Focus on Junior Golfers
I had a great time yesterday afternoon with the son of one of my friends from the club. I never had kids, so I totally missed what my father cherished most: Time teaching his boys about golf, shooting/hunting/fishing, and just about life. So I'm always thrilled when a youngster asks for my help.
We have a group of 13-to-15-year-olds at our club that have really taken to the game. They are out most afternoons after school and on the course all the time. My request to give Zane some time ended up being extended to three of his buddies as well, so it was a little overwhelming, but also fun to see these four get after it.
The first challenge with these kids is to get them to quit trying to hit the ball so dang hard. They swing from their toes on every shot, whether it's a driver or sand wedge. And they think they hit the ball much further with each club than they do. So my first advice is to just s-l-o-w... d-o-w-n. Take your time — be relaxed and loose. The game is ONLY about scoring. No one cares how you do it, or how far you hit an 8-iron or driver.
It worked out great the first hole, as I got Zane to just slow it down and hit it easy... and he outdrove his buddy Jack, who they all think is "long." Hmmm. From there, I got him to just smooth a 4-iron down the fairway (it's a par 5), then he relaxed a sand wedge up to about 15-18 feet. When he drained the putt for a very rare birdie, my point was made very clearly. He went on to par the next two holes, following my advice, but faltered with a pulled approach into the water on 17. He kind of "gunched up" 18 by getting into the woods and continuing to try "hero" shots, rather than pitch to the fairway and go on, but he seemed to learn a lot about just playing the game.
We did spend some extra time around the 14th green (our second hole), showing them that the sand wedge is generally not the best choice around the greens, but to learn how to look at all their options. I showed them how to hit a long chip shot with a pitching wedge, 8-iron and even a hybrid – things they hadn't ever dreamed of. "Learn how to score," I told them. No one cares how you do it.
My first and last advice to these guys was to quit watching the PGA Tour and start watching the LPGA. I'm always preaching that all of us can learn a lot more about the game by watching the ladies, as their timing and kinetic sequencing is dang near perfect. On that subject, I was visiting with former LPGA player Kelli Kuehne a while back and she shared some interesting data from Trackman. According to Kelli, in research they've done, the average clubhead speed for an LPGA player is 95 mph, and that's the same as the average club 5-handicap player. Pretty interesting. And I don't doubt it a bit.
So, I'm making a commitment to give these kids what they want from me in the way of time and attention and see if I can't help at least a few of them really learn how to play the game, instead of just smashing the ball as hard as they can.
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Torleif Sorenson says:
Terry, thanks for an outstanding column!
I just wish that somebody had helped me like this when I was a kid! I had to figure out at age 31 that I didn't need to swing out of my shoes in order to get distance and accuracy. Also, minus 50,000 points to the high school golf coach to essentially taught me a slice grip - it screwed me up for the next 14 years. He should have stuck to math.
I also offer here a hat-tip to every PGA of America teaching professional who gave me a few five-minute lessons along the way, helping to improve my game one step at a time.
I have 2 girls and now follow the LPGA almost exclusively. The only men's tournamant I 've watched this year was The Masters. The ladies play like the rest of us only they break par on a regular basis. I have learned so much waching my older daughter (now 12) hit the ball well with so little effort.
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