I love golf. And I’m lucky that it’s a sport that my wife and I get to enjoy regularly with each other. So any chance we get – we share our love of golf with our son. This article is meant as a guide to get your kids golfing too.
“Let’s keep it real – Golf could be a very boring and slow sport for a kid coming to the golf course for the first time” says LPGA teaching professional Michelle Holmes. It’s really no wonder you don’t see golf courses full of young kids. But unlike many other sports, golf is a game that can be enjoyed for an entire lifetime.
If you are wondering what techniques you might be able to use to get your kids started in golf, you have come to the right place.
I interviewed two amazing golf professionals who have both dedicated much of their careers to growing the game of golf with kids. All while making it a fun and enjoyable experience.
Carly Peister, a Canadian golf teaching professional at Merry-Hill Golf Club. Who’s mission is to “bring back the fun to golf”. As a US Kids Golf certified coach she’s a huge supporter of junior golf. She puts a particular focus on making sure they have fun first and learning proper golf techniques second.
Michelle Holmes, the Director of Instruction Michelle Holmes School of Golf in Virgina. A U.S Kids Golf Master Professional and a top 50 U.S. Kids instructor. Her programs are structured so that everyone from the beginner to the advanced player can get involved.
Their first swings
As I mentioned before, one of my favorite things to do is take my son to the course with me. Even if the only thing he really wants is to help drive the cart, having him on the course with me is fulfilling in a new way.
Get them on the golf course, walking around and seeing how beautiful it is.
I heard a great bit of advice once about how to introduce a child to the game; let them choose what golf means to them. If they pick the ball up and throw it, that’s golf. If they roll it or kick it into the hole, that’s golf. If they run down the middle of the fairway while you chase them with the golf cart, that’s golf. Maybe one day they will even pick up a club (plastic or real) and swing at the ball! But first let them create those positive associations with the course and the game.
Should I get them a set of kids golf clubs?
We’ve heard the stories of Earl cutting down some old clubs for his son Tiger Woods – but this isn’t the late 70s. Holmes says “Too many children use clubs that are too long, too stiff and too heavy”. It’s important to start them out on the right foot. “When a child plays with clubs that fit, he or she is able to develop consistent swings that will stay with them forever”. And isn’t that what we all want, A forever love of the game?
But don’t limit your child to what some might call “regular” golf clubs. Carly loves the idea of oversized club heads like SNAG (Starting New At Golf). Their launcher helps kids get the ball airborne easily which means more fun!
Too many children use clubs that are too long, too stiff and too heavy… remember they should grow out of their clubs, not into them.
You are their first golf coach
Golf is a very tough sport, you likely know this first hand experience. It’s easy to get discouraged. So as a parent it’s so important to control your emotions. Remember that kids will always imitate their parent’s behaviors. Any outburst of frustration will quickly be replayed for you from their perspective.
“You want your child to look back on their junior golf experience with a smile”.
Sometimes it’s also important to take a step back and “allow [your] child to develop their own passion and work ethic for the game” says Peister. And when your child comes of age “let the right person teach your child. Sometimes it is you, sometimes it’s a professional, and sometimes it’s a mix of the two.” says Holmes.
But most of all Peister says “You want your child to look back on their junior golf experience with a smile”.
Make kids golf easier
Kids like to succeed. So why not make kids golf easier for them to do so? But there isn’t much that you can do with making the golf swing easier but you can make it easier to hit a ball and get it into a hole.
I already mentioned SNAG. The oversized launcher and roller make it so much easier to make contact with the balls. Plus the targets are large and covered in velcro.
Another great thing that I have witnessed first had at Merry-Hill is one of their 9-hole courses has larger golf holes cut into each great. It’s amazing the difference a 6-inch hole can make!
Game-ify the game of kids golf
It’s no secret that kids like to play games. Look at play-based-learning. When kids play games they experience enjoyment, pleasure of achieving goals, and challenges and frustration.
Next time you are on the practice green with your child, try these favorites from Carly Golf. They help them learn distance control and aiming without them even realizing.
Closest to the line
On the practice green, set up two tees to create an imaginary line. Bonus points if you tie a string to those tees to create an actual line.
With either a chipping club or a putter, have your child hit shots towards the line. Trying to get as close as possible to it.
A more advanced version of closest to the line would be to set up a Tic-Tac-Toe board with tees and string.
With the board set up, play a game with your child and see who can putt their balls into the board and wins
Resources to get started
For kids in the United States, the U.S Kids Golf website is a great resource for finding junior coaches. Go to www.uskidsgolf.com and type in your zip code under the coaches section.
“U.S Kids Golf offer a variety of clubs in different weights and lengths specific to the child’s height and swing speed” says Holmes.
In Canada, why not take your child to the course for free. A great program that is run is called KidsPlayGolf.ca. On the site they have a listing of all participating courses.
Just get out there!
So the next time you are about to head to the course. See if they want to tag along. You might be surprised by how it increases your enjoyment of the game. Even better – they might surprise you when they ask YOU to go golfing… I know I was!
