How to Introduce Your Child to Golf
Thinking of getting your child into golf? Whether you want to start them in competitions or just have them join you on the green, here's some advice how to go about it.
There are so many reasons golf is an amazing sport and great activity for your child. More than just a golf swing or hitting a ball into a hole, playing the game well takes mental toughness, confidence, positive self-talk, and many other character-building skills. Your child will learn how to control their emotions, perfect their golf swing and short game disciplines, manage the golf course, and how to improve on their mistakes.
From a young age to the high school level, there is never a bad time to get started in the sport and there are many ways to get involved in the game. Organizations such as the Junior Golf Association, The First Tee, and the PGA of America are all dedicated to taking your junior to a higher level of success and to enable them to get the most enjoyment out on the golf course. With some equipment, investments in learning the elements of the game, and a great attitude, your child could also grow in this lifelong sport. Perhaps at no other time in its history has golf been as inclusive, focused on the family, and had as many avenues for any junior to excel at the sport.
Starting New at Golf
A great way to get a young child into learning the basic concepts of the game—how to swing a golf club, align a ball to a target, and putt with a good stroke—is through Starting New At Golf or the SNAG system. Using soft golf balls, lighter clubs with larger hitting areas, and a focus on the fundamentals of swing technique, this approach to learning the game is a fantastic way to let your child begin to absorb the body motions and thought process needed to be successful. Programs are often available at a local golf course or offered during a lunch break at your kids’ elementary school.
Even for the junior golfer, there are endless options in golf equipment and accessories to get them started or to fill any need they encounter after they have been developing their golf game for a while. Not every item and club are required at first—just a few essentials are needed to be able to attend a clinic, practice on the driving range, or play a few short holes on the golf course.
Brands such as US Kids and Tour Edge use a color code system for each height group to make it easy for you to determine the right set for your child. Getting the right length of clubs, the right flex, and right weight is much more critical than getting a set of new clubs. Often, by going to your local Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, you can find the proper-length set that will work just as good as a brand-new set, but for a much lower price. Here are the necessary clubs and equipment they will need to start.
A Wood or Driver
Everyone, including juniors, wants to see the golf ball go high and far. Most kids also want to swing the club back as far as they can and swing as hard as they can. With a driver or 3-wood, they can tee the ball up and learn to swing through the ball in a good way. Also, having this club enables them to learn how to tee the ball on the tee box and learn the rules and etiquette related to this area of the golf course.
1 or 2 Irons
These clubs are shorter in length than woods, need to be hit off the ground, and hitting them well is a requirement to play good golf. Higher-lofted irons, such as a 7 or 9-iron, are typically available in most beginner junior sets to assist them in getting the ball up in the air. Some sets for older kids also come with a long iron to give them one other iron shot from longer distances that will not fly as high. Hitting the ball up in the air is exhilarating for younger golfers and a big confidence booster, so be sure to have one high-lofted club in their golf bag.
Every junior golf set includes a putter, and it is a must-have to play a round and learn the sport. Putting is a critical part of the game and tough for kids to do well, so young golfers should spend most of their time at practice working on how to be good at putting. Typically, most junior putters are made to have good alignment lines, proper weighting, and more forgiving elements built into them.
Putting these basic clubs in a junior golf bag with a few golf tees and lower-priced, low-spinning golf balls is all it really takes to get them out playing the game and having a fun experience. I cannot stress enough how important having clubs that are the proper length, flex, and weight for them is to their development in the game. I have seen clubs so long and heavy for the child that the clubs end up swinging them around, causing their frustration to mount. Getting them started does not need to cost a ton, but having the right equipment they can succeed with is paramount to positive first impressions of the golf swing. As they improve and express more interest, there are as many club options and accessories as Legos for their game. But these basics will be fine to get them out playing.
The Golf Swing
Getting the right equipment for your child is just the beginning. Learning how to swing the golf clubs is critical to their growth in the game and the enjoyment they get from it. Golf balls are not soft and tend to go far off their intended line, even for adults, so finding a good place for them to get instruction and practice is extremely helpful for their progress. From private instruction to larger clinics or golf camps, your local golf course or performance center should have some type of avenue available for your child to learn the basics of the golf swing and game. Contact your local PGA Professional for more information.
The Rules and Etiquette
One profoundly character-building aspect of the game of golf is that there are no referees, no one watching to make sure you are playing honestly and honorably. Behaving this way is incumbent on every golfer and teaches your child about integrity. Though the rule book in golf is a bit thick, the important rules, which are encountered most often, are easily understandable and taught in any PGA clinic or Junior Program. The USGA also provides pocketbook rule books and there is an app to get quick rulings on situations they come across on the golf course. Knowing where to find the rules and learning how they can be used to one’s advantage is an important element of the game.
Up to four people per group and possibly hundreds of golfers per day play on any given golf course. Understanding and displaying proper etiquette is crucial to keep to the pace of play, staying out of other player's way, and leaving the golf course in as good condition as you found it. From basic behaviors such as remaining quiet while another player swings, to fixing a divot, these points of etiquette are all essential to having a relaxed time out on the golf course and being a good steward of the game. Again, most PGA Junior Clinic and Camps go over these needed attributes to a positive player.
There is more focus on junior golfers than at any other time in golf’s history, with most courses providing available times and ways to get involved in the game of golf. Whether your child is interested in playing alone in golf tournaments, prefers a more relaxed team environment, or just wants to play for fun, golf courses are more geared than ever to offer juniors a place to grow their games. Check your local Junior Golf Association website for tournament dates and locations for your child to challenge other juniors in a traditional stroke play event.
PGA Junior League Golf
If your child is not quite to that level, the PGA offers Junior League Golf, which is a fantastic way to learn the game in a relaxed, social environment that is both fun and educational. Teams are created at each golf course in your city and play against each other in a two junior, alternate shot format that keeps each player engaged while encouraging great play from their partner and team. Competing for three flags or points over nine holes, this format lowers stress as the game is spread over six to eight spring weekends and allows them to play each team’s course, exposing them to great golf all over your area. If they are successful, they may find themselves playing for the national PGA JLG Championship.
Master’s Drive, Chip, and Putt
Testing all the new skills your junior will be learning is always a fun time. While it can be slightly stressful with many eyes watching, a skills challenge can be a great way for any junior to show off what they have learned under a little pressure. Set up at a golf course location in any city, the Master’s Drive, Chip, and Putt tests these three disciplines against other juniors in varying age groups. Make sure your junior golfer practices ahead of time, as qualifying juniors move on to the next round. If they keep advancing, they get the opportunity to go to Augusta and play on the world’s greatest stage the week of the Masters!
If they just want to get out and play a round of golf, executive courses that are not regulation length are great places to have them tee it up. If you decide to take them to a full 18-hole course, don’t be afraid to move them up to the forward tee boxes to get more enjoyment from the day, and be careful of peak times when the pace of play is supposed to be fast.
Introducing your child to golf means exposing them to a powerful game they will enjoy for years and years to come. Hopefully, these ideas will help you and your child get started. I was a junior golfer and in my 19-year career as a PGA Professional, I have coached Junior League Golf teams, built a Junior Golf Program for Navy families, and introduced my own child to the game. Using my own experiences, I will be writing a series of articles on the junior golfer, their challenges, and tools to navigate growing in the game. Check back here at Curated for more information as they move forward with their golf swings.
Golf is endless. Golfing legend, Bobby Jones summarizes the sport well: “No one will ever have golf under their thumb. No round will ever be so good it could not have been better. Perhaps that is why it is the greatest of games. You are not playing a human adversary, you are playing a game. You are playing Old Man Par.”