It’s summer. With the sun doing its brightly shining thing and the grass doing its greenly growing thing, who doesn’t want to be outside enjoying it all? Biking, swimming, soccer, and baseball are great summer activities. But have you thought about playing some golf? It’s another fun way to get out and be active with your kids.
You don’t need to go to the golf course or spend lots of money to start playing. In a recent article, Golf Digest interviewed top-rated teachers for tips on kids and golf fun. Here are some highlights:
One good sport influences another
The skills that your kids learn playing golf help them in other sports. According to teacher Greg Labelle, swinging a golf club helps with the hand-eye coordination needed for hockey since a golf swing isn’t so different from a slap shot. And the side-to-side movement of golf helps with basketball, and vice versa.
You can ‘putter’ around in your own backyard
Teacher Erika Larkin says, “There’s golf and then there’s golf activities and it’s never too early for the latter.” She recommends starting your kids as early as one or two by rolling tennis balls into hula hoops.
Games for older kids
For older kids, Jason Guss uses two long poles called alignment sticks (although something like green bamboo garden planting sticks would also work just fine) to make three games that train basic golf skills. Depending on how far your kids are hitting the ball, you could always start them off in the backyard or out on a soccer field. (When no one is playing soccer, of course!)
Stick the poles in the ground about six feet apart so they make a wide ‘goal’ and walk back ten steps. Get your kids to try to hit the ball through the goal with a driver (the club with the biggest head). This helps them to aim and hit straight.
Stick the ‘goal posts’ in the ground at an angle so they reach out to touch each other and form a triangle. Get your kids to walk back six feet and, using a wedge (the club with the most angled head), get them to hit short, lofted shots — ‘chip’ shots — through the triangle. This teaches them to make the low, short-swing shots they need to put balls onto a green. It’s challenging, but fun, too!
On a practice green (or a flat piece of grass), put the alignment sticks about four inches across in a track. With a putter, putt the ball down the centre of the track. This teaches kids how to hit the ball in the direction they’re aiming for.
Don’t squash enthusiasm with criticism
According to John Elliott Jr., kids learn by doing. So let them go out, hit the ball and make mistakes. Don’t worry about what they’re doing wrong, help them get better at what they’re doing right. Too much criticism takes its toll.
Pro Scott Davenport agrees, noting that small kids will often do everything they’re not supposed to — hold their club cross-handed and move their feet in their stance — but Davenport says to let them. Their young bodies are adjusting for leverage and balance; they’ll eventually outgrow these corrections.
Let your kids get excited about what they’re doing, even if it means they keep lifting their head to see where the ball’s going. Kids don’t get serious about golf until their teens, so make it about fun rather than technique. You can read more age-appropriate recommendations in Golf Canada’s Long-Term Athlete Development (LTAD) booklet.
Getting the right clubs
There are many options available these days for even the youngest of players. You don’t have to buy brand new clubs when you can rent clubs or even buy second hand ones. Joyce Wilcox has something for you to keep in mind though. It’s harder to swing a heavier club and this is supposed to be about fun! So err on the side of shorter and lighter.
And how do you know when a club isn’t right? “Have your child pose in the proper swing positions — halfway back, at the top, halfway down, and so on. If he or she can’t hold these positions, the club is too heavy and too long.”