In the United States alone, there are more than 3 million junior golfers, many of whom participate in a junior golf program. In order to grow the game and sustain membership over the long haul, many golf clubs focus on accommodating young golfers, but not all junior golf programs are alike.
Some provide camps and small leagues or tournaments. Others play host to large tournaments and make junior golf a priority with focused instruction and regular competition. When it comes to the experience for your child, it is important for you to take your child's specific wants and needs into account. If you're thinking about signing up your child for a junior golf program, you should take a few things into consideration before you decide which program to join.
As you read through these fundamental characteristics of a successful junior golf program, keep in mind that many of these same ideals are important in your child's everyday life as well. Having an understanding of the game of golf and what it represents will improve not only your child's game, but also other things in their life, for example, relationships and decision making.
No matter the source, no matter the score, learning the game in a fun environment is the most important trait of a quality junior golf program. Not every young golfer will be a champion, but learning to enjoy the game will be the foundation for all the benefits golf has to offer your child.
A stress-free environment is key to any child’s development, and creating that environment around a notoriously difficult sport like golf is no easy undertaking. But, a successful junior golf program is structured to make the experience fun for your child without sacrificing a commitment toward development. Simply put, the more fun your child has playing and learning the game, the more they will want to play it and learn about it. This will not only lead to better scores, but also a better understanding of the life-guiding principles that golf provides.
The ability to put together the puzzle that can turn a young, aspiring golfer into a champion notwithstanding, it's important that a junior golf program has a focused, educated group of golf instructors who can teach and develop young golfers at any level.
Knowledge, experience, skill, patience, and passion are all qualities of a good instructor. The best youth instructors are positive, encourage interaction and communication, and understand the physical and emotional abilities of your child. They will promote fair play, integrity, mental strength and physical fitness.
Good golf clubs offer group sessions for youths, which is a great beginning for a young golfer to make friends and learn the basics of the game. As your child advances to the intermediate stages of junior golf, more focused instruction and a solid game plan are important. From that point, the instruction will need to be catered to your child's specific strengths and weaknesses.
Etiquette and Respect for the Game
Any successful junior golf program spells out golf rules, both written and unwritten, and reinforces them throughout the program, whether it's during the first teaching session or as part of its mantra when hosting tournaments. The First Tee is an international youth development organization introducing the game of golf and its inherent values to young people on golf courses, in elementary schools and at other youth-serving locations. Many golf clubs participate in First Tee events and follow many of the same core values.
Kid-Friendly Facilities and Environment
Perhaps the single biggest factor contributing to the future success of the golf industry is its ability to attract our youth to the game, and many experts will tell you that the future is bright. The best junior golf programs understand the need to have a kid-friendly environment and the positive effect that will have on the future of the game. A golf club needs to be a place where your child feels welcomed, and comfortable. The golf clubs that have a conscious interest in the future of the game make sure that happens by offering these opportunities for avid young golfers.
Some of the key environmental elements at a club include quality practice facilities, forward tees, golf pros specifically trained to instruct children, competitive events, additional clubhouse activities for kids, and in some cases, a short executive course or par 3 course.
Peer Competition and Camaraderie
The best junior golf programs allow its participants to participate in leagues and tournaments in a fun environment. These events are designed to accommodate differing age groups and abilities, and they often present a great opportunity for your child to make friends who are of similar maturity and ability. Getting involved in competition makes the game more interesting and accelerates learning, but having friends to play with on a regular basis is very important. Plus, the these competitions allow players to push each other to new heights in their games.
Having instructors who understand the needs of your child is extremely important, but an environment that is understanding of the needs of the parents is also imperative. As a parent, we want to make sure our child is being pushed in a positive direction that leads to success, whether that be on the course or off. A top-notch junior golf program will be led by instructors who understand the importance of involving a child's parent in their development and keeping an open line of communication. In many cases, this may be by simply encouraging a parent to spend time with their child on the golf course working on drills and playing games they have learned. It may also be requesting parents to volunteer in conducting some of the events. Other times, it may be asking a parent to back off a bit. Either way, a successful program will focus on the importance of family involvement.
In conclusion, Jack Nicklaus had this to say about golf in the Netflix documentary "The Short Game": "It's about learning about yourself. Competition. Relationships. You learn how to win. You learn how to lose. It's about how to deal with adversity. There's times when you don't make it. There's times when you just get beat … in that case, extendyour hand and say 'Well done … I'll get you next week.'"
Can you think of any other ways your child can benefit from participation in a junior golf program?