Kids On The Golf Course
By Snyper on 11/22/10
Matt is an opinionated* golf enthusiast from Pennsylvania. He coaches at the high school level, molding the minds and swings of our next generation. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts and opinions of Matt in the comments. Don't hold back- because Matt won't.

Though it hasn't quite reached soccer's level of popularity, having your kid start playing golf at a young age seems to be more and more popular these days. There are a lot of parents out there who play golf now and wish that they could've started when they were younger. Thus, they like to make sure that their kids get that opportunity. While that sounds like a nice idea, kids playing golf is starting to get out of control.

Golf is not basketball, it's not football, it's not baseball, and it's certainly not soccer. I don't care how athletic you think your son or daughter may be, they do not belong on the golf course until they have been properly instructed on how to play golf and how to behave on the golf course. I know, I know; we all have to start somewhere! That is very true, and that somewhere is called the driving range! It is so frustrating to see, not just kids, but people of all ages, on the golf course when they have no clue what they are doing. I’m not saying you have to be a scratch player to play 9 holes at the local muni. I’m simply saying that the golf course is not where you learn to hit a golf ball. The golf course is where you learn to play the game. And, newsflash, you can’t learn to play the game until you can hit the ball! Again, I’m not saying you should stay on the range until you can hit a 300 yard draw down the middle every time, but if you can’t hit the ball without swinging at it 3 times, you shouldn’t be on the course. This is especially true for young kids. Having a 5-year-old swing 40 times to advance the ball 100 yards does absolutely nothing good for anyone! It slows play to a grinding halt and frustrates everyone, including your youngster.
The golf swing is complicated and the worst thing that you can do to a young player is to allow them to develop bad habits.

If you want to get your son/daughter involved in golf at a young age, I say “Great”! Just, please, do it the right way. The golf swing is complicated and the worst thing that you can do to a young player is to allow them to develop bad habits. Unless you are an excellent player yourself or a certified professional, you shouldn't be the only one instructing your son or daughter on how to swing a golf club. Take the time and spend the money to get your kid a lesson or two. Go along to the lesson and take in what the pro is telling your youngster. Then, take he or she to the range as often as you can and reinforce the things that the instructor was teaching your son/daughter. This is the right way to get a kid, or even an adult who has never played before, started in the game of golf. Now, hitting the ball is only about a third of the skills involved to play the game of golf. We haven’t even mentioned chipping or putting yet. You mean people should have to know how to do that too before they start playing!? Umm, yeah. That’s exactly what I mean. In fact, anyone who knows much about golf knows that the short game is the most important part of the game. So, I would suggest that you spend even more time with your kid on the putting green. Again, make the effort to have an instructor give at least one lesson on short game to get you child off to the proper start. Then, spend plenty of time with them as they practice and learn the skills necessary to play the game properly around the green.

You don’t have to be on the golf course to have fun with your son/daughter while playing the game of golf. You can be competing in all types of drills and competitions on the putting green or driving range. You’ll have a great time, you’ll both be practicing, and nobody will be hurrying you along, yelling at you, or hitting into you! You want your kid to fall in love with golf, spend enough time practicing with them so that they are incredibly anxious to actually play. If you want to see a child succeed, give them a goal to shoot for. Tell them that they can’t play until they can complete certain drills. They’ll practice those drills until they get it right or until their hands bleed. That’s just the nature of kids when they have a goal and a desire to achieve it. You are not going to get that kind of focus and effort out of a kid when you just load up their clubs, tee up a ball, and tell them to hit it.
Just like any other sport, it’s great if you can start playing at a young age. But, unlike most other sports, you should never start learning the game of golf by playing.

Listen, I’m a high school coach. Nothing gets me more excited than when I see a 12-year-old kid who hits it like a pro. That doesn’t happen over night. Just like any other sport, it’s great if you can start playing at a young age. But, unlike most other sports, you should never start learning the game of golf by playing. There is a right and a wrong way to get into this sport for new players of every age. The right way involves getting proper instruction and practicing all parts of the game until you are ready for success on the course. Again, success does not mean shooting even par. It simply means that you can consistently advance the ball at a reasonable pace of play while being able to actually keep score. When you first take your son/daughter out to play, you may only have them play a hole or two in the evening when there is nobody else around. There’s no rule that says you have to play 18 holes. Ease them into the sport and as they get better, you let them play a little more. It’s simple, but it is crucial to the proper development of new golfers, young or old. Remember, a golf course is not a babysitter and it is not a driving range. Have some respect for the game and those who play it. You are on the course to play, not to give lessons. Lessons should be conducted on the range. Please, get your kids out there and get them swinging a golf club. But, before you take them onto the course, introduce them to the game through the proper steps.

* Matt's views and opinions are his own do not necessarily reflect those of oobgolf.

