Junior golfers (and adult beginners) have just one chance to get their golf game on the correct path, before swing faults become engrained and difficult to shift. I have been coaching junior golfers for over 30 years and above all, one thing is clear; it is a fun and painless process encouraging young golfers to do the correct things in golf. With correct coaching and encouragement, learning to play is just a big game. Making changes later in life becomes much more difficult for both teacher and student, particularly if someone has learned to play (poorly) with a swing that looks like they are trying to kill a snake in a telephone box!! Golf is also a wonderful sport to help any young person develop. As an individual game played in groups it provides the opportunity to interact, play and compete in a group but still shine as individual. Golf teaches good manners, honesty, confidence, a sense of achievement as well as lessons in humility and being magnanimous in victory. Oh – and it’s great fun as well! The days when golf was the preserve of the rich and privileged have past, for example; I run a junior academy every Saturday for just €15, green fees for a round of golf are from €20, junior memberships are available for under €200 and a decent set of starter clubs can usually be borrowed or purchased locally for less than a computer game. We have a great history of golfing achievement in Ireland and our most successful sportsman with 3 Major championship wins is Padraig Harrington. Let’s get the next generation of golfers started on the right path!
I never forget that golf is a game, so I endeavour to make coaching fun or my juniors by playing little game and including coaching challenges. I strongly believe that a little competition is a good thing and that it is ok to learn at an early age that we don’t always win even if we did all the right things. Here are a few “essentials” for beginner golfers.
Good foundations – If you have a decent grip on the club, can aim it in the right direction and are able to stand to the ball in a fashion that you can maintain throughout your swing - then you have a decent chance of hitting a good shot.
Swing, don’t hit! – We call a golf swing a “swing” because that is what it does, otherwise it would be called a hit! I encourage my juniors to swing the club and just let the ball get in the way.
Start at the end – If you begin by learning to putt and chip well then you are gifted with the ability to score. That creates the space in your game and therefore the time to develop a good swing.
Learn to compete! – A little bit of competition is a good thing, particularly if it is part of a game. It doesn’t matter if you compete against a friend for a euro while you practice, or play 2 balls (one against the other) on your own. Any competition will sharpen you game and your mind.
Head games – If you think you are going to hit a bad shot, you probably will! Even when I teach children as young as 6 I will still talk about mind management in a simple way because, even at an early age I believe that thinking the correct way can make golf more enjoyable and help you play better. Children are very good at learning skills like visualisation and pretending that a bad shot didn’t happen and an early start builds confidence in the future.Get involved – Join in junior competitions and coaching events. Getting involved at an early stage is excellent experience of playing in groups, competing and having fun.