I Spent a Year Taking My Kid to Golf… Here Are 6 Big Lessons I Learned

Ever since I started playing at the age of five, golf has been a central part of my life. Not only have I competed for as long as I can remember, it has also become my career. In my various roles at Golf Monthly, I have traveled the world walking the fairways, interviewing top players and reviewing the latest equipment. The opportunities given to me by the game went far beyond what I, or for that matter my parents, could have hoped for.

When I first became a father in 2013, I began to wonder if, how, and when I could start introducing the game to my own children. How can I foster genuine interest without going overboard and making it a chore?

The first thing to say is that my son is a sports freak. If it’s kicking, chasing, or hitting a ball, he’s usually on board. After only taking him to the driving range a year ago, I joined my local golf club and took advantage of the free membership offered to him. I then signed him up for weekend training, joining a group of other juniors from the club. It was the first big step and since then we have continued to play 9 holes together on a semi-regular basis. He has completed his first 18-hole course and now has a handicap.

Below are the six biggest lessons I learned from turning a sports-mad kid into a beginner golfer.

1 Get a Cart

It was a piece of advice I got from a friend of mine and it was a game changer. Before getting a cart, golfing on the course was as much a test of patience and endurance as anything (none of those were in abundance in our family). With the right size bag that sits on a small cart, he can roll his own clubs with minimal faffing. Of all the lessons I have learned over the past few years, this would probably be the most important. Purchasing a simple and compact push cart unlocked the true experience of playing the game on the course.

Kids golf driving

(Image credit: future)

2 Get coaching

I’ve played golf for 35 years, worked with some of the best coaches and players in the game, and competed in low single digits. And yet, my son barely listens to a single word of instruction that comes out of my mouth. As demoralizing as it sounds, I think it’s quite common. We have had group junior coaches regularly for about a year now and it is clear that something is happening because the quality of his golf is definitely improving. It’s a cliché but making it fun and doing it with other kids seems to have had a real impact.

3-push putt, putt

In every golfer’s course, there comes a time when shooting a good score (whatever that is) becomes more important than just hitting good shots. When that happens, there’s nothing more demoralizing than hitting the green in good numbers and then blasting your way into double digits.

We are very lucky as our local clubs layout sees the putting green right next to the parking lot, clubhouse and first tee. This means that whenever we are at the club, it is very easy to kill a few minutes with a little time on the green. Instead of focusing on technique, I took the approach of challenging him to games (one of which we call ‘Pressure Putt, Putt’… for some unknown reason). It makes him fun and, most importantly, causes him to focus on speed and breaking in a way that’s otherwise easy to overlook. We still have a long way to go on this front, but the progress made in one year is striking.

lightweight golf equipment for children

(Image credit: future)

4 Light equipment

In the same way that advances in equipment have made the game easier for amateur golfers, so too must it be for children. I remember growing up using an assortment of different clubs of varying lengths and tolerance levels. Now, the Best Kids Golf Club Sets category has fantastic options from major golf brands as well as brands like US Kids Golf. We’ve used TaylorMade Phenom clubs and are now on PING Prodi G (where you receive a one-time club fit to make the initial investment last longer). Not only do they look very cool, but the technology at work in these lightweight clubs really helps with both flight and distance. In short, it means you get the most out of your ball striking. In my experience, the encouragement from a high-flying ride is far more tangible than any cheerleading word from a parent.

5 Choose Your Battles

From walking along the line of a putt to using a lofted wedge just off the green, there are a multitude of interventions you can make during a match. I had a few laps where I felt all I had done was step in. Believe me, it’s not fun for anyone. Picking what to let loose is a skill I haven’t fully mastered yet, but I can clearly see the value in choosing my battles. Just getting through a few holes, especially at the start, is a big effort and a big accomplishment (something I have to keep reminding myself of).

Anything you can do to make the experience more enjoyable is probably worth it. My son and I have developed some sort of unwritten contract that after we’re done playing, we’ll go to the clubhouse for a drink, a packet of chips, and watch any sport on TV. Honestly, there are times when I wonder which role he likes the most. The good thing is he’s now used to being around the club, he recognizes some of the faces he sees, they recognize him and he’s not intimidated by the environment.

I will end by saying that my intention here is not to develop the next Tiger Woods. Instead, I just want to give my son the opportunity to enjoy the game. What I know for sure is that it’s not going to happen on its own, I need to encourage him but I don’t. don’t want to overwhelm him. Herein lies the parenting dilemma. So far so good, he enjoys golf, but not as much as some of the other sports he plays, but he is developing an understanding of how to play and what to do. If we can turn him around, he could end up with a life skill he’ll enjoy for years to come.

Michael C. Ford