Golf is hard. But, it’s easier to learn to play well at a young age versus attempting the same later in life. Although there are different opinions among experts about the ideal time to introduce a young child to the game, there are many advantages to starting a child early in golf. So what is the ideal age to start your child in the game of golf? Can you start your child too early?
The simple answer is that there is no "absolute" best age for your child to begin learning and playing golf. While it is best to wait until a child reaches a certain level of maturity before introducing specific learning tasks, children of almost any age can be exposed to the game in some way and start having fun right away. When kids have fun around golf they will develop the desire to learn more and become better at it.
Some of the advantages to starting your child in the game of golf at a young age aren't just limited to golf.
More Likely to Play Golf as an Adult
According to a report on junior golfers by the National Golf Foundation, kids who start golfing at a young age are much more likely to play golf as adults. Of course, you may know the old saying: In golf as it is in life, it's the follow through that makes the difference.
Getting your child involved in golf at a young age is no guarantee, but he or she is much more likely to fall in love with the game if they play when they are young. Let them succeed and fail at their own pace, and keep them involved in the creation of fun activities that will help grow their interest in golf.
Ingrained Swing Mechanics, Increased Focus on Strategy
Children who learn to play the game at a young age should have instruction from a qualified PGA Professional. If they do, they will likely develop a fundamentally solid swing that will benefit them the rest of their golfing life. Learning the correct fundamentals early will help them avoid struggling with swing mechanics as time goes on. Their sound swing will be ingrained their subconscious, which results in consistently good ball striking and lower scores. This allows them to increase their focus on the short game and the mental side of the game.
Learning Confidence … and Patience
Of course, one of the hardest things for a child to learn is patience, and as we all know, there are few things in life that test it more than golf. And as your child matures, gets better, and begins to compete against peers, they will be able to draw from what they've learned from their early start in the game. They will develop confidence in themselves through this process.
So, what are the most important things to focus on regarding the junior golfer? Well, according to one golf psychology specialist, Dr. Ron Mann, seven specific issues stand out:
- Emotional control
- Focus and concentration
- Realistic expectations
- Personal responsibility
These are all great lessons that transcend the game of golf.
In the Beginning
Of course, if you are interested in introducing your child to the game of golf, you can start at the beginning with plastic toddler sets or mobiles in the crib. The concept of the game is simple enough … according to one study, children can understand the spatial relationships between objects and apertures before they turn 2 years old, and few concepts are easier to understand than putting a ball in a hole.
As a parents, you should always:
- Keep the game fun: Create interesting games and don't get overly concerned about the results.
- Provide the instruction at the right levels: Children are great mimics, and they will imitate what they see very well. Don't get wrapped up in the finer points of the game too soon.
- Give kids the proper equipment: The equipment available for junior golfers is better than ever. For example, a 5-year-old doesn’t yet need the maximum of 14 clubs in their bag; in fact, many young children prefer hitting shorter almost exclusively over longer irons because they like getting the ball up high in the air.
Even when kids start real competition (world championship tournaments start at age 5), it is smart to keep things on the lighter side:
As kids improve in golf, very often children at the age of 8-10 years start showing great skill and can often dominate the competition in their age group. However, golf is typically a sport in which true performance characteristics emerge only after the age of 14-15 years, when other children mature. So at young ages, parents should not place too much emphasis on winning, one way or the other. Let the kids have fun, and concentrate on being supportive throughout.
Never Too Late
PGA Tour player Larry Nelson didn't pick up the game until he was in his early twenties, and several Tour players didn't pick up a club until reaching their teens, so even if your child didn't pick up their first club until junior high, they may still turn into a championship golfer with the right motivation and opportunity. Of course if they wait, there will be a good amount of catch-up to do. There is no denying the benefits of starting golf early.
What other benefits can you think of for starting your child in golf at an early age?