Many a parent holds dreams of their son or daughter taking up the game of golf, and with each parent comes a different set of reasons for their hopes. For one it may be hopes of a future collegiate scholarship, while for another they simply want to pass on their love for the game. Many parents want to see their child end up on the PGA or LPGA Tour, while another wants to use the game to teach their son or daughter the value of setting goals and then working tirelessly to achieve them.
Whatever your motivation as a parent may be, if you want your child to learn to love the game of golf, it’s important to go about it in the right way. Let’s take a look at ten principles to help us effectively teach children this wonderful game.
10. It must always be fun - I know this may seems obvious, but it can be very easy to lose track of this essential component in developing your child’s game. As your child starts out in the game, watch and listen to them closely to discover what they are finding enjoyable about golf, and then run with whatever that is. If they would prefer to build a castle out of range balls instead of smacking them off of a tee, then get down on your knees and make the best Titleist castle anyone has ever seen. And don’t forget to take a picture, for these are memories you and your child will come to cherish.
9. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon - There is always the temptation to develop a child prodigy and to do so as quickly as possible, but this very rarely works out favourably. If your child is motivated in this way, that is one thing, but to have them working on drills and highly focused practice only teaches them that the game is work, with fun subtracted from the equation.
8. Let them set the pace for practice - Tennis great Andre Agassi speaks in his autobiography about the way his father used to make him practice. Andre was forced to practice every day for incredible stretches of time. As a result, he learned to hate the game of tennis. If you want your child to love the game of golf, make sure that practice is fun, especially as they are starting out. The only time it should ever feel like work, is if they grow and develop in the game to a point where they are making the decision to treat practice in this way.
7. Baby steps - Don’t give them too much at one time. Golf is a very difficult game for even the most experienced player, and so giving your child too much to work on at one time will only lead to frustration. There is nothing wrong with coming up with a plan for your child’s development, but keep that plan to yourself. Only give them the next step, and allow them to enjoy working on that without getting overwhelmed by all your “future plans”.
6. Listen to your tone - As you teach your child, it can be very easy to go from fun loving parent, to drill sargent. It’s a slippery slope that many are oblivious to. Take the time to constantly monitor your tone of voice. As pure as your intentions may be, it is your words and body language that your child will be interpreting. Make sure the message is one of encouragement, fun and unconditional love.
5. Teach them to play the way you want them to live - I have always appreciated the Bible verse which states, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:26) Is it really worth training a champion in golf, if they need to become a loser in life to do it? Too many people feel yes, but I’m yet to hear of someone who has come out and said, “My parents taught me to be successful by learning how to be cocky, arrogant, to see myself as more important than anybody else, and I’m a better person for it”. Don’t fall into the trap of focusing so much on the end results in golf, that you neglect the end results of life. You are your child’s parent first, then their golf coach.
4. Let them know success, but also failure - Dr. Bob Rotella puts it well when he explains that, “Golf is not a game of perfect”. If your child is going to play golf, then they must become very familiar with failure, and how to accept it with a positive attitude. At the same time, if you want to be good at something, then you must also develop a level of proficiency which leads to long term success. For these reasons, as your child learns the game, provide them with plenty of opportunities to experience success, while at the same time failure. You cannot grow to love this game unless you know how to effectively manage both.
3. Praise the process, not the results - Our society has become far too focused on results. Consequently, many of our children have come to believe that their self-worth is determined by what they can accomplish. A major problem with this is that when we focus too much on results, it actually stunts development. If a child feels that their value is based on what they can successfully achieve, then they will only ever attempt that which they know they are good at. Fear of failure prevents them from attempting new things, and from pursuing goals. An attitude such as this prevents them from ever reaching their true potential, and instills within them an attitude of cowardice instead of confidence. Therefore, as your child learns to golf, praise them for their effort more than you praise them for their results. Make sure they know that their value is never in what they accomplish, but that their effort is what is to be admired. Doing so will develop a child with a healthy perspective on what it means to pursue success.
2. Teach strategically - While teaching your child the game should be about ensuring that they are having fun within the learning process, this can be accomplished while still strategically teaching them the fundamentals. As mentioned in step #4, you don’t want to overload them with too much information, but it is wise to ensure that they are learning properly. Aspects such as proper grip, alignment, posture and stance are pillars of a golf swing that will last and be repeatable. Also important are learning to focus on the target, rather than swing mechanics, and how to develop confidence by envisioning what you want the ball to do prior to your stroke. You don’t have to sacrifice effective instruction in order to ensure that your child is enjoying the process of learning.
1. Know your child - As you examine the above principles, it is imperative that you tailor them to meet your child’s individual needs. No two children are the same, and therefore we should never expect identical results if we use a “one-size-fits-all” approach. You know your child, so as you create a plan for instilling a love for this great game within them, make sure you strategically take into consideration who your child is. What works for one, may not work for another, or at least not right away. Find out what they enjoy about the game, and build on that. Let the game come to your child, rather than forcing it upon them.
About the Author
This article was written by Jonathan Carr as part of our Eat Sleep Golf 'Top 10' series. As a scratch golfer himself, Jonathan has a passion for golf, which is surpassed only by his passion for his faith and his family. Connect with Jonathan on Twitter (@JonathanWCarr) or read some of his other articles here.