By: Todd Keirstead
Golf has exploded in popularity since Tiger Woods stepped onto the greens.
With all the life lessons golf can teach us, including honesty, integrity, perseverance, and taking each shot at a time, it’s no wonder so many of us want to share the wonderful game of golf with our kids.
Throughout the years of performing the Golf With Attitude Instructional Entertainment Trick Shot Show, I have come to the realization that the game of golf has a universal language no matter where the game is played. The performances that I have conducted at corporate, celebrity and charity golf events all over North America the greatest joy that I have is hearing the laughter of children that witness my demonstration knowing that I am creating a memory that will last a lifetime in a young golfers mind.
When you teach your children to golf, you’ll also be teaching them lessons about life. Not only will they learn patience and good manners, but they’ll also need to learn about concentration and discipline if they wish to improve. It’s a game you can play from the time you’re able to hold a club until the day your arms no longer let you swing. Some senior citizens still like to play golf because it’s a great way for them to stay active, which sets it apart from other popular sports like football or hockey. By teaching your kids to golf, you’re introducing them to a sport they may be able to play for the rest of the lives.
If you’re thinking of getting them off to a good start, many golf courses host junior and kids lesson clinics. Most of these clinics follow a basic regimen of fun first, fundamentals second and a couple easy to remember tips third. I want to go through a basic clinic lesson with you… so that the next time you bring your kids out to the course, you can get them on the right start.
One of the most important pre-swinging factors that can affect your child’s golf swing is properly fitted golf clubs. A rule of thumb for most irons, is when the club is standing tall it should reach close to your child’s belly button. There are many junior sets out there for children of all sizes.
Keep in mind that these kids’ sets are designed just for kids with lightweight shafts and clubheads.
If you simply cut down an old set, the clubs are likely to be too stiff (as shortening a shaft stiffens it) and too heavy. This will cause an out-of-balance swing that lacks control, and usually ends up with your child falling over.
Kids are usually unaware of their surroundings and this is especially true on the golf course. Throughout my experience teaching group junior lessons, there have been many close calls. Please impress upon your kids how dangerous a moving golf club is. A simple tap on the head with a club can hurt quite a bit… and usually this is a good deterrent to help your kids keep their eyes open around other golfers.
Short Game First
I’d highly recommend that you start your lesson on a chipping or putting green. Not only is this a logical place to start, but it will also get them to sink a few, putting a smile on their face. Furthermore, the short game swing will set the groundwork for the full swing.
Teach Them From Your Knees
Adults in general are pretty intimidating to kids. When you’re teaching them how to do anything, get down to their level and stand eye-to eye.
Kids have a tendency to grip the club in any shape or form that feels comfortable to them. Usually their grip stems from other sports, for example baseball or hockey. Although, a Happy Gilmour style grip may look fun, it’s not conducive to a consistent golf swing. I see that often among young hockey players or kids who have a hard time lifting the club up to the top of their backswing. So remember to tell your kids “hands together”. If need be, have them choke down on the club if they cannot support it. Properly fit clubs are still best.
I would suggest just making sure the hands are together and their thumbs down the shaft with the butt end of the shaft resting against the bottom pad of the top hand palm. That’s as technical as you want to get.
Keep an eye on their grips as they tend to change after a couple swings, re-enforce its importance every time.
Ball in front of center and tee it up
Start your child off with a pitching wedge in their hands, as it’s one of the easiest clubs to get in the air. As well having a tee in the ground will make it easier to get the ball airborne putting that smile on your child’s face. To keep things simple tell them to start with closer towards the front foot and have their feet shoulder width apart. Then tell them to go get it. You will be amazed in the finish position the will get into.
Stomp Your Feet
Once your child is setup behind the ball, get them to stomp their feet. Barney the Dinosaur used to do this a lot, and maybe your kids can relate. If your kid stomps his/her feet their body weight tends to settle properly between their feet and on the ball of their toes. This will ensure they are balanced for the swing.
Swing back to the Sky
Kids tend to have backswing that are either to short or too long… if you get your child to “swing back to the sky” they’ll usually find a happy medium. A shorter swing will appear rushed and lack power, whereas a longer swing will throw your child off balance.
On the backswing, you shouldn’t see your kids feet move. The most common fault I see is the front heel leaving the ground at the top of the backswing, like mommy or daddy does. This will cause your child’s spine angle to straighten, leading to many whiffs, skulls or topped shots. Give your child the mental image that there are nails in the shoes that keep them from moving only until impact… after which they are free to move into their finish.
The finish position is one of the most important things to teach your children. You want to see them in a full finish after every swing, regardless if they make contact with the ball or not. A proper finish consist of your belly facing the target, the club resting on your shoulders and your weight lying on your front foot with your back foot only resting on your toes.
Ensuring that every swing finishes in a proper finish position, will get your child to understand to take their time and not rush through a bucket of balls as fast as possible. If they will, they will setup again, and start the whole process over again. A proper finish will also instill the proper weight shift, a must-have in all golf swings.
Fun… Fun… Fun… If your child is not having fun, they will not have the patience to stick with it. On the range, play games with your kids… aim for target or better yet setup fun targets to aim for. Something as simple as a milk crate with a range bucket sitting up on top of it can be great fun to knock down. Compete against them. If they do something right, or hit a great shot, congratulate them… high-five them.
Never Say No or Don’t
Be positive, don’t say to your kids, “don’t to it that way”… or “you’re doing it all wrong”… just remind them of how to do it properly, and it will come. A kids mind can learn new tricks a lot easier than we can with our poor swing habits and tendencies. The age old adage “old dogs can’t learn new tricks” is quite true. A kid’s palette is fresh and new, it won’t take long to gain new skills.
Golf is a tremendous gift to give your child. Make sure you encourage them through the early years and remember… make it fun!
For anyone interested in contacting Todd for private golf lessons or corporate outings email him at email@example.com