By Jordan Fuller, USGTF Contributing Writer
Introducing a child to golf through coaching is a tremendous responsibility. In those formative years, a child could either embrace or walk away from golf, potentially, for the rest of their lives.
Understanding the power that a coach has for a young golfer is the first step in creating a program that will allow junior golfers to continue their growth in this great game.
Here are four fantastic ways to introduce golf to a child that will have them eager to come back to the course again and again.
When we talk about “clean instruction” with a child, it is wise to keep your direction to kids achievable and straightforward. You can’t expect them to understand correct grip, balance, and weight shifting on the downswing anytime soon.
Instead, for example, don’t spend more than a few minutes teaching a young student how to do the tedious things, like gripping the golf club. Once they have a grip on the club that can guide a full swing, then they’re ready to hit the golf ball.
The time for correction and proper fundamentals will come in due time. Now is the time to give them a taste of what makes golf such a great game. You are an ambassador of the game to these children; don’t overthink it. Once they get the bare essentials of golf’s important fundamentals, move on and allow them to swing.
Always Have a Blast
Recently, I read something very observant by famous author James Patterson. He said that children turn away from reading as adults because, at an early age, they were forced to read about subjects that didn’t interest them. Instead, Patterson encourages teachers to allow children to read primarily about their favorite things in life, in an effort to grow a love of reading.
Coaching golf to children is no different.
If a child shows genuine interest in playing golf, then their early days with the game should place a total emphasis on having the time of their young lives. Whether that comes from creating fun games on the range and putting green to challenging them with some lighthearted competitions with other junior golfers, the most important thing is that they are smiling with the golf club in their hands.
Let it Fly
I don’t care if you are five or 95 years old, everyone loves to see their golf ball fly down the fairway. One of the real joys in sports is the feeling a golfer gets when their ball hits the sweet spot and launches into the air.
Yes, for the children, that ball flight won’t be long, but that initial sensation as the ball leaves the clubface is one that keeps all of us coming back for more on the course. Chasing that incredible sensation at impact is why it is essential to allow the child to let it fly once they are comfortable with their swing.
The feeling they will get when they hear your encouragement after a great strike will delight the junior golfer, allowing them to relax and focus on making pure contact with each future swing.
Be the Wingman
Finally, if the child is spending the majority of their time on the golf course listening to you lecture while dictating their activities, then you are setting a precedent with the junior golfer that equates the experience to learning in a stuffy classroom.
Golf should always be enjoyable in these early stages and therefore, you, as the coach, should take a step back and work as a wingman during drills and games. Yes, you will need to establish fundamentals and show the child how the game works, but too often, coaches of young golfers get in the way and impede true joy.
We’ve all heard the stories about how Bubba Watson taught himself the game of golf, but his education came from a desire to go out every day and find new and creative ways to hit the golf ball. He would find nearby trees to hit over, under, and around or play in the sand with a wedge learning new ways to shape shots and spin the ball. These young golfers won’t be able to do those things yet, but they will have a voice, like Bubba’s, that can lead their time on the range and putting green.
Let the child choose their path of learning on the course and they will forever be students of the game.