I grew up playing just about every sport other than golf, mostly focusing on baseball. By the time I was about 14, I really enjoyed watching golf and finding new clubs at garage sales and smashing balls all over the driving range. I knew the rules of golf to the extent that they’re explained on TV during tournaments, but that’s about it. I didn’t know how to grip the club, swing the club, putt the ball, or even count penalty strokes (doesn’t happen that often in tournaments, and I think most TV announcers assume a certain level of golf knowledge). I loved playing, but I really sucked. I’d grip the club like a baseball bat and smack these towering, slicing shots – and I thought it was awesome. I could make good contact because I’d been playing baseball my whole life, but I never knew where the ball was going. I went through a lot of Slazengers (because I thought Slazengers were cool) golfing with buddies and, while it was fun, the competitive side of me always struggled with the fact that I wasn’t getting any better nor did I really know what the hell I was doing.
Fast-forward 18 years and I still play more baseball than golf, and that baseball swing still comes out every once in a while on the golf course – but I understand the game, how to swing, how to keep it in play, and I love it. I don’t have a lot of time, like most people, to devote to golf, but when I do get out it’s not a struggle anymore. I also have two little daughters now, ages 4 and 2, that I would love to see keep their Slazengers on the fairway and, more importantly, grow up having fun with the game.
I thought a long time about how to introduce golf to my older daughter, Natalie. It’s not like soccer or t-ball, where you have real tangible feedback all the time and the benefit of playing with teammates against other teams. Team sports are such an easy concept and kids tend to just get it. Golf is weird though, and hard to explain, especially for me, growing up as a team-sports guy.
Here are a few things I’ve found to help:
1. Make it fun. This is definitely the #1 priority. Create fun games, go mini golfing, bribe them, whatever you have to do. It has to be a positive experience.
2. Give positive feedback all the time. They’ve got to feel like they’re going to succeed – even though no one really succeeds at golf, you just get through it. Every swing should be accompanied with some form of positive reinforcement.
3. If your daughter loves pink, give in and get her pink clubs. Also, make sure they’re kids clubs. It might seem crazy to spend the money, but cut-down adult clubs are just way too stiff and heavy.
4. Set some goals and give simple instruction. My girls, at least, like knowing what the goal is and being able to accomplish it. Even something as simple as, “That’s a beautiful swing, let’s see if we can get the ball to go farther by bringing the club back more.” Or, “Let’s see if we can go more than 2 swings without stopping to adjust your ponytail.”
5. Make sure the whole experience is mostly about spending time together. Golf (like most things) is better when you can share it with someone fun. With two girls that are both so young still, I try to make a trip to the driving range more about having a great evening than about hitting golf balls.
And for my younger daughter, Claire, it’s mostly just about doing whatever Natalie is doing and getting to the curly fries at the bar and grill after we’re done hitting balls.
All in all, I’m mostly just excited about the fact that they’re into it and they think it could be fun. It probably helps that I talk about how much I like it and I’m basically the coolest guy of all time to them (for now). We’ll see how it evolves, but if there’s anyone out there wondering if you should try to squeeze golf into the mix with little kids (especially daughters!) I say go for it!
There are also some actual resources out there that are really helpful. Especially this:
Side note, after writing this, I really want to go buy some Slazengers again – do they still make them? Happy golfing!