The process of developing junior golfers raises many questions.  Hopefully you will gain insight into those questions as well as some of the answers to those questions in the following article.  There will be much more added to the JUNIOR GOLF page in the days to come.
                           THE PROCESS OF 
                           DEVELOPING JUNIOR GOLFERS
                                                            By: Steve Williams

Let’s look at some of the things that go into the development of a junior
golfer. Golf takes much longer to learn to play proficiently than almost any other game because it involves so many aspects. You have much more equipment and many more rules than most other sports or games. Proper etiquette or behavior can take months or even years to learn.

Golf is a game
that once introduced to; the person will probably play for the rest of their life. In this article though, let’s deal more with the actual learning process between a student, teacher and parent. This can be very complicated but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, keeping it simple is one of the keys to success! 

While there is probably not anybody that would like to see a
student achieve more than the parent would, it is not uncommon to see parents that are so set on their child becoming an elite junior golfer that they actually impede the process. This becomes frustrating for the teacher, the parent and more importantly…the junior golfer. I don’t wish to ruffle any feathers here but it is usually the father and not the mother that is guilty of this infraction. It is imperative that the golfer is taken along at a pace that is right for them.

Additionally, the teacher and the parent simply must realize that trying to take a student further than they are ready or willing to go…can be disastrous! Trying to develop an elite junior golfer should be something that just happens because it has gotten to the point that the student is knocking on that door. It should not be something that you are trying to achieve at the outset. We should always let a love for the game and desire to compete be something that the child develops and is not forced by the teacher or the parent.

Setting the stage for the child to enjoy their experiences playing golf
should be the goal of the parent. I often let my son look for turtles in ponds on golf courses if we had the time…because he enjoyed it so much and it made his experiences at the golf course memorable. He enjoyed going back!

Teaching the child solid fundamentals is secondary to enjoyment but is crucial to the child’s progress. So…how do you decide whether or not the time is right for lessons? My experiences have taught me that the child that needs coaching of any kind is the one that has questions about how or what to do or demonstrates a high level of ability but has poor fundamentals or is fascinated by the subject and seems to be driven to improve.

In a class of 20 students, there are usually going to be five or less that have exceptional ability. However that doesn’t mean that they are the ones that are going to improve at the fastest rate. Sometimes it is the diligent worker who doesn’t have an abundance of talent that becomes the outstanding golfer. Oftentimes the one with the most ability will improve at a slower rate because the teacher might spend more time building a foundation simply because of the potential that is observed. To use an analogy: the taller the building, the deeper the foundation needs to be. Let’s continue!

Sometimes the teacher needs to bring a student along at a slower rate just because they lose interest if fundamentals are stressed too much in the initial stages of development. A high priority here should be keeping the student’s interest and hunger levels high. If the student is having fun…they will improve faster than if they have lost the excitement and it becomes boring or too much work. One of the really fun things about teaching golf to juniors is that many times…there will be one of them that has very little natural ability and yet through more diligence than normal, enjoys themselves tremendously and improves at an unbelievable rate.

Some students have more fun if they can understand what is called “cause and effect.” Most however, prefer to just get out there and hit balls rather than hearing explanations about the physics of golf. Some students lose interest if they are not allowed to express themselves and yet…some don’t have that need at all.

You see…there are many intangibles that have to be taken into consideration and frequently, the parent is so emotionally involved with the student that they can push too hard trying to get them to learn and thereby complicate the entire process. Another thing that parents tend to do is judge their child’s progress relative to their peers. This cannot be stressed enough! The harm that this can cause to the student if dwelled upon. Not to say that all parents are this way…many are naturals at letting the child come along at the pace that is right for them.

On the other hand, it is not so uncommon to find a teacher that pushes too hard because he/she sees tremendous potential and assumes that the child’s desire to learn is equal to their potential or at least should be. If the student isn’t hungry for more information, they will usually reject it through not paying attention. The teacher that tries to cram information down the throat of an unwilling student is treading on thin ice! Desire can be created though…if the teacher can be creative enough to stoke the student’s imagination, visualization and ambition.

Another thing that is critical here is for the teacher and the parent to recognize and nurture the relationship triangle. The triangle consists of the student, the parent and the teacher. The wise teacher gleans information from the parent about the student…things that the parent knows from raising the child. The parent needs to be willing to give that information if asked, while trusting the teacher to utilize it to its fullest extent. The teacher should welcome questions from the parent and understand that the parent might question the teacher’s methods on occasion. If that situation presents itself, the teacher has to be careful not to take it personally but objectively.

The parent must trust the teacher at times though, when progress seems to be stalled. Let me emphasize something here; if the parent has decided to use a particular teacher, the parent must give that teacher full latitude to work and trust their judgment implicitly until there is sufficient evidence to believe otherwise. If the time comes to terminate the relationship, so be it. The point is; let the teacher do what he/she has been trained to do if you have decided that your child is going to learn from them. Otherwise, seek another teacher…but the same principle still applies with the next teacher.

As far as the actual process of increasing the student’s knowledge, training them how to do drills, learning practice routines, understanding golf course strategy and training them how to swing a golf club correctly, let's think of traveling on a long journey. If you are going to travel a great distance, it would behoove you to use a vehicle if possible. You will get to your destination quicker and with less wear and tear than if you were to walk.

