By Andy Podolak, Head Golf Professional at Fire Ridge GC, Grafton, WI
Over the past decade, the junior golf industry has become big business. Numerous junior-only clinics, leagues, kid-friendly equipment companies have formed, not to mention the countless number of junior tours and college recruiting/resume services that have exploded onto the golf scene. Undoubtedly, there are countless opportunities out there for juniors playing both recreationally and competitively. With so much out there to choose from, it can be confusing for parents as they start to plan the roadmap for their junior golfer’s development. Here are a few suggestions from my experience in the industry.
First Things First
My first bit of advice is simple; no matter what age your child is when he or she gets started, make sure that having fun is number one. Whatever your aspirations may be for your child with golf, you need to remember (and remind your child) that it’s just a game. In my mind, golf is the greatest game known to man, and perhaps you feel the same, but if your child does not see things that way, that’s fine. I’m sure you’ll agree as long as they grow up as a well-rounded individual that is all that matters.
Before They Pick Up a Club
I highly recommend that you start your child out by teaching them some of the most important principles of the game. These initial teachings do not even require a club or a ball. The most wonderful thing about the game of golf lies in these principals. What are these principals? I’m speaking about the etiquette and rules of the game. Golf is historically an honorable game, where a participant is more or less self-policing themselves. This cannot be found in many (if any) other games. The aspects of etiquette within the game mirror that of the way people should act in everyday life, with respect and concern for others.
Now that your child has been primed on the core values of the game, it’s time to look for an instruction. I would simply start your search by looking into your local golf courses for clinics, camps and private instruction. Talk to the one of the golf professionals on staff and they will know everything about the clinics, camps, or private lessons because they will be the ones in charge of all the teaching.
Finding the Right Equipment
When it comes to looking for the right equipment, you have a lot to choose from. Most of the major golf club companies make junior sets. I would suggest, however, to initially look at a junior specific golf equipment manufacturers such as US Kids Golf and the newly-formed TGA Premier Junior Golf. Studies have shown that a large number of juniors develop their swings using faulty equipment that leads to lifelong swing flaws. Historically, kids learned the game with adult clubs that were cut down to junior size, but were still way too heavy and unbalanced which made learning the game difficult for even the most athletic kids. That’s why equipment from youth-specific companies makes the most sense for junior golfers especially ages 3-12.
What to Wear
Now that your child has a grasp on the essence and rules of the game, has a quality instructor, and proper-fitting equipment, they need to “dress the part.” As with most of the major golf equipment companies, most of the major golf clothing manufacturers have junior apparel lines. I do a great deal of business with adidas Golf and they have a specific line of shirts, hats, outerwear, shoes and accessories for the girl or boy golfer of any age. Their apparel is second to none in quality and the clothing is tailored specifically with children in mind.
If your junior golfer turns out to become a good golfer you need to remember to be realistic in your potential expectations for them. The quantity of quality junior golfers today is great, and in reality there are only a handful of college scholarships available for the vast number of juniors out there. If your son or daughter can make the cut on the course, make sure what they do off the course is as equally impressive. Make sure that they are true student-athletes and that their grades are up to par plus they are active in extracurricular activities away from the course.
As you can see there are endless opportunities out there for your son or daughter within the wonderful game of golf. What I gave you is just a small sampling of the resources available if your child shows an interest in the game. If you have any questions about how to get a junior introduced into the game of golf please feel free to contact me at Fire Ridge Golf Club in Grafton, WI at 414-339-1086 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Andy Podolak is the Head PGA Golf Professional at Fire Ridge Golf Club in Grafton, Wisconsin. Andy is currently in his 9th year and before his days at Fire Ridge he played professionally on NGA/Hooters, Various Mini Tours and many Nationwide/ PGA Tour qualifiers. Andy’s lesson rates start at $45 per half hour or $75 per hour session. Various lesson packages are also available and he can be reached at Fire Ridge GC by calling 262-375-2252 or via email at email@example.com. Also visit Andy’s facebook page at Podolak Golf Instruction.