Golf is a difficult game to teach anyone, so if you want to teach your children you're going to need a game plan. It's a sport that requires concentration, patience and discipline, and you'll need all three to keep your youngsters interested. The key is making it fun for them. Golf can be frustrating for even the most experienced players, so when it comes to your kids, try your best to keep it frustration free. If they have smiles on their faces, chances are they'll want to keep coming back to the course.
If you're an avid golfer, then you know how important the mechanics are -- you have to have the right swing, the right stance and the right grip. You've probably spent countless hours trying to perfect all three, but when it comes to teaching your kids how to play, you can throw all that out the window. Just make it fun -- that's the number one rule of teaching your kids to play golf. Don't worry about teaching them the proper way to hold a club. Just make sure they're having fun trying to figure it out on their own, and eventually they'll want to know how they can get better. Let them dictate the pace of their learning [source: Rotella].
Another way to make golf more fun for your kids is to shower them with constant praise and encouragement. There's no such thing as a bad swing when a 4-year-old is holding a golf club, and there's nothing wrong with doing a little dance when your little one sinks a putt. Try taking your kids to the golf course toward the end of the day when it's less crowded -- they'll be able to treat it more like a playground and you won't have to worry about annoying other patrons [source: Miller].
Of course, no matter how fun you make it, your kids will eventually have to learn the rules of the game. Keep reading to find out how you can teach them.
Teaching Kids the Rules of Golf
When you first start playing golf with your kids you'll probably do more chasing them around the clubhouse than you will hitting golf balls. But after they're acclimated to the course and the game, you'll want to start focusing on the rules and techniques of golf. You don't have to teach them everything in one day -- start with the easy stuff and you'll have a good foundation to build on.
A good place to start is with score keeping. There's no reason this can't be fun. In fact, why not take them to a mini-golf course? Whether you're teeing off on a 300 yard (273.42 m) par four or trying to put a ball through a windmill, the rules of score keeping remain the same: Get the ball in the hole with the least amount of shots possible. Have your child count out loud after each stroke -- most kids will find this concept easy to grasp, and as long as you make it fun, they'll be excited at the idea of achieving a lower score [source: Golden].
When your kids are starting out, it's OK to let them move the ball if it has a bad lie. Making them hit out of the rough or on the side of a hill could be incredibly frustrating, and in the end it may make them lose interest. Instead, let them prop the ball on some grass or move it out of a sand trap. When they really start to get the hang of it, introduce the idea of not moving the ball. After all, it's up to you to play the ball where it lies, making this an important rule that depends heavily on the honor system [source: BBC]. For the most part, the other players won't always be watching closely enough to keep you honest.
Once your kids have a good understanding of these concepts, you can start to introduce rules like how and when you're allowed to drop a ball. You'll also need to teach your kids proper golf etiquette. Keep reading to learn what that means.
Teaching Kids Golf Etiquette
When it comes to golf, proper etiquette is just as important as playing by the rules. In fact, many people consider golf etiquette another set of unofficial rules. You won't find these points of etiquette in a rulebook, but people are expected to follow them just the same. Some are common sense and others were created to help keep the game moving. The more you play with your kids, the more opportunities you'll have to make sure they understand proper etiquette. Just like the rules, it's a good idea to start with the easy stuff and build on that.
Start with the etiquette put in place to keep players safe -- for example, you should never swing a club near anyone else. Getting hit by a golf club could really hurt someone. Similarly, you never want to hit your ball while someone is standing in its path. Golf balls may seem small and harmless, but they can do quite a bit of damage. These ideas are pretty straightforward and most children don't have much trouble with them. Just make sure not to get lazy about enforcing them -- if you do, your kids are likely to get lazy about following them. Another important rule of golf etiquette is yelling, "Fore!" if you hit a wild shot that looks like it may hit another group of people [source: Kids Good Manners]. Obviously, you want to give them an opportunity to protect themselves.
