The last few issues I tried to point out ways to help the junior golfer in your life gain experience with developing their short game, putting, and ways to do this as a family. After all, working together is the key element. Now we move on to full swing mechanics for juniors, what to avoid, and provide a few basic full swing drills to encourage the development of your growing child.
GET THE RIGHT GEAR
Let’s start with the most important piece that many look over when they first get their child involved: Correct equipment. Within the last 15 years junior golfer equipment has improved dramatically. It has improved so much that they even sell custom junior clubs for as young as 3.
The most impressive part is the club not only acts like a true club but is weighted correctly to allow the club to stay connected and let the child swing the club, instead of the club swinging the child.
When I was growing up, I wanted to go to the driving range with my father.
I remember he cut down a steel shafted wood headed club, (I cannot remember if it was a driver or a 3 wood) and I went to the driving range with him and just started swinging. I am not sure of the effect it had on me, but I can tell you being an instructor now, when I see clubs that are too long, or too heavy, the child stands up at impact and loses all posture and this effect the plane dramatically. Once the club has veered off the plane, then it becomes a game of chance and rerouting at impact.
I also did not mention the injuries this may cause if the clubs are too long or heavy. Please ask your local PGA professional for advice on junior clubs, and I assure you they will help.
GET IN BALANCE
Once the clubs are selected, the first thing you MUST work on with your junior is balance and footwork. That’s it. Don’t be concerned with any other thing that comes up just yet. Having the correct clubs for your child ensures that the club will most likely be rotated around the set-up, and fall close to a plane line. Priority is letting the child swing hard but around a balanced swing. Don’t get too concerned with direction, the focus should be contacting the ball and getting height.
Once you get the height consistently, then you can start to focus on the direction. Children are typically big picture swingers, it’s the adults who confuse things. Keep it simple, provide big picture ideas, and let them develop a hard-swinging balanced motion. Once they get to be older and stronger their swing mechanics will change, but the core motion of a balanced aggressive one will not.
I liken the golf swing to baking a cake. What flavor cake you want is part of the beginning process. The icing on the cake can be whatever color or flavor. The same goes for the golf swing. The icing is what we develop around the core of the player.
GET RIGHT WITH THE GROWTH CURVE
One last thing to consider is being a junior, their bodies are continually growing, shifting, getting stronger and longer. Their leg, core, arm ratio is always changing as well. These changes can occur literally overnight. So, to expect them to have the same motion day in and day out is not fair. Their coordination is always being challenged as their brains adapt to their changing bodies — which, again, is why the main theme of the swing for them is balance, and footwork.
DRILLS FOR SUCCESS
Check out the photos of some of my students taking swings and holding their follow through for five seconds. Some are in practice, some are on the golf course.
This is one of the best and easiest drills to do, but it still takes discipline as five seconds can feel like an eternity, especially when you did not hit the ball well.
A great warmup motion to begin the day is taking your golf swing with a club extended across the shoulders and turning back and through. If you see Benji in the photo, he is doing this before his session. He is focusing on keeping both feet planted at impact, then he lets the turn of his body and momentum take him towards the target allowing his trail foot to come up. I would not suggest getting the feet to fire too soon and lift off the ground before impact. Remember it is about balance and, at impact, having both feet planted then allow the momentum to take them to the target and finish.
JOIN A JUNIOR CLUB
Junior clubs and programs have become very popular. Not long ago, juniors weren’t even allowed on some golf courses except certain times of the day. I remember watching Tiger win the 1997 Masters with my dad, and how it was all over the broadcast that he was 2 years old when he started and golf would earn him millions upon millions. Tiger and I are the same age although he started younger then I did, and obviously was much better. He was the perfect blend of golfer and discipline. I was the perfect blend of daydreamer and troublemaker. We both wound up in the golf industry on different sides of the rope, but we both are making our own dent in junior golf. His was bigger as the very next day after his 1997 win, there were over 20,000 orders for junior clubs worldwide. I even remember thinking to myself that junior golf will never be the same.
NOW IS THE TIME
To say we have come a long way in the last 20 years in an understatement. With so many junior development academies, programs, tours, equipment and schools available, now is the best time to get started with your child. Just remember it’s only a game and the value of its life lessons is more important. I see too many parents expecting miracles from their children.
The odds of your child being a standout in golf at a high school level are about 2 percent, the odds of them being a standout in college are about 0.01 percent, the odds of them being a tour player that can earn enough to live, 0.000001 percent. Education comes first.
Next time we will cover:
- Creating a win/win situation for your child and golf
- To play? Or to Practice? (when is it time to play)
- Don’t feed the promise monster (learn to recognize your child’s limits)
Tony Brooks is a PGA Master Professional and owner of Lion Golf Academy in Diamond Bar, California. Reach him at www.liongolfacademy.com