That’s it… I’m pulling the pin
This year started with so much promise. Everything was pointing towards a great season on the greens. Least of which I wasn’t going to be pulling the pin because the new rule that would allow leaving the flagstick in the hole.
See I’m a big believer of the scientific method, so when I saw these results from the guys at MyGolfSpy, it was clear to me. The pin stays in!
But here is what the test missed. These results assume that you hit the hole/pin.
Now it’s not all bad. Anecdotally I think not pulling the pin has helped with my lag putting. The pin gives me a much better target to aim for and get my first putt nice and close. Well, maybe close enough, or what should be considered close enough. But more on that next. So, for now, I will continue to leave the pin in for longer putts.
But here’s the rub. When I am faced with a 3-5 foot putt I have been missing way too many. And I think I know why… or at least it’s what I have come to believe. When I stand over a short putt the goal is to hit the back of the cup with a confident stroke. However, when the pin is in I think subconsciously I fell I need to now enter one of the sides because the hole seems to look a little smaller.
I’ve never been a lights out putter but I tended to still average around 1.9 putts per hole. In 2018 I average 34 putts / round. But this year I’m at about 37 putts / round. not
Putts Per Round
For a more concrete example, let’s looks at my recent club championship rounds where I left the pin in for almost every putt. Hoping that it would give me a competitive advantage. Instead I now believe it may have been a competitive disadvantage.
In the 2 day tournament I shot rounds of 77 and 78. It both rounds I played fairly well tee to green. But in round two when I shot a 78 I was lights out. Hitting 92% of fairways and 78% (14) greens.
Looking at these numbers it would be easy to assume that the first putt lengths were longer. And that might be right, but when looking at my second putts there were usually 3 feet. In my opinion, well within the range of must make. If I could just hit the hole, as the MyGolfSpy data suggested.
Of course it must be taken into account that these putts weren’t always flat. But each time I felt like I hit a good put but I would constant lip out. 5 times in fact, in the second round. And 4 times in the first. But it was certainly more pronounced (read, aggravating) in the second.
Moving forward I'm pulling the pin... sometimes
I have and still find it helpful to leave the pin in for long putts. So I going to remain leaving the pin in there. If not just to speed up play like the USGA had originally intended.
On short putts of around 3-5 feet I will be pulling the pin from now on. Right or wrong, this will be my latest experiment to see if I can turn this bus around. #no3putts
Golf Practice: How do you Practice, Block or Random?
As they say “Golf practice makes perfect”. But what do you want to be perfect at? Start practicing the with the goal of being you best at the course.
Recently I had a conversation on Instagram about why it’s so hard to transition from the range to the course. Many people think golf practice is going to the range and banging balls until you have blisters. The trick I have found is to practice my golf game smarter and not harder.
In the world of golf practice there are two main types of practice. Block and random and each has their place and are both effective.
Block Golf Practice (AKA bashing balls)
When I was going through swing changes last year my coach talked to me about two kinds of practice. When you are trying to get a feeling you have to keep doing the same thing over and over. That is block practice. He gave me a good example, to illustrate the point.
He asked me
Admittedly this math problem is way more
Once you have the right feels, you have to transition them to the golf course.
Random Golf Practice
When you are playing golf, how many times do you typically hit the same club and the same shot back to back? Save for a penalty or a bad shot, the likely answer is once.
Have you ever heard “Practice the way you play”? I grew up hearing my Dad say those words over and over.
So if you want to get your game ready for the course, why wouldn’t you practice with random distances, shots and clubs.
Practice the way you play.
How I Practice
When I have an hour of practice, this is how I like to break it up.
- 5 minutes – Warm up with half swings usually with a 7 or 8 iron
- 15 minutes – Block practice with odd or even irons
- 10 minutes – Block practice with Driver or Fairway wood
- 10 minutes – Block practice with wedges
- 20 minutes – Random practice game (See details below)
Random Practice Games
During random practice, you can certainly just pick yardages and try to hit it. But you want to be able to track your progress. That is why I created a skills challenge game. It not only helps me track progress and find strengths and weaknesses, but it also puts a little pressure on me to perform well. Because this way each shot matters.
While I do have access to a GC2 launch monitor it’s not tied to the new FSX software. So I have to track my progress on my own. But it’s pretty simple.
The main point is to pick a number of increasing or decreasing shot lengths. For me I go with the following:
20, 40, 60, 100, 120, 150, 165, 180, 200, 215, 230, 240+ (Driver)
Like the FSX Skills challenge, I give myself 5 points for being with 5 yards of the target, 3 points for 10 yards, 1 point for 15 yards, 0 for anything outside of 15 yards.
I have found this process extremely useful in taking my game from the range to the course. Hopefully you find the same.
To help track I have created a downloadable
Skills Challenge Tracker
You might not have access to the FSX Skills Challenge, but that doesn’t mean we can’t track your practice in the same way.
This Google Spreadsheet gives you the ability to take launch monitor data for total distance and distance offline to measure your accuracy at a given distance.