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. I highly recommend you take your kids to the range when they're young, and stick a club in their hands… and let them have some fun. That being said, 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 effect your child's golf swing. 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. I highly recommend the clubs by US Kids Golf.
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 often among younger hockey players, or for 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 that you try and teach your kids the interlocking grip (shown) right off the start, because as they grow and progress, this grip will benefit them the most. So tell them to interlock the index or pointer finger of their bottom hand with the pinky of their top hand. Also, tell them to have their thumbs down the shaft, and 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 it’s importance every time.
For you parents who are not so golf savvy, a right handed grip has the left hand on the top part of the shaft, and the right hand on the bottom. The exact opposite is true for the left handed grip. If you’re considering buying your child a glove, a right handed golfer needs a glove on their left hand… and vice versa for a lefty. Most of the brand name manufactures make kids gloves nowadays.
Ball in the Middle
Start your child off with a pitching wedge in their hands, as it’s one of the easiest clubs to get in the air. To keep things simple tell them to start with the ball in the middle of their stance and have their feet shoulder width apart.
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 a 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. Many backshop workers might wince at this comment, but get them to aim for the moving range cart too. Just impress upon them the importance of swinging in control.
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.
Notes to Parents
Two things I never want to hear you say to your children on the golf course…
“Keep your head down” and “bend your knees”… Replace these common sayings with “keep your eye on the ball” and &ld
quo;flex your knees”. Keeping your head down will impede the rotation of your shoulders on the backswing forcing your child’s body to lift up causing skulls, tops and whiffs. Bent knees are not stable enough to support a swing, and your body will rise and fall as your swing, resulting in inconsistencies.
I hope these tips and suggestions will get you parents on the right track to teaching your kids some basic fundamentals of golf. Likewise, getting your kids involved in this wonderful game.