“Can I go with you to the golf course dad?” Wonderful words to a fathers ear. You can already see him holding up the OPEN trophy!
What should you do if your child is interested in taking up golf? What is the best age to start?
Your child can start as soon as they have the strength to hold and swing a club. This can be from the age of two onwards. Children are wonderful mimics, if they see you practicing your swing out in the back garden they will copy. So let them. At this tender age having a go is important. Don’t worry about golf instruction yet. Try and buy a starter set of plastic head and shaft golf clubs. To your ‘Junior Golfer’ they look like the proper thing. Don’t cut down one of your old clubs, it will be far too heavy for such a young golfer. Buy soft or plastic golf balls to go with them, and then out into the garden to learn to play.
When children first pick up a golf club they usually grip it with the right hand on top and the left below. Just as a left hand golfer would grip the club. This is quite normal; it does not automatically mean that they are left handed. For right handed children it is natural for them to pick up a club in that way, with the right hand first, the strongest hand, they will still swing in a right hand direction as they will want to hit the ball in the direction the club face is facing in.
Later as your Junior Golfer grows and gains in strength you can always gently try to encourage a grip with the right hand below the left unless of course he or she is naturally left handed, then leave well alone and try to buy a left hand set. If you practice golf together on the back lawn, or what might be left of it, your child will see how you grip the club and will eventually follow your lead.
Once the plastic clubs have been destroyed you will know two things. Firstly, they have a love for the game and secondly they are ready to use a proper golf club and ball and a bit of instruction.
After the age of five, try to buy graphite shafted clubs, which are much lighter than steel shafted clubs. Have them cut to size. Don’t buy clubs for them to grow into; they will be too long and heavy and hinder the proper swing development. Children’s clubs can always be extended a little as they grow taller. Don’t buy too many clubs. Just a lofted metal no 3 wood, no 7 and 9 irons together with a putter. If you buy only one club, make it a lofted wood, to encourage a full swing. Children soon become bored with a lofted iron like a no 9, as the ball does not go very far.
As they have grown and developed strength with age they can now be introduced to professional golf instruction. Try and find a junior class for them to join. It‘s great for a young golfer to be with older children hitting shots. It encourages them to develop; wanting to do what they do, hitting the ball as far as they do. Try and find a local golf course where junior lessons are given on grass. Children will better players learning on turf. Driving ranges are very convenient places to practise from. Hitting shots off the tee is fine but the matting disguise poor shot making, flattering the golfer. Learning to hit iron shots off the turf is much more difficult, in how to take a divot or at least strike the ball a descending blow to get it airborne.
If on holiday at the coast, try to get them to hit golf balls from wet sand. Just a wonderful way to learn how to hit the ball correctly, unless the ball is struck first it will not fly very far.
At this early age, a lesson once a week is just fine. Young children are only able to concentrate for a few minutes at a time during each lesson, but if the coach is enthusiastic, it will be a great fun and a wonderful learning experience.
At around the age of ten the young golfer will be ready for more intense golf instruction. Whilst it is not important to have lots of lessons it is important to have occasional individual lessons with the professional in order to keep on developing those good ingredients within the swing. Try not to push your child too hard. If he does not fancy going to a lesson don’t force him to go. There will be a great deal of competing attractions at this time in their lives, and golf might not be one of them.
However, if golf still is the main sport, most clubs will accept children as members from around the age of eleven. Then they will really be able to develop into golfers by obtaining a handicap and playing in competitions.
Who knows in just a few years time you (and your Junior Golfer) might well be at St. Andrews to see the Old Claret Jug being lifted