It was a perfect summer day when I first took my 5-year-old son to play golf. It is important to pick the right time of day to play with a child. We decided to go at sundown to ensure that it wouldn't be too crowded. That way, if my son wanted to play around for a moment, he wouldn't be holding up groups behind us. Some courses even reserve times for families with young children.
I had done some research and knew the importance of having the right equipment for my 5-year-old in order to build his confidence and ensure more success. I didn't want him to have a club that was too long for him, because I knew that with a club that is too long, too stiff or too heavy, my small son would struggle to make contact with the ball.
We both walked over, and I showed him a tee and where to put the ball. I knew it was important to let him feel as though he was in control and not be too dogmatic on the way to hold the club or swing. I showed him the fundamentals but then allowed him to find his own way. For kids, it is very important to keep the game fun and exploratory.
He took his first swing and hit the ball! Wow, was he thrilled. I began to make a fun game out of it. Our game was based on a points system, but you can use whatever system your child enjoys. As the game progressed, even if he missed the ball, I would encourage him. It is very important to keep the game light and fun and encourage kids as they continue playing. Children yearn for praise, particularly when starting something new.
As the game continued, I knew it was important to communicate with him on his level. I spent a great deal of time bending down to his eye level. When giving him instructions, I would say "big circle" instead of "wide arc," trying to make the golf terminology more kid-friendly. You can get very creative and fun when trying to explain certain principles to your child.
Don't try to teach golf to kids too early. If you do, the child will feel as though it is work and not fun. I would say 5 or 6 years old is when you can begin to instruct kids on the right way to swing and some of the basic fundamentals. But before that, you may get them a plastic set and allow them to just have a fun idea of the game.
Out on our first course, it was tempting to make my son finish out the nine holes. Instead, I knew that allowing him to take breaks when he needed would be best. For example, at the fifth hole, we went to the clubhouse for a break and to just talk. After he was rested, we went back out to finish. The most important thing is to show your son or daughter that you are having fun, and then chances are that he or she will pick up on that and have fun, as well.
As we finished up our nine holes, we tallied up our points, and he had more points than I did. It is important to sometimes let your child win. Kids love to beat adults. We decided that the reward for the day would be our favorite homemade ice cream in town. I had mint chocolate chip, and the winner got a sundae with a cherry on top.
All in all, it was a great day. Golf is an amazing bonding sport to engage in with your children and can be a lifelong gift you are giving them. Just remember that when starting out teaching your children, the most important thing is to build up their confidence and make the game fun.