Archive: April, 2010

Starting Your Kids off in Golf

Golf is cool.  It wasn’t long ago that the only people who actually believed this statement to be true were over the age of 50.  Then along came a guy named “Tiger” and all of a sudden, kids the world over are flocking to the game of golf.  I remember as a youngster, my dad would drop me off at the golf course on his way to work and I would ride my bike home at dark.  This is how I spent my summer days before that awful 3-letter word, j-o-b, was introduced to my life!  In those days there weren’t many kids interested in golf.  In fact, in my grade 12 year at Mt. Doug in Victoria, a school of roughly 1200 students, we only had two guys turn out for the golf team.  Times have certainly changed.

If you have a child who is showing an interest in golf, check into the junior programs at the golf courses near you and get your child’s name on the wait list as soon as possible.  Each golf course has slightly different rules and regulations regarding age restrictions, dues, and etc. so you will need to talk to the office staff at whichever golf course you are interested in.

Many parents are introducing their children to golf at an early age, long before a membership at a golf club is a consideration.  Here are a few things to keep in mind as you and your child explore the wonderful world of golf.

  • Start your child out at a driving range where they can hit a lot of balls in a short period of time.  When they get bored and aren’t hitting balls any longer, leave.  It is important for them to associate a trip to the driving range as a fun experience and not one that is fun for a while but ends with them sitting on a bench watching mom or dad hit balls.
  • Spend some time on the practice putting green so your child can learn about the whole game.  Letting them roll a few putts into the hole will teach them what the game is about and will make them feel good having some early success.
  • When your child is hitting balls at the driving range, keep instruction very basic. Resist the temptation to offer new pieces of information after each shot.  Focus on one simple idea like balance or foot positions and just keep reinforcing that one idea.  If they are keen and show a real interest, sign them up for a junior clinic or summer camp where they will learn basic technique, rules, etiquette and meet other children their own age.
  • Ensure your children begin golf with clubs that are the appropriate length and weight. You don’t need to buy new clubs but make sure the rental clubs your child is using are short and light so they can easily swing them.  If you want to buy your children some clubs or have the grandparents foot the bill, make sure the clubs are the correct length and come with lightweight, flexible shafts.  It is very important that your child uses clubs, which are suitable for them so they can swing the clubs with some control and power.  No one likes an activity when they are using equipment that is big and heavy.
  • When your child is mature enough to understand safety rules, can hit the ball in the air and has been introduced to putting and chipping you can take them out to a short golf course.  Bringing your child along to caddy for you is an ideal way to introduce them to the golf course before they go to play themselves.  Taking them out with you later in the day will give you the chance to explain some rules and etiquette points so they will be ready when they go to play.  You didn’t hear this from me but if no one is around you may even let him or her hit the odd shot!
  • When you do take them out to play, make sure the length of the holes is such that they can get near the green with a couple of shots so they can learn the scoring shots played close to the hole. Golf is no fun if you have to hit the ball ten or fifteen times before you get to the green.  If you don’t have access to a short course, have your child “tee-off’ 100 yards from the green on each hole.  Remember to make golf fun.  Try not to emphasize the score at first and emphasize the positives in everything they do.
  • When your child is young, try to develop an athlete first and a golfer second. Offer your child opportunities to play several sports and help them develop Basic Movement Skills first before worrying too much about golf specific skills.
  • If your child progresses with the game and begins to compete it is your job as the parent to supply them with unconditional love.  They need to know that how they play doesn’t affect who they are and how you feel about them.  It will be difficult because you will really want them to play well but you need to show them that you are there for them regardless of how they play.  At some point it will also be a good idea to find golf professional to coach your junior golfer.  Choose your child’s coach very carefully as they will have a huge influence on your child’s golfing life.  With the help of a good coach, you and your child can put together a plan to help your child reach their goals.  With the coach assuming the role of instructor, this will leave you with the job of providing support and probably a few rides!

