Now that the golf season is underway, a lot of young parents have been asking me the same question: “What is the best age to start golf for my kids?”
All too many times have I seen parents force golf on their son or daughter, making them hit balls on the range or play a few holes in the evening. (Yeah, Tiger Woods was swinging almost before he could walk, but he is a savant, an aberration.) For most young kids, forcing golf makes it a chore. It is an extremely challenging and complex game (if not the most challenging and complex), and if a child doesn’t want to be there – on the range, on the course, or in the backyard – he or she will likely get nothing out of it (and may end up with nothing but a sour taste for the game).
I’ve spent many summers running and supervising junior golf clinics for young kids (most of which did NOT want to be there), and the best way to engage them is to invent simple, competitive games that communicate how much fun golf is. Golf should always be fun. When he or she is young, “having fun” is your child’s job! If you’re constantly drilling your kids, having them work on their swing dynamics, I assure you they will get bored and tune you out QUICK!
Now, if you desperately want your kid to love golf as much as you do, you should try what my father did to me – use a little reverse psychology.
My father would take me to the range with him only once in a while, just to give me a taste, but most of the time he would tell me that I couldn’t come along, that I wasn’t ready yet. Boy, that just made me want to go hit balls even more! He made the game feel like an exciting privilege – a privilege that had to be earned. He did the same for my transition from hitting balls on the driving range to playing an actual round with him. I was not allowed on the course until I had mastered the swing. It’s not unlike the way Miyagi trained Daniel-san. It took a significant amount of waxing cars and painting fences before it all made sense, before he could appreciate the art of karate.
So, when is the best age to start? My short answer is, “As soon as the kid is interested.” Depending on that level of interest, I would say somewhere between 7 and 12 years old is a fair estimation. Their young brains will still be like incredible sponges. But, largely, it’s not until that age that kids posses A) the motor skills, B) the ability to take instruction and cooperate, and C) the capacity for understanding and appreciation.
The foundation of understanding and appreciation is essential for getting a kid hooked on golf.