Kids On The Golf Course
By Snyper on 11/15/10
Matt is an opinionated* golf enthusiast from Pennsylvania. He coaches at the high school level, molding the minds and swings of our next generation. His column will appear each Monday on ClubSG. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts and opinions of Matt in the comments. Don't hold back- because Matt won't.

Though it hasn't quite reached soccer's level of popularity, having your kid start playing golf at a young age seems to be more and more popular these days. There are a lot of parents out there who play golf now and wish that they could've started when they were younger. Thus, they like to make sure that their kids get that opportunity. While that sounds like a nice idea, kids playing golf is starting to get out of control.

Golf is not basketball, it's not football, it's not baseball, and it's certainly not soccer. I don't care how athletic you think your son or daughter may be, they do not belong on the golf course until they have been properly instructed on how to play golf and how to behave on the golf course. I know, I know; we all have to start somewhere! That is very true, and that somewhere is called the driving range! It is so frustrating to see, not just kids, but people of all ages, on the golf course when they have no clue what they are doing. I’m not saying you have to be a scratch player to play 9 holes at the local muni. I’m simply saying that the golf course is not where you learn to hit a golf ball. The golf course is where you learn to play the game. And, newsflash, you can’t learn to play the game until you can hit the ball! Again, I’m not saying you should stay on the range until you can hit a 300 yard draw down the middle every time, but if you can’t hit the ball without swinging at it 3 times, you shouldn’t be on the course. This is especially true for young kids. Having a 5-year-old swing 40 times to advance the ball 100 yards does absolutely nothing good for anyone! It slows play to a grinding halt and frustrates everyone, including your youngster.
The golf swing is complicated and the worst thing that you can do to a young player is to allow them to develop bad habits.

If you want to get your son/daughter involved in golf at a young age, I say “Great”! Just, please, do it the right way. The golf swing is complicated and the worst thing that you can do to a young player is to allow them to develop bad habits. Unless you are an excellent player yourself or a certified professional, you shouldn't be the only one instructing your son or daughter on how to swing a golf club. Take the time and spend the money to get your kid a lesson or two. Go along to the lesson and take in what the pro is telling your youngster. Then, take he or she to the range as often as you can and reinforce the things that the instructor was teaching your son/daughter. This is the right way to get a kid, or even an adult who has never played before, started in the game of golf. Now, hitting the ball is only about a third of the skills involved to play the game of golf. We haven’t even mentioned chipping or putting yet. You mean people should have to know how to do that too before they start playing!? Umm, yeah. That’s exactly what I mean. In fact, anyone who knows much about golf knows that the short game is the most important part of the game. So, I would suggest that you spend even more time with your kid on the putting green. Again, make the effort to have an instructor give at least one lesson on short game to get you child off to the proper start. Then, spend plenty of time with them as they practice and learn the skills necessary to play the game properly around the green.

You don’t have to be on the golf course to have fun with your son/daughter while playing the game of golf. You can be competing in all types of drills and competitions on the putting green or driving range. You’ll have a great time, you’ll both be practicing, and nobody will be hurrying you along, yelling at you, or hitting into you! You want your kid to fall in love with golf, spend enough time practicing with them so that they are incredibly anxious to actually play. If you want to see a child succeed, give them a goal to shoot for. Tell them that they can’t play until they can complete certain drills. They’ll practice those drills until they get it right or until their hands bleed. That’s just the nature of kids when they have a goal and a desire to achieve it. You are not going to get that kind of focus and effort out of a kid when you just load up their clubs, tee up a ball, and tell them to hit it.
Just like any other sport, it’s great if you can start playing at a young age. But, unlike most other sports, you should never start learning the game of golf by playing.