I hope these ideas will be helpful to you as your child gets started in the game of golf.  I believe golf is the greatest game on earth and feel very lucky to have been introduced to the game nearly 25 years ago by my father.  I hope you and your children will learn and play golf for many years.

Why Most Golfers Don’t Improve

There are a few reasons why most golfers don’t improve their golf games.  Probably the most prevalent one is simply most golfers don’t practice.  If your life is too busy or golf is not a high priority in your life, I completely understand but to improve at golf you have to have both the desire and the time to invest in your skills.

The ultimate goal in golf is to shoot the lowest score possible. If your goals are different than that, maybe something more specific like hitting the ball more consistently, that is great as well, but you still probably need to take a look at how you approach the game.

I believe there are three major reasons most golfers fail to improve:

  1. Most golfers spend 95% of their available practice time on the full swing, which represents a much smaller percentage of the game.  This approach makes it impossible to achieve your lowest possible scores.
  2. Most golfers miss-understand the 3 main concepts of the golf swing that determine the ball’s flight.  Working with the correct information is absolutely critical for building a repeating swing.
  3. Most golfers have poor practice skills.  The typical golfer fails to understand the difference between technique practice and golf practice.  As a result, most golfers struggle to improve their swings and also never really learn the skills needed to play well on the course.

The golfing establishment is partly responsible for the way golfers approach the game.  Most teaching professionals say they offer golf lessons but the majority only gives “golf swing lessons”.  If golf professionals are focusing too heavily on the swing, how is the average golfer to know any different?

Even when golfers do make good decisions and are working properly to make positive changes to their games, the vast majority gives up on the changes before they have a chance to take hold.  New habits or skills take time to integrate into your game so patience is very necessary as you attempt to improve.

Study all the subjects

Most golfers understand that the short game makes up at least 50% of your score, yet most ignore this fact and continue to focus exclusively on the full swing.

Imagine when you were in school that you spent nearly all of your time studying only math.  You would end up being a math whiz but since your advancement to the next grade was dependent on your overall grade, you would end up failing the grade.  Golf is the same, if you want to become a better golfer and move up to the next “grade” you will have to study all the subjects.

Study All Parts of the Golf Game
Study All Parts of the Golf Game

Use the Correct Information

It has been my experience most golfers misunderstand one or more of the three major concepts, which govern how the club should swing through the ball.  Understanding how to make solid contact, control the clubface and swing the club on the correct path are at the root of learning a repeating swing.

Once a golfer learns WHAT the club needs to do as it swings through the ball, they can begin the process of learning HOW their body needs to perform to make it happen.

Most golfers struggle because they misunderstand the major concepts and are trying to build a swing based on completely wrong assumptions.  Stay tuned for chapter two to find out if you are using the correct information for your swing.

I will provide you with detailed descriptions of each concept in future posts.

Effective Practice

The final reason most golfers don’t improve is the quality of their practices is very low.  To get the most out of your practice you need to allocate time to every part of the game with respect to how the game is played and also how each part of your game is shaping up at any given time.

Golf Practice Time Allocation
Golf Practice Time Allocation

You also need to avoid the classic error of practicing your swing while worrying about ball flight and trying to play golf (a target game) while worrying about your swing. There are two types of practice:

  • Technique or Block Practice – This type of practice is designed to allow you to learn a new motor skill.  During this kind of practice, you should do the desired motion, over and over with complete attention to the quality of the motion and NOT, the quality of the golf shot.
  • Game or Random Practice – This type of practice is required so you can take your game from the range to the course.  During this kind of practice, you will only hit one ball at a time with each club.  Each shot is played to a new target with a new club while going through your complete pre-shot routine each time.  In short, you are rehearsing how you will hit shots on the course. You should not be thinking about your swing mechanics, only about where and how you want your ball to fly.

I have a lot of faith in golfers’ to improve.  If you are not improving as fast as you would like, take a look at the information you are using and how you are approaching the game.

 

Let me know if you have any thoughts on how to make your practice more efficient or what you would like to see in future posts.  Good luck with your golf.