Developing junior golfers to an elite level is a long journey to say the least. The journey will have many detours, speed bumps, bad weather, up hills and down hills, moments of jubilation and moments of despair. However, using vehicles will always make the journey quicker. Having said that…let’s think of an example of how we can use a vehicle to train a student.

One such example involves the differences in how we use our brain. First, it would be advantageous to understand left brain/right brain thinking patterns. The left side of the brain controls thought processes such as; logic, positioning, sequencing, numbers, problem solving, cause and effect and so on. The right side controls thought processes such as; creativity, imagination, emotion, visualization, feel and so on. All of us use one side of our brain a little more to much more than the other side of our brain. It is always beneficial for the teacher to asses which side of the brain a particular student naturally uses most effectively.

After establishing this, the
teacher now has a vehicle that can be used to convey information more efficiently. The teacher that forces “cause and effect” upon a student that is very right sided, might be trying to put a square peg into a round hole. That particular student would most likely process information more efficiently if they can focus more upon feel or imagery. In other words, the right side of their brain is the vehicle that they can use to get to their destination with more efficiency.

Well…there are many opportunities to use vehicles and a wise teacher will see those opportunities and take advantage of them. A few vehicles that can be listed here are: practice routines, drills, physical exercises, thought exercises, keeping statistics, demonstration etc…! The teacher that does not take advantage of opportunities to use vehicles slows down the learning process.

What are criteria we can use to know if the student is developing correctly and at the pace that is right for them? Just steady progress! Does it seem like I am oversimplification? You shouldn't be blamed if you felt that way. As long as there is noticeable progression though, try not to upset the apple cart. Quite honestly, developing a junior golfer is much like watching them grow up physically, intellectually and emotionally. As a parent, we don’t detect day to day growth because we are around them constantly. If we notice problems with growth in any of those categories, there’s a good chance that the problem was there long before we noticed the actual symptoms.

We can feel confident that they will grow normally physically if they are eating the right foods, exposed to at least some physical activity and not putting the wrong things into their bodies…right? Well an experienced teacher should have the knowledge of what to expose the student to and promote on a regular basis.

Do you know that there are times when the
student and the parent are going to feel that progress is actually going backwards and they will get frustrated because of that perception? And yet, the teacher is seeing that although the student isn’t hitting the ball correctly, he/she is learning an important fundamental position. In other words, sound fundamentals communicated effectively will pay off and the teacher knows from past experience that while building sound fundamentals can throw a student off at first…they will pay off in the long term.

Do your children like to eat foods that are healthy for them? Do they enjoy foods that are unhealthy? Sometimes…might be the answer to both those questions. However, the child cannot be relied upon to make the right choices about those issues until they have been trained. The teacher has a responsibility to ensure that the student is focusing on and practicing the right things, the same as the parent has a responsibility to ensure that the child is getting healthful food. Again, however difficult this task may appear, the teacher knows that adherence to the right fundamentals will yield positive results if done on a consistent basis.

This brings to mind a difficult issue that most relationship triangles are going to experience. At times, the student is going to reject certain tasks that the teacher is going to prescribe simply because they are tedious, difficult or boring. The student may complain to the parent that a particular drill or task is stupid and is just confusing them. A conflict in the triangle is now present.

The smart teacher will always consider other options of conveying the same information and be ready to switch to one if an impasse is reached. The smart parent, if need be, will encourage their child to stay focused on what the teacher is saying even if the parent doesn’t see the efficacy in what the teacher is doing.

Sometimes it is beneficial for the teacher and the parent to back off and let the student grow into the things that he/she has learned. Time and only time can fix things on occasions when nothing else can. Because an experienced teacher has had to deal with so many pupils over years and years of teaching, he/she should be able to pick up on signals that the student just needs some time to adjust without being grilled as to what may or may not be wrong.

Have you gotten the impression that teaching a child to play golf at a high level of expertise can be very complicated? Remember now, it doesn’t have to be if certain guidelines are followed. The process can be laborious for everybody involved or it can be full of fun, excitement and more fulfilling than can be put into words. And the magic about the whole thing is this; the life lessons that are learned in the process are invaluable! Life lessons that everybody has to learn sometime in their lives so that they can be productive citizens, assets to their church, or the right kind of spouse and parent…are taught through the process of learning and overcoming the weaknesses that hinder the student at golf.

Other sports or disciplines can and do teach the same values. I just haven’t experienced any that teach them as clearly and require disciplined focus to fundamentals both mentally and physically as much as golf.

If your child is already involved in our teaching program…thank you for giving us the privilege of working with him/her. If you are considering putting them in our teaching program and yet are not quite sure if it is the right step or right time, don’t hesitate to call or e-mail with any questions.

Good golfing!




If you are considering lessons for your child, please call or email us with any questions.  Whether you choose to use us for lessons or not...let us help you with your decisions in taking the right steps to decide upon not only who to use based upon your location but also when to start, how often your child should take lessons, whether private lessons are best or taking lessons as part of a group would work better. 

Making the wrong choices regarding these matters can create an undesirable initial experience for your child and consequently cause them to want to stay away from golf.  We welcome you to use us as a resource!
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