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[ comments ]
dsferris says:
If you want to get your kid of the range and onto the course, par 3 golf is great. Short holes, short course, and you can teach them all of the rules of golf and etiquette. Plus, the Par 3 course will work on some of the more important aspects of the game. Come to think of it, maybe I should go play Par 3 for a while.
bducharm says:
The best way to teach a kid is from the green backwards. It is much easier for them to grasp chipping and putting and those small victories will invigorate them. Also, my home course has a junior course - all holes have a place where juniors should start the hole from (all short).
bkuehn1952 says:
All the grandkids (9 to 15 years old) have had some instruction but until they express a desire to play golf seriously, we have not gone beyond the basics. Right now for them one of the biggest lures is driving a golf cart. Yes, it is against the rules but we don't go fast and I am always hovering when the 9 year old takes the wheel. We always play a scramble so once everyone hits we zip up to grandpa's shot. We play low-end muni's and par 3 courses at off hours so as to not inconvenience others. I think there is something to be said for acclimating the kids to a course, learning to move along, repair ball marks and divots, etc... Hard to do all that at a driving range.
birdieXris says:
Amen, brother. Great article for everyone, let alone kids. You have to know how to hit the ball and advance it down the fairway. then you can learn the finer points.
Banker85 says:
i made the mistake of golfing with a friend who knew jack when it came to golf, it was crowded and we got paired up with another guy who was decent. It was embarrassing. Agreed if you cant advance the ball go to the range.
Pelican86 says:
I was first introduced to the game when I was 12 or so. Got clubs for Christmas and chipped the ball around the back yard. Went to the driving range twice--once with my dad (not a golfer) and once with a family friend (a golfer). Miserable time at the driving range--pretty much couldn't hit worth a damn. I put the clubs away and didn't play for ten years. Then some college buddies took me out to a cheap, uncrowded muni. We hit a few balls to warm up and got out on the course. I think I scored 14 on the first hole, but I was hooked--bashing 8 50-yard grounders in a row at the range is awful, but do that on the course and at least you're on the green of a 400-yard hole. I think if I had actually set foot on a golf course as a kid I'd have kept playing, but bashing balls is just counterproductive and boring to a beginning kid. Sure, lessons might've been a good idea, but I think you'd be looking at a lot of time and money to get a young kid hitting the ball at all.
twood says:
been playing since just before his 4th birthday...
Banker85 says:
1% GIR - needs to work on his GIR but the %100 fairway awesome! keep it up kid!
Kurt the Knife says:
I started playing at 16 but only occasionally as me n my pals would hack our way around. We dint know squat about how to swing but knew that if anyone showed up behind, it was wave-up time. Play thru and we'll get back to our thrashing about.
Worked just fine. We just understood we dint know squat and dint pretend to. Making the real players wait was out of the question.
And with some of the wise guys ("Family men" if you know what I mean) out on the links, could be potentially fatal. ;-}
cjgiant says:
I have to agree with this in general for everyone. Played once recently at local muni where after hole 1 the group ahead of us was over a hole behind, and they were all adults.

I do believe if you combine playing at off hours, not playing a full 18, and allowing other players through, you can get in some good "real world" practice you can't simulate on range.
SteveMM says:
I've taken my six year old son out on the course four times (been to the driving range and hitting plastic golf balls in the side yards more than that) and last weekend things started to click for him. He was hitting his fairway wood about 50 yards, which means he was finally hitting the ball long enough where he can play a par three all the way through without holding things up too much. It was really awesome. I was the proud dad.

Normally what we do is he'll tee off, then I'll tee off and he'll bring his ball to where my shot landed. From there, if it's a shorter hole he'll play the rest of the way through. It's a good way to shorten things up for him. We have a great time out there.
Bryan K says:
When it comes to kids, I think I highly disagree with this article. Highly, highly disagree.

I started my nephew when he was 8. He's 11 now. We started on the driving range. He had no interest. We went to the practice green. Still no interest, since there weren't fancy windmills and whatnot around. So we hit a little pitch and putt par three course, and that is where I think kids need to start.
Bryan K says:
I also take offense with the whole comment about how only a pro should be teaching our kids. First of all, I need to know if he's going to like the game before I start spending oodles of money on it. Second of all, I don't have a professional's swing, but I know a lot of what needs to go into creating a professional's swing. I spend a lot of time watching film of my swing looking for flaws. I've also spent hundreds of dollars on lessons. My take on it is that, at least for me, lessons have been a waste of money. I've learned more critiquing my own swing with the help of frame by frame video than any pro in real time could ever teach me, and I think it is absolutely essential to understand what kind of learner our kids are going to be before ever taking them to see a pro.
Kickntrue says:
@BK- I agree- this article is bunk. I think the "real complaint" hidden between the premise is slow play. To that- I'd agree parents need to be aware of the situation and considerate of those on the course around them- but that goes for way more than just kids on the course.
Bryan K says:
I agree totally. It seems whenever I see any kids on the course, everyone I play with just moans and groans. Some of these kids I play with are pretty good, and the best part is watching them get better over the years. One kid was on the high school team from my alma mater last year. I can't wait to see how good he gets by the time he's a senior.

