When I look at a golfer, I am always drawn to their form. As a golfer and as a coach/instructor, I have always been interested in how people swing. A golf swing has a certain look to it. Flat, upright, short, long, quick, slow, rhythmic, jerky. I am sure there are many other ways to describe the way a swing looks.
What matters is whether the swing functions. Does it produce a consistent and predictable result? That is as simple as I can describe a functional golf swing. A little oversimplified but acceptable.
When I am helping a child discover golf (that is my description of teaching children), I know that the swing function will follow the swing form. That is why I spend time during each session helping the child learn grip, stance, balance, ball position, aim, and the basic idea of how to swing. The goal is to hit the golf ball with the club face fairly square, the swing direction toward the target at impact, and to strike the ball before striking the ground. That is about all there is to hitting consistent, predictable shots.
Why is this so difficult?
I think golf is no more difficult than other sports. The terrain of a golf course requires a person to learn a variety of shots. The margin of error is small. It is not intuitive for most people. Being a gymnast, a tennis player, a volleyball player or a baseball player is also difficult. Golf looks deceptively easy.
What is my point?
If you have a child who is interested in golf, start slowly. I would suggest that you find a PGA or LPGA professional who has experience with children. The path to learning golf is to slowly learn form and learn to perform. Form can take some time. The child will not be ready to understand complicated swing theories. Spend time doing fun activities that have a performance element to them. Putting and chipping are great because performance is easily measured. Hitting drivers is fun and should be part of the experience, but performance is hard to measure, so hit for fun.
- Does my child need clubs for classes?
For intro classes, we have clubs to loan to children during class. If your child shows an interest and wants to play and practice outside of class, you should get some clubs. If you are no ready to buy a whole set, you can buy a club or two for them to start with.
Golf shoes are not necessary until you reach a high level of skill. Athletes shoes are great for learning golf. We do lots of activities in golf class and athletic shoes work best. Try to avoid smooth soles. Flip-flops and crocs are not good for golf.
- What kind of clubs are best?
For younger children, I like US Kids Clubs because they are very light which is important for young golfers. Also, they are sized properly (by height). Other companies make clubs, and some are good. Cutting down adult clubs is an option that I prefer not to use unless there is no other option. Cut down adult clubs are too heavy.
- How do I decide if my child should be in an advanced class?
As children start to play and practice more often, and develop as athletes, golf skills improve. At under 10 years old, most children haven’t played or practiced enough to be very advanced. We offer advanced classes to have activities for children who are more experienced. Golf is about learning fundamentals so the content of classes is similar. I will offer my opinion and will let you be the judge of advanced or not.
- As a parent, what should I do during golf class?
I enjoy seeing parents and grandparents around during classes. My hope is that you observe what we are trying to do, and will use some of it to help your child learn and have fun. I am a PGA Professional. I am certified as a US Kid Golf Instructor, and I am a Titleist Performance Institute Level 2 Junior Golf. I am a member of the Positive Coaching Alliance. The point is that I have spent a great deal of time and effort learning how to be a good golf coach. We play games and many of our activities are to help develop our children into athletes so that they can play golf and other sports.
Sometimes parents can get too involved in trying to help during class. Please avoid doing that. The message that your child gets when we are coaching and you are coaching at the same time is very confusing.
- “When should my child start playing in tournaments?”
I differ from many people and organizations in starting golf competition. Our PGA group (STPGA), and other groups start competitive golf at six years old. I would rather see a child learn to play and start competing at about ten years old. I think that golf is hard and there are enough things to learn that waiting a bit helps. If you are looking at competition, look at www.stpgajuniorgolf.com. This is run by the Southern Texas PGA, which I am a member. It is the best place to get started.