Listen, I’m a high school coach. Nothing gets me more excited than when I see a 12-year-old kid who hits it like a pro. That doesn’t happen over night. Just like any other sport, it’s great if you can start playing at a young age. But, unlike most other sports, you should never start learning the game of golf by playing. There is a right and a wrong way to get into this sport for new players of every age. The right way involves getting proper instruction and practicing all parts of the game until you are ready for success on the course. Again, success does not mean shooting even par. It simply means that you can consistently advance the ball at a reasonable pace of play while being able to actually keep score. When you first take your son/daughter out to play, you may only have them play a hole or two in the evening when there is nobody else around. There’s no rule that says you have to play 18 holes. Ease them into the sport and as they get better, you let them play a little more. It’s simple, but it is crucial to the proper development of new golfers, young or old. Remember, a golf course is not a babysitter and it is not a driving range. Have some respect for the game and those who play it. You are on the course to play, not to give lessons. Lessons should be conducted on the range. Please, get your kids out there and get them swinging a golf club. But, before you take them onto the course, introduce them to the game through the proper steps.

* Matt's views and opinions are his own do not necessarily reflect those of SkyGolf.

photo source

[ comments ]
jnolan says:
NEdomer says:
I have to say that I was quite turned off by this but not at all surprised at the sentiment. It's the same feeling I get being a high handicapper and people saying I shouldn't use a GPS until I get to single digits. Trying to bring in people of different ages and groups is what is keeping your courses open when so many are folding with the choice to cut discretionary spending.

I have a 7 year old daughter and 4 year old son. We hit the driving range and enrolled in The First Tee but golf isn't just about becoming a scratch player. A lot of us golfers play for the fun of the game and the company we keep. Getting out with my kids one-on-one at the 9 hole muni gives us bonding time I will never apologize to anyone for.
NEdomer says:

We play at a reasonable pace, go when it is slow, and let people play through. It is in those moments that we discuss the etiquitte of the game and get them to relax and enjoy the game. I will always cherish those moments and actually feel bad for those who are so hung up on getting their 3 hour round complete and getting upset for others being in their way of that.

There are articles like these and people who think similarly that sometimes make me embarrassed to say I play golf. The elitist attitude that non-golfers think go along with the game are only reiterated by this train of thought.
kickntrue says:
@NEdomer- I totally get where you're coming from (except the part about a high handicapper using a GPS, I've never heard that sentiment) but I think there is a time and place for having kids on the course. It sounds like you are a respectful golfer, and mentioned you have given your children opportunities to learn the game through programs like First Tee. I think the author would agree that's the right way. I think the article could encompass more than just "kids" and really be a bit of a frustrated rant against slow play and respecting others on the course. The truth is that can happen by kids, high handicappers and low handicappers (tv-timed pre-shot routines are the worst). I'm with you though- kids need to play!
NEdomer says:
There is a golf group on LinkedIn that has 360 comments from people debating whether or not 20 handicap players benefit from GPS devices. It is pretty ugly.
drive4sho says:
Why do kids need to play? Kids used to not even be allowed on the course until they were 12 years old. There are a lot of different things to do to spend time with your kids. You don't need to be on the golf course for that purpose. And even if you are, they don't need to be playing. I used to ride and walk along with my dad all the time until I was old enough/developed enough to play. I, like most kids, was just happy to be with my dad. I didn't need to be playing. Kids don't need to play until they know how. Even then, it's far from a need.
NEdomer says:
Nobody NEEDS to play golf. I don't know if you have kids but kids want to be like their parents. Why not share something you both enjoy together if you aren't holding anyone else up? The same could apply to high handicappers then too. They take longer than scratch golfers so would you say that they/we need to caddie for people until we're good enough to go out on our own?
Angegolfer says:
My son started playing golf when he was seven. My wife and I would take him out on a Sunday afternoon for nine holes. We had him tee from 150 yds. He had a lesson before he played golf and we always spent 15 to 20 minutes puttting and chipping before our round. We taught him how to behave on a golf course and if he was taking too long to play a hole we simply picked up his ball and moved on to the next hole. Unless motivated like Tiger, kids don't want to practice. They want to play. Golf can be frustrating for kids so parents need to use some common sense when dealing with kids on a golf course. My son didn't get serious about the game untill high school. Now a college senior he's a scratch golfer. I wonder what might have been had I made him take a bunch of lessons and practice before he was ready to do it on his own. I believe the best way to introduce kids to golf is to take them golfing.
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