1. Always keep it fun
I’ve decided to start this blog post with the single most important tip in my opinion when it comes to encouraging your child to get into golf – you simply have to keep it fun. Your focus as a parent should be making the experience as relaxed and enjoyable for your child as possible. Don’t worry about technique or scoring initially – just keep using positive reinforcement to build their confidence and try to keep that smile on their face as often as possible.
When I take my young daughter, Lottie, to the golf course, I always encourage her to just hit the ball as hard as she can. Yes, her feet are a bit too far apart and yes, her grip isn’t correct but that’s fine. There will be plenty of time for her to improve on these things. All that is important at her age and as a new golfer is just having fun.
2. Start with the driving range
A great place to take your child to when they’re just starting out is the driving range. Buy them a bucket of balls, give them a club, and allow them to do their thing. It doesn’t matter which direction or how far they’re going, just allow them to figure out how to hit those balls and they’ll likely enjoy the process as they do so. The great thing about the range is that there are lots of targets to aim at, you don’t need to go and collect the balls and they’ll also likely see other young children there too.
Hitting from a driving range mat will also make it easier for them to strike the ball, you’ll not feel like you’re holding anyone up (like you sometimes do on the golf course), and it’s a much safer environment for young children as the golf course can be a dangerous place at times.
Finally, if your child doesn’t own their own golf clubs then most driving ranges will offer a rental service. Of course, it’s worth checking that this is the case before visiting your local range.
If you’re not sure where your local driving range is, check out this handy Golf Range Finder website.
3. Use age-appropriate clubs
A common mistake many parents (myself included) make is buying children’s golf clubs from high-street sports stores like Sports Direct or Decathlon. Whilst these clubs may be appealing due to their cheap price tags, your child will probably find them challenging to swing because they are either the incorrect length or far too heavy. In my experience, the longer a child struggles to properly hit a golf ball the quicker they’ll begin to lose interest.
Instead, consider buying from a specialist children’s golf club manufacturer like Golphin (10% discount code below). They design and manufacture clubs that are considerably lighter than most junior or adult clubs, making them much easier to swing which will help your child’s confidence grow with every hit. They also offer a wide range of sets based on gender, age and height, so there’s bound to be something suitable for your child.
A set of these clubs may cost you a little more than the cheaper alternatives (although you can save 10% using the code ‘AGB2023’ when buying from GolPhin), however, not only are you getting a better-quality product but you’re also getting clubs that are properly suited to your child.
4. Work from the green backwards
If you are taking your child down to the golf course then get them started on the practise putting/chipping green rather than a full hole. It will be much easier for them to learn how to putt or chip to a target 20 ft away than one 400 yards. You can also play fun putting or chipping games with them and the more putts they sink, the more their confidence will begin to grow. The more their confidence grows, the more they’ll want to keep playing.
5. Let them swing thier swing
Rather than trying to coach your child and perfect their golf swing from the very first minute, allow them to swing their own swing and find their feet. Their grip won’t be perfect, their swing won’t be on plane and they’ll probably not be aiming correctly but just leave them to it. There will be plenty of time to fine-tune their swing as they get older but initially, just allow them to have fun and try to hit the ball.
I learned fairly early on with my daughter that the more I tried to give her tips and critique her swing (as good as my intentions were), the more frustrated she became, and it was better just to leave her to it and work it out for herself. It’s not to say that she’ll never need some help but there’s plenty of time for that later down the line as she gets older.
6. Encouragement is key
In order to build your child’s confidence when learning how to play golf, it’s important to provide positive reinforcement and celebrate their successes, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem. Whether it’s making a putt, hitting a good shot or just trying their best, highlighting the positives will help their development and encourage them to continue playing.
7. Focus on their development, not yours
Personally, the more I’ve taken Lottie to the golf course the more I’ve learned that it’s better for me to leave my clubs at home and focus on just letting her play – unless she specifically asks me to play too. When she was much younger, it was more difficult to ensure she was standing safely behind me when swinging, so I never felt I could properly commit to my shots for fear of her running behind me mid-swing and getting hit. This meant that I was usually just hitting the ball for the sake of it. If you’re taking a child under the age of 5, you may well run into a similar issue.
The other problem I noticed was that Lottie would often get a bit frustrated and disheartened by the fact that I could hit the ball considerably further than her, causing her to quickly lose interest.
By leaving my clubs at home and focusing on Lottie’s golf, it has actually turned out to be much more enjoyable for us both.
8. Don't live your failed golf dreams through your child
Just because you love golf, it doesn’t necessarily mean your child does too. When you were younger you may have had dreams and aspirations of becoming a professional golfer which didn’t quite work out, but that doesn’t mean your child will be feeling the same.
It’s common with many sports for parents to become overly pushy when their child shows an interest, and golf is no different. Just because your child seems to be enjoying themself and wants to play, it doesn’t mean that they’re going to become the next Tiger Woods.
If you push them too hard then you run the risk of sucking the enjoyment out of playing golf for them all together and they may end up not wanting to play at all.
9. Identify junior programmes/invite friends
If your child begins to show a keen interest and looks to be progressing, it might be worth looking into local junior golf programmes or classes to help take their learning to the next level. These programmes, often run by local golf clubs, allow children to learn the game of golf in a fun, safe and secure setting, alongside other children.
For example, my home club, Dunfermline Golf Club, run weekly Sunday morning group sessions for children and the Wellsgreen Driving Range runs Wellsgreen Tigers sessions for 5-12-year-olds. These are just two of the many options that exist in Fife alone.
If you’re not a member of a golf club or your local club doesn’t run any sessions for children, it might be worth looking at this National Junior Framework on the Scottish Junior Golf website. It is packed with useful information about junior development, funding, events and safeguarding, and might just be a great place to start.
10. Be their role model
Finally, just like life in general, your child will probably look up to you for guidance and advice, so it’s important to lead by example and be a good role model for them. Use your time with them on the golf course to encourage good behaviour, teach them the basics of golf etiquette and remind them how important good sportsmanship is.
Young children are like sponges, so if you put the effort into teaching them these basics from a young age, they’ll hopefully carry them on throughout their golfing lives.
So there you have it, 10 quick tips that will hopefully help make the time you spend out on the golf course with your child more enjoyable not only for them but for you too.