Working With Kids
There’s tons of talk about the future of golf, declining participation, the state of the game, etc. Most of it is doom and gloom, as rounds are down, courses are having trouble or even closing, and the equipment industry seems somewhat alarmed. To me, the future of the game lies in the youth. We need to find a way to make golf cool, and as much fun as the entertainment alternatives these kids can choose from in today’s world. Golf is competing with the team sports – little league, soccer, etc., as well as the movies, video games, hanging at the mall . . . It’s a tough sell, to be honest.

But the fun begins when a kid hits that shot that just flies dead true. Or a putt or chip that goes in the hole. And if we can just find a way to make it as social for the kids the team sports, we’ll begin to win the battle.

I’ve always felt like the “low hanging fruit” is with the kids whose parents or grandparents already play, a member of a club or regular at a public course. The First Tee is admirable, I’ll admit, but if we can’t get the country club kids to embrace golf, what chance do we have on the fringes?

I’ve spent some time with a few of our young players and am always excited when I see them have an “ah ha” moment. You can see the thrill in their faces when that drive or iron shot flies true, or that chip nestles close to the hole, or they drain a few 8-10 footers in a row on the putting green.

I showed one of our young lady future stars a little change to her takeaway a couple of weeks ago and she goes out and shoots her career low 36-hole score and wins the district tournament! She placed second in regional the next week.

A 14-year-old son of a friend, who’s and also a tennis player, just needed to be shown that this is a left-handed game, and toning back the use of his right hand was the key. Boom. Longer, straighter drives, crisper iron shots and golf is back in his equation of serious application of time and interest.

One of our members has a young son who will spend hours chipping and putting. He’s eaten up with it, so I built him a sand wedge that fits, showed him how to use it and his whole world changed. The smile and excitement was worth a fortune!

Golf has tough competition for these kids’ attention. Some say the game moves too slowly. C’mon, baseball offers the kid 2-3 at bats and maybe 3-4 uses of his glove in 2 hours. That’s a long way from fast-paced excitement. Soccer has them running around for an hour or more, maybe getting a few kicks in, but seeing very few scores. That’s edge-of-the-seat stuff?

What we need in golf is a true team approach for the kids, especially the little ones. How about scramble format, instead of playing their own ball? Give them teammates to cheer along. How about a “kids’-only” green and hole in front of all the bunkers and away from the water, with a cup that is 6-8”in diameter? Why should a kid, or any beginner for that matter, have to navigate the same protected green, with its fast and breaking putts, and damn small hole as we accomplished players do?

But one of the things that I think also draws kids to these sports is the dedicated attention they get from the adult coaches. Kids crave attention and acknowledgement. So, when you see some kids at the course this weekend, take the time to for them, maybe give them a tip or two, a new ball, one of your old clubs – something simple. Encouragement is what they need, so let’s be the mentors and supporters for these kids. Golf will make them better students, friends, sons and daughters, grown men and women.

That’s what I think.
The Wedge Guy is sponsored by SCOR Golf, where Terry Koehler is President/CEO. He encourages you to submit your questions or topics to be considered for his columns on Tuesdays and Fridays. Each submission automatically enters you to win a SCOR4161 wedge to be given away monthly. Click the button below to submit your question or topic today.

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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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