As a golf professional, I am frequently asked the question “when should my child take up golf?” The answer is simple – as soon as they show an interest in it. If a child is old enough to stand up and maintain their balance, they are old enough if they show an interest.
The trick here is figuring out how to get them to think it is fun. Getting them a plastic club and some type of soft rubber ball is often the best way. If they are older, then get them a real junior driver and let them learn to hit off a tee. Do NOT cut off old clubs for them. They will be too heavy and stiff.
A key thing to know is that children learn with their eyes. They do not learn with their ears. If you have a decent golf swing then you can show them, if your swing resembles someone chopping their way through the jungle with a machete, then find someone with a good swing and just let them watch a few times before trying it for themselves. They have a wonderful ability to mimic.
It’s a good idea not to let them start by gripping the club cross-handed. Other than that instruction should be very limited. Don’t forget that their attention span is generally measured in seconds, so having them hit balls on the range will usually become boring very quickly. You are there to do what they want to do, not what you want them to do. Also keep in mind that regardless of what you have been told, there is no right way to swing the club and first and foremost, criticism is the worst and most damaging thing you can do. They don’t need formal instruction until they express a desire to get better.
The age that they first express an interest will determine the best way to start them. If they are starting at a very young age, then the plastic golf club and ball is the route to go. If their maturity level is such that they want to go to the course then take them.
Starting them on the range first works fine, but the idea is to make sure they have fun. If you are starting on the range or the course get them a couple of clubs to start with. U.S. Kids Golf makes great stuff for children that actually fit them. Under NO circumstance should you cut some of your old clubs down for them. They will entirely too heavy and stiff and this will cause them to swing too flat for their height and hit behind the ball.
I also highly recommend equipment from Snag Golf because it can be set up in any open space and it really makes it entertaining for the kids.
If you are taking them to the course then be sure and find a slow time so you are not rushed. Kids will make a 2 inch putt or get excited about raking every bunker. Keep in mind that you are there to do what they want to do and always encourage them no matter what. If they hit a good shot say, “Great shot.” If it’s a bad shot or even a whiff say,” good swing.”
One other golf related thing kids love to do is hit balls into the water and to see them splash. Check with the people that handle the golf carts at your local course because the accumulate tons of used balls from the carts after each round. All you need to do is find a pond somewhere and let them hit some of the balls into the water.
On a final note, when you are with your child, either on the range or on the course, let them see you having fun. Your children like to see you having fun and if it is something you are doing together, it only makes it more enjoyable for them.