One of the questions I get asked most as an instructor is ‘How do I get my kid involved with golf?’
The answer is simple. Have fun, and be creative. If a child does not enjoy a new skill, it is less likely they will return to it.
If Dad brings his six-year-old daughter, Sally, to the golf course for the first time, and she spends only five minutes hitting range balls, 20 minutes raking the sand trap, and then enjoys an ice cream at the end, Sally will certainly ask Dad to bring her golfing again.
Sally has associated golf with a positive first experience.
Next, be creative in how you teach. The most successful junior programs focus not just on specific golf techniques, but also incorporate fundamental movement skills. This helps kids develop physical literacy at an appropriate age. Introducing physical literacy to kids is a movement that has brought life to all sports through Canadian Sport For Life’s Active for Life model. Abbotsford’s PacificSport heads up the Fraser Valley region, which provides opportunities in physical literacy for anyone involved with children and sport. The idea is that a child must first learn a series of basic movement skills, which can then be used in the future for many different sports, developing a healthy and active lifestyle that will last a lifetime.
“Children who have learned fundamental movement skills can learn anything,” according to the activeforlife.ca website. “As children learn new movement skills, their opportunities grow.”
This also holds true for golf.
When teaching kids how to swing a club for the first time, I will first let them throw golf balls out onto the range. Why is this successful? First, it’s fun. Second, it teaches them a fundamental skill without them knowing it; how to properly weight shift.
When we go to the chipping green, I set up a station where they need to toss a ball, underhand, into a basket from different distances. Why is this important in teaching the concept of chipping to a child? Again, it’s fun! Second, they are thinking about trajectory and distance control, and what their body does to accomplish this.
On the putting green, I set up a ‘rolling’ station, where kids roll balls to different targets. How is rolling a ball like putting? If you haven’t caught on yet, it’s fun! But it also teaches kids how to aim at and hit a target, how to control distance, and how to read greens. The best part is that they don’t even know they’re learning how to golf!
In implementing the Active for Life model in junior golf programs, we accomplish a number of goals.
First, we show kids that golf is about a lot more than ugly pants and strict rules. It’s also fun.
Second, by teaching kids fundamental movement skills, we reinforce skills that are not only important to their golf games, but also to many other sports they may be interested in. By creating a fun environment that teaches kids new skills, we are setting them up to be excited about pursuing an active lifestyle, which in my opinion, is what it’s all about!
Jennifer teaches golf to adults and juniors at the Chilliwack Golf Academy. She played professionally on tour for over 10 years, including two years on the LPGA. She was also named the 2010 CN Canadian Women’s Tour Low Teaching Pro of the Year.
She can be contacted at 604-798-9805, or at Jennifer@chilliwackgolf.com