Aside from fostering safety, etiquette also dictates that you maintain a good pace when playing golf. This means not spending too much time looking for lost balls and being prepared when it's your turn to hit. Don't take too many practice swings, and if you find that the group behind you is constantly waiting, let them play through [source: PGA]. Also, be sure to keep the course in good shape. If you take a big chunk of grass, known as a divot, out of the ground when you swing, put it back, and always rake a sand trap after you hit out of it [sources: Kids Good Manners, PGA].
The majority of golf etiquette really is common sense. Don't be rude, don't ruin the game for others, and do your best to leave the course the way you found it. Keep reading to find out more about the benefits of teaching your children to golf.
Benefits of Teaching Kids to Golf
When you teach your children to golf, you'll also be teaching them lessons about life. Not only will they learn patience and good manners, but they'll also need to learn about concentration and discipline if they wish to improve. It's a game you can play from the time you're able to hold a club until the day your arms no longer let you swing. Some senior citizens still like to play golf because it's a great way for them to stay active, which sets it apart from other popular sports like football or hockey. By teaching your kids to golf, you're introducing them to a sport they may be able to play for the rest of the lives.
A great benefit of teaching your child to golf is the opportunity to do something fun together, and, as touched on previously, fun is a key factor. Make sure you keep the focus there as it's been shown that kids lose interest when they aren't having fun anymore [source: Van Horn]. There are still benefits beyond a good time, though.
Golf may help instill honesty in your child. The game relies heavily on the honor system because no one will keep track of your strokes except you, and your party likely won't follow you into the rough to make sure you don't adjust the lie of your ball. You won't regret introducing this concept to your kids at an early age.
Like many sports, golf can improve your child's discipline, teaching that practice pays off. At first, they may swing the club and miss the ball completely more often than they actually hit it, but with practice and patience, those wasted strokes will become a thing of the past.
On top of all that, golf is a great way to stay healthy. Walking a nine-hole course and carrying your bag can burn hundreds of calories. A recent study by the Karolinska Institute in Sweden showed that golfing generally adds five years to a person's life expectancy [source: ASGCA].
For more information on how you can teach your kids to golf and enjoy it, check out the links on the next page.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- American Society of Golf Course Architects. "Health Studies Detail Benefits of Playing Golf." 2009. (Accessed 01/04/2010) http://www.asgca.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=222:health-studies-detail-benefits-of-playing-golf&catid=39:news&Itemid=18
- BBC. "A guide to the rules of golf." (Accessed 01/04/2010) http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/golf/rules_and_equipment/4229612.stm.html
- Golden, Jay. "Golf Rules for Kids." Monkeysee. (Accessed 01/04/2010) http://www.monkeysee.com/play/13333-golf-rules-for-kids
- Kids Good Manners. "Kids Golf Etiquette." (Accessed 01/04/2010) http://www.kidsgoodmanners.com/golf/Golf.swf
- Kidzworld. "Golf Ball Dimples - How Many?" (Accessed 01/04/2009) http://www.kidzworld.com/article/1147-golf-ball-dimples-how-many
- Miller, Johnny. "How to get your kids excited about golf." Golf Digest. (Accessed 01/04/2010) http://www.golfdigest.com/magazine/2008/08/millerjuniorgolfers
- National Junior Golf Tour. "Rules." (Accessed 01/04/2010) http://www.nationaljuniorgolfclub.com/Rules.aspx
- PGA. "Golf Etiquette." Turner Sports Interactive. (Accessed 01/04/2010) http://www.pga.com/play/etiquette/
- Rotella, Dr. Bob. "Camp Counselor." Golf Digest. April 2004. (Accessed 01/04/2010) http://www.golfdigest.com/magazine/2008/08/gd0404_rotellajuniorgolfers
- Van Horn, Dan. "The Importance of Play." US Kids Golf. (Accessed 01/04/2010) http://www.uskidsgolf.com/eng/play/sectionLandingPage.cfm?cmSectionId=232
- World Book. "Famous Golfers." 2010. (Accessed 01/04/2010) http://www.worldbook.com/wb/Students?content_spotlight/golf/famous