Get Your Kid Swinging & Smiling
By Brad Pluth, PGA Professional
Dr. Bob Rotella, sports psychologist to the PGA stars once wrote, “It’s the role of a parent (or spouse) to provide opportunity and encouragement, not teach the backswing! Leave the teaching to your local PGA Golf Professional.” As a PGA pro and parent, let me give you five tips for creating a passion for the game in your youth.
1. Introduce kids to golf casually. Depending on your child, 15 minutes may max out Junior’s attention span. Start with the small, slow strokes closest to the hole like putts and chips and gradually build size and speed. Being the father of three, my kids didn’t get up and start running, they started slow and gradually built confidence, and now I can barely keep up!
2. Move them around the practice facility. Take them from the green to the fringe, the fairway, rough and then the range, all in 15 minute increments. Reward what you want repeated! High-fives and compliments will hook your kid into spending time on the course.
3. Play games; don’t lecture! You don’t work at a game; that’s the pro’s job (and, man, are we lucky!). One of our favorite games at Adventure Golf Academy is “Personal Par.” We ask our students to set a goal for the situation at hand. “How many shots will it take you to putt/chip/pitch the ball into the hole?” While playing, introduce your junior to some golf terminology like parts of the golf course, scoring terms and, of course, the mulligan.
4. Chip for Change is one game to get your kids hooked on golf. Take the spare change out of your car, and throw it on the practice green. If your child can land a ball on the coin, she gets to keep it. Another great way to develop putting or chipping touch is allow kids to roll the ball on top of a dollar bill from varying distances. Everyone is motivated by money!
5. Avoid Over Coaching. I often see parents over coaching their kids. It’s great to PLAY with your kids, but avoid giving them something new to think about after every shot. Our coaching formula is two pre-swing fundamentals to every one in-swing fundamental. The golf swing only lasts two seconds; how many swing thoughts can you have? Pick one learning point (grip, posture, balance etc.) set aside 8 to 10 balls and walk away, or only give feedback to the one focus point for the series of balls.
Practice Like You Play. Growing up at Bunker Hills, a municipal golf course, I bought one token’s worth of balls and putted them all, then picked them up. Then I chipped and pitched them all and picked them up. Finally I hit them on the range. I got three times my money’s worth that way! Later I learned the average golfer who shoots 100 takes 43 putts; roughly 70 percent of your shots are within 100 yards of the hole.
Golf has many facets that can strengthen the parent-child bond. So have fun, enjoy the process, and see you on the links soon!
Brad is the PGA Certified Director of Instruction at Halla Greens, Chanhassen and operates Adventure Golf Academy which serves nearly 50 elementary and middle schools throughout Minnesota.