It’s most golfing parent’s dream for their kid to take up the sport – and it’s easy to see why.
Golf will teach your children patience, perseverance, and discipline, while also giving them some exercise and fresh air away from TV screens and video games.
It all depends on one crucial factor though – do they share your passion? Encouraging your child to play golf is a tentative affair – but if you follow these 10 steps you won’t go far wrong. Here are our top 10 top tips for encouraging your children to play golf.
Keep it fun
Adult golfers know the virtues of hard work and determination (or not, depending on how your short game is panning out), but a child’s attention span is fleeting at the best of times.
The surest way to keep them engaged with golf initially is to nurture the elements they’re most fascinated with. They’ll have a lifetime to learn the rules, proper technique, and how punishing the game can be.
There’s no need to suck the fun of it before your child’s found their feet. You never know too, their unclouded vision might remind you of the simpler pleasures of the game.
Follow their lead
As much as you long to have your own prodigious little golfer, the passion ultimately has to come from them. This means not forcing golf on them, or making it seem like a chore.
Always ensure the time you share playing golf is memorable and happy. Kids are naturally curious, so they’ll eventually ask the questions you’re dying to teach them the answers to. If they see you whack a ball 200+ yards, they’ll want to know how you did it. That’s your opportunity to explain the grip, or stance, or swing.
Switch things up
The beauty of golf is its multiple disciplines. You’ve got driving, chipping, and putting – so when your child seems to be getting bored of one, you can suggest another to keep their attention.
Each discipline has its unique reward – the distance of a drive, the elegant arc of a chip, and the sight of a golf ball dropping into the hole.
They represent a clear target, and a clear accomplishment. If nothing else, switching things up will give your child a head start at the most vital techniques in the game.
A common theme here is keeping golf fun, but this won’t happen if you’re stressed.
To avoid this, take your child golfing when the course or driving range is quiet, or when your local club allocates time for children. This way, your little golfing buddy can take their time, without you having to worry about holding people up.
Similarly, don’t just drag your child along to your golfing sessions. Make them a shared experience, and go into them knowing you probably won’t play your best.
There are a number of family friendly courses in the UK where you can practise with your child.
Give them the right equipment
When you take your child to play golf, hire a few child-sized clubs from the club or driving range. They won’t find it fun using clubs designed for adults – they’ll be rigid and heavy, and the grips will be too long.
If your child seems to be taking to golf, consider buying them their own set of clubs made to their proportions. A surprise set of clubs from their parents will connect them to the game on an emotional level, and they’ll feel like a piece of it is actually theirs.
Encourage them to make friends
Peers often have a greater influence on a child’s interests than their parents do. If your child makes a new best friend out on the links, this is likely to compel them to keep playing, while having a positive effect on their mental health.
If you’re friends with another parent who’s keen to get their child into golf, try joining forces or arranging playdates. Similarly, if your child is open to the idea, try enrolling them in group golf classes so they can meet likeminded young golfers.
They’ll establish a routine and look forward to seeing their golf buddies every week, just like you.
Everyone likes a reward, and nobody more than children. Set up challenges designed to get the most out of them.
If they know a banana fudge sundae at the clubhouse is on the line, they’ll be more motivated to focus and try harder. The reward will validate their accomplishments and encourage them further, which is a lesson for life as much as golf.
If nothing else, it will positively reinforce their associations with golf.
Keep it simple
Golf is a game of physics and geometry, but kids don’t need to know the mechanics straight away. They’re just enamoured with the prospect of hitting a ball really far across a field.
When giving them pointers, speak in their language – even adopt the terms they use to describe certain concepts.
The idea is for them to learn in their way, so boring or confusing technical terms are fine to fall by the wayside to begin with. An exception to this might be introducing them to the bird-themed terminology for scoring. That’s usually entertaining to kids.
Hire the golf cart
You can’t hide the golf cart from your child forever. As soon as they see one zip past the clubhouse, they’ll be begging you to get one – and who can blame them? They’re basically toys.
You might feel the sting in your wallet, but it’s a totally new experience for your child – one that’s potentially priceless. It’s all part of the overall appeal to them.
Putting your foot down and saying no might just lead to them sulking all day, which will turn them off the whole experience. From a practical point of view, you might be grateful for the cart when your kid is getting tired too.
Don’t be critical
Nothing diffuses enthusiasm for an activity quicker than if we think we’re bad at it, so it’s important to remain encouraging.
There’s a balance to be struck between excessive and genuine praise. On one hand, a child won’t learn anything if they’re told everything they do is great. On the other, you don’t want to put them off golf entirely.
It’s important they know when they’ve done something well, so they can develop a healthy sense of self-esteem. When things aren’t going so well, it’s better not to make a big deal out of it – lead by example in your own game, and don’t give them the impression failure is catastrophic. Emphasise what they did do well rather than criticise the things they didn’t.