroke (although difficult to master) is something that can be understood and replicated by a small child a lot quicker and more easily than a full swing. Starting off with a few fun “games” on the putting green can be a great way to hold your child’s interest while at the same time giving them a taste for the game.
If they take to the game naturally, you might be able to teach them quite quickly. If not, you will need to be patient and only give them information when you are sure they are ready to take it.
Get Them the Right Equipment
Adult clubs that have been cut down to kid length are not a great way to get started in the game. The club heads from an adult set are going to weigh too much for a young child to handle, so the clubs will be very difficult for them to swing, even with the shortened shafts.
If you are serious about introducing your child to golf, buy them a set of clubs that have been specifically designed for kids. You don’t need to break the bank, or even buy a full 14-club set, just get them a few clubs that are the proper length and weight so they will be able to have fun hitting balls on the range without trying to lug around an adult-weight golf club.
When you buy kids clubs, purchase a set that it is a little too long currently so they will be able to grow into them over the next year or two. Be sure to check out our Guide to Youth Golf Clubs for more equipment suggestions in every age group.
Taking a trip to the driving range once a year isn’t going to do anything in terms of teaching your kids how to play the game—or spark any sustained interest in the game for that matter.
While they don’t need to go every day, you should aim for a somewhat consistent pattern of trips to the driving range and/or putting green so they can build on what they learn each time. Even going to the range once a month may be enough to allow them to build their swing mechanics over time. Of course it should go without saying that you should always respond to them and find out how much they are enjoying learning the game and how often they would like to go to the driving range to practice—forcing their involvement will only breed resentment.
Even if your child never excels at the game making time for consistent outings will be excellent for their mental and physical health and also has the potential to create memorable family bonding opportunities.
Get Professional Help
Even if you are rather knowledgeable about the golf swing, it’s still a good idea to take your child for a lesson or two when they are first getting started. If you can find a golf teacher in your area who specializes in working with kids, sign them up for a lesson just so they can hear some golf instruction from a new voice.
As a parent, you won’t have the same impact as someone who they have never met. Plan on staying with your child during the lesson so that they feel comfortable, but hang out in the background and let the golf teacher do what they do best.
Another option is to look for golf camps which are usually run during the summer months. Camps are great because they often give children the opportunity to play and interact with professionals in a group rather than feeling the pressure of a one-on-one situation. Another benefit of golf camps is that it just may help your child make new friends who share their interest in the sport.
Make It Fun
As an adult, you might like to take your game seriously—perhaps even a bit too seriously at times—but it is doubtful your child will want to do the same. Embrace the fun of the game and make sure they are enjoying their time on the driving range or out on the course.
Give them little goals that they can work toward so they will feel accomplished as they start to improve. For example, you could challenge them to hit the ball past a certain sign on the driving range, challenge them to finish a hole in less than 10 strokes on the course, or even sink a 5ft putt on the practice green. Make these goals mildly challenging but also attainable, and they will likely want to keep striving for more and more milestones.
Pick Quiet Times
Kids can feel pressure at the golf course when it is crowded, even if you are only hitting balls on the driving range. To create a relaxed environment in which they can thrive, head to the range, practice green, or the course during quiet times whenever possible.
Afternoons are typically quieter than mornings, and weekdays are great if you have the flexibility in your schedule to make it happen. Once they get a little bit older and gain some experience, you and your child will feel more comfortable heading to the course during busier times of the day.
Golf is for Everybody
Golf is actually a great game for kids, as long as they are introduced to it in the right way. Golf teaches kids to be responsible, to work hard, to play fair, and to reach for their goals. There is a lot to like about what golf can do for your child, and most kids take to the game naturally when given a chance.
Remember, it is important to keep golf in perspective for both you and your child. It is a game, and it should be treated as such. If you and your child aren’t having fun while at the range or the course, something is wrong.
Maintain a relaxed attitude toward the game and you may find that playing golf with your child becomes one of your favorite activities.
Cover Photo by Child Advocacy Center on Flickr