But I digress. Slow play is not a problem that is restricted to kids. When I play with my nephew, we have two rules. 1) no more than ten strokes allowed on any hole and 2) if I have to tell him to hurry up twice on any hole, he has to pick his ball up. He is always on the green by his tenth stroke, and he's only had to pick his ball up once because of me telling him to hurry (and I felt bad, but it had to be done).

I think that those are the rules our kids need to learn before they ever hit a driving range or a putting green. Period.
Snyper says:
It's not about whether kids have fun on the golf course. Just because they have a good time doesn't make it the right thing to do. It's nice that you have a great time, but it's not relevant to the conversation. Kids have fun playing chicken in traffic, but I wouldn't recommend spending your Thanksgiving dodging vehicles.
Snyper says:
It's not just about slow play, it's about learning the game the proper way. I think it takes a certain level of arrogance to think that you can do a better job at teaching a kid to play golf than a professional who does it for a living. I mean, seriously? The article doesn't say put your kid on a schedule of 3 lessons a week. It says a lesson or two to establish the basics. Sure, you can take them out there and do your thing and they might do ok, but you're going to do a better job than a pro? Ok, some pros aren't great teachers. But then again, most of them are and most of them know a lot more than you. Practicing is less fun than playing...who's gonna argue against that? That doesn't mean you shouldn't do it!Good teachers make practicing on the range and putting green an enjoyable experience. As fun as playing, no. But still enjoyable. Practicing isn't the same as playing...CORRECT! It's not, that's why you do it first!
KVSmith59 says:
Totally agree with Snyper. My 3 yr old grandson goes out on the lesser played muni's with us and we let him putt around on the green while we are putting as long as no one is behind us. As soon as he is old enough, it will be lessons for him. I never had lessons when I was a kid, and boy do I regret that. My daughters were never interested in golf, but had they been, I would have ponied up the cash for lessons.
KVSmith59 says:
And Bryan: You might want to reconsider the lesson thing. Perhaps the Pro you used before didn't communicate well with you, or (and don't take offense) maybe you weren't listening to what he was trying to teach you. I'm like you. I am pretty much self taught and have looked at lots of swing videos, etc. I can tell what I'm doing wrong, but can't teach myself how to fix it. I finally tried lessons again after not having them for over 20 years. One lesson and 4 months later my average score has dropped by 5 strokes. I "knew" I was swaying, but didn't know how to fix it. The pro gave me one drill and that problem is pretty much gone. Still have some other issues to fix, but that was the best $48 I ever spent on golf. Just saying :)
mmontisano says:
you obviously don't have kids...

what if you're a single parent, are you just supposed to get a babysitter each time and add $60 on top of what you're already paying to play golf?

sometimes the only option you have is to take your child with you. as long as you're going in off hours and you're not holding anyone up, it's fine to take your kid. and maybe when they see how much you're enjoying, it will be infectious and they'll grow to love the game with you.
Bryan K says:
If my kid was to show interest in the game after taking him out for a few rounds and if he expressed a desire to work hard at it, and if he started to get as good as I am at the game, then yes, I would consider paying for some lessons.

Sorry, but in my eyes, and after going through four different instructors, a lesson that does not involve a high speed camera is a waste of money.
C-4 says:
what about the golfer who brings his non-golfing buddy with him fro drinks...i would rather follow the kids>>>>>
OffCoursegolfer says:
Guys, guys...everyone is talking about one thing. How a kid fits onto an adult golf course. Why don't you just get them the next generation of 'practice' golf balls and let them create their own courses around the neighborhood. Baseball has softball, hockey has rollerblades, surfing has skateboarding (I'm from LA...of course) and basketball has pick up 3 on 3. With the new off course balls, kids don't need to gum up the golf course. Get real. Pelz makes a great ball called the almost golf ball that flies like a frisbee. It's time golf enters the 21st century. In fact, all, ya'll should do the same. Driving ranges aren't the only place to get good.
Guzziwrydr says:
I take my 15 yr old daughter to the course once a week for 18. We can walk 18 in under 4 hours, usually less. We play a 2 man scramble to keep the pace moving. We also hit the range at least once a week. Lessons are part of the deal too. I agree with Matt that the course is where I teach her the game, not how to hit the ball. The situations where I see kids causing problems on the course is when the parents drop them off and let them play unsupervised. Not all courses allow this fortunately. The golf course is not substitute day care for your kids.
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