Getting Kids on the Course
Updated: Jan 7, 2020
If you love the game of golf, there’s even more joy in sharing it with family and friends. Perhaps even better? Sharing your passion for the game with your children or grandchildren. Golf is a game you can play at any age, with players of all ages, for a lifetime. And what could be more rewarding than helping the young people in your life become part of your family foursome? Plus, it’s a great way to promote a healthy, active lifestyle.
Many people have said, in various ways, that golf is like life. It teaches patience, honor, sportsmanship, humility, tenacity, how to rebound from a bad break, how to win and lose with grace, self-awareness, empathy and so much more.
The Reason They Call it ‘Playing’ When introducing young people to the game of golf, there’s one principle that so many adults forget, and it’s perhaps more important than any other: Play is essential. Think of the unbridled joy you see in the face of a baby who just took their first steps. Or the excited way kids experience their first visit to a sandy beach or snowy mountain with all their senses. They are learning, but it is joyful, unselfconscious learning. They aren’t afraid of failure, and at an early age they aren’t really even focused on any particular outcome.
Annika Sorenstam picked up the game of golf at age 12, when she split a set of clubs with her sister. Annika got the odd numbered irons, while Charlotta had the evens. But the two girls had grown up watching their parents play golf while they entertained themselves playing soccer on the range, diving into ponds for balls and riding their parents’ pull carts like horses. See the connection?
Few of us would object if our offspring grew up to be the next Arnold Palmer or Annika Sorenstam. But adding too much pressure or complexity too soon can take the fun away for many kids. Golf terminology can be confusing, even for adults who are learning to play. Speak in a way that makes sense to kids. The lesson here? Keep it light and relatively simple, especially when a child or young person is first learning.
Many teachers and experts say putting is a great place to start. And when they begin to learn to swing a club, make sure they know a proper grip and setup. Keep things fun, entertaining and incorporate games and variety. It’s also important to make sure that when they do begin to play, they have age-appropriate equipment. For toddlers, that’s likely plastic balls and clubs. You don’t have to spend a ton of money right away. Many second-hand sports stores sell kids’ and junior clubs, and some youth programs rent or loan them. Remember, baby steps.
Passion vs Obsession
Getting kids hooked on the game may take a while. While Annika Sorenstam grew up around golf, she focused more on skiing and tennis until she was 16, and then decided on her own that golf was her main sport.
Early on, let kids play in 20-minute spurts, followed by a reward of ice cream or another favorite treat. And always keep things positive. It will keep practice from feeling like a chore and help them develop a love for the game on their own terms.
Try to find times to practice when the course is less busy, or look for courses that prioritize times for children and families to play. Few things will deter kids faster than other golfers becoming impatient because they are playing too slow. Except for … a parent or teacher who gets “tunnel vison” and puts success in the game above all else. Again, ultimately having your child become a professional golfer or earn a scholarship would be great. But that’s a lot of pressure to put on young shoulders, and it can easily turn into avoidance or even refusal to practice or play.
In the long run, the goal is to teach them to enjoy the game with friends, family and best of all you, as their lifelong playing partner.