There are many benefits to learning the game of golf at an early age:
• It's lots of fun
• It helps to build character
• You meet new golfers
• There are potential golf scholarships available (especially for women)
• It's a good skill to have for the business world
• You can play it into your 90s
With PGA tour golfer Jordan Spieth as a perfect role model for children these days, you may find your kids wanting to learn how to play golf. Let's face it -- junior golf is the future of this great game, so why not introduce your kids to it?
If you're a parent who enjoys golf, and you're looking for an excuse to practice, take your kids to the driving range and have them hit balls while you practice. Let them have some fun with it.
If your kids are in the 5- to 7-year-old range, don't get too technical with swing mechanics. Many youngsters grip the golf club opposite of what is correct. If they can successfully hit the ball that way, then leave them alone.
If they are having trouble, try switching their hands so the left hand is on top and the right hand is on bottom (“righty golfer”). Put the ball on a tee for them, point them in the general direction and let them have at it. Most kids have a knack for getting the club head on the ball no matter how their swing looks.
Remember, at this level, it's about fun, not trying to create the next Spieth. Let's be careful not to push kids too much in sports, as this often leads to them quitting at a young age, which hurts long-term motor skills development.
As a parent, you don't need to play golf to give your kids a golfing experience. Many local golf courses offer junior clinics and camps during the summer months, and many of these facilities have junior loaner clubs to use during the clinics/camps. As an instructor to many of my junior members, I encourage parents to invite classmates and friends to join in on the golf clinic/camp experience. Kids generally have more fun and interest if their buddies are with them.
At the Country Club of Maryland, we start our juniors for our camps/clinics at the age of 6, and many have no golf experience. We teach basic fundamentals, like your left hand is on the top part of the grip and your right hand is on the bottom, tilt forward at your waist and move the “Y” back and through, etc.
Once we give them the general idea of how to swing a club, we play lots of games. We understand that if it's not fun, they will quickly lose interest.
We offer loaner clubs, but encourage parents to make the small investment in junior clubs. For less than $200, you can get a golf bag and five clubs to get your kids started. A good place to search for junior clubs is U.S. Kids Golf (uskidsgolf.com/).
The biggest mistake parents make is purchasing clubs that are too long for their kids. It's better to have clubs that are a little short than too long. Kids who use longer clubs are at a major disadvantage compared to the kids who have properly fitted clubs. So do your kids a favor and buy the right clubs for them.
If your kids are already playing golf and can shoot scores below 90, you might consider signing them up for junior tournaments. The Junior Tour of Maryland website (juniortourofmd.com/) will give you more information. Junior tournament experience is the best way for kids to elevate their level of playing ability and motivate them to get better.
Owen is the PGA director of instruction at the Country Club of Maryland in Towson. For more of Owen's golf advice, check out owendawsonpga.com.