Getting And Keeping Kids In Golf

A lot of dads fret over the potential that their kids are not going to love golf as much as they do. I was one of those guys for sure. So wrecked with nerves over the concept that Austin wouldn't be playing golf in High School, College and beyond that I study up on how to get him interested. Reading, listening and philosophizing about what drives children to love a certain thing over another. 

And then I stopped. Looked down and asked him if he liked golf. His answer was simple "Yeah its fun. Sometimes we get to hit driver off the deck. Sometimes its too hot." Kids have this ability to tell you how it is with no bullshit. What he said was yeah its fun sometimes but other times its not. Pretty simple. Keep it fun. Don't pontificate on the virtues of golf to someone that has a loose grip on the concept of not peeing all over the toilet seat every morning. Keep it simple and remember that kids biggest motiviator is how fun something with be. 

Simple Rules

Start with games and the shortest club they use. Using the putter and working back is an age old, tried and true approach to golf. As they grow add in clubs and keep it simple. Austin started with a putter very early on and like most of you all it wasn't by accident. But frustration from not making putts or getting bored can be counter productive to your overall agenda. 

Start with a limited time on the green. 15 to 30 minutes is more than enough for young guns and kids new to the game. As they grow add more time little by little and if they ask to stay longer - listen. Conversely if they want to leave or show signs of boredom - leave. Like anything we are here to make our kids enjoy the world around us and they are not likely to keep with anything that doesn't make them happy.  

More important than anything is how much enjoyment they get out of it. Play games! Austin went through a massive Pokemon phase so I would buy large packs of mystery decks off ebay. Every hole was worth a card and either fewest putts or closest won the card. The few dollars invested in cards I'd have otherwise just given away was awesome. The return made him ASK to go putt or chip. Figure out little games like that for candy, ice cream or just high fives. Play golf with them don't just coach them!


Listen To Them

When they ask to play - go. But before you march them down to the course ask them if they'd like to go. After the first few times they will likely say yes but do not push them. If they don't want to go that time ask another time and they will come around. You aren't likely raising the next Tiger, sorry just reality. And if that is your motivation then please have your head examined because that's just not going end well for your expectations. If you actually just want to teach this game to your son or daughter and be able to spend quality time with them then be in no great hurry. 

Why rush them into something at a young age? It takes time to learn this game and the upside is it takes a lifetime to fully enjoy it. I had a club in my hand before I could walk then after my fourth birthday it was another ten years before I'd pick one up. I dropped it for a few years then picked it back up again. Golf, like life, just has to run its course for some people. Was that a pun? I don't know. 

Make sure to listen when they want you to stop being their coach. Actually, just don't be their coach and save yourself the headache. If you are serious about them being a golfer then actual lessons from a Pro would be a worthwhile investment. I've worked with Austin and had some success but he jumped leaps and bounds when he started getting real lessons. I'd meet with the Pro after each lesson to talk about what they went over and what I needed to reinforce. And being able to say "Remember what Gibby told you" is SO MUCH BETTER than "What did I say?!"


The Checklist 

Here is what essentially I could have made this blog post say without any of the filler above. This makes me look way more put together though so:

  • Limit their time to start 
    • Remember they have short attention spans 
    • Add more time as they grow 
  • Make it a game (it is)
    • Pokeputt, putt for a reward 
      • What are they into? Use that as a tool to motivate them
    • Match play for Icecream
    • Closest to the pin
  • Don't Be Their Coach
    • Be their friend and parent 
    • Encourage and reinforce their coach's plan
    • Ask them if they want to 
    • Listen when they don't
    • Encourage them when they are frustrated 
    • Congratulate them when they are excitied 

Above all just have fun. I asked Austin what advice would he give and he suggested "Hit trick shots and have fun."