In past columns we have covered how to work and grow with your child’s ability, strategies to help them achieve goals, and making sure we keep it fun. This time, let’s discuss how we can put it all together, keep golf fun and real, and recognize when you as a parent have overstepped your boundaries.
PLAY VS. PRACTICE
First things first: I get this question a lot from parents — “when should they play, and when should they practice?”
To answer that question, we need to think about what they consider playing or practicing. A lot of times I see students practicing on the golf course, and playing on the range, or vice-versa. I think it comes down to the concentration, ability, and level of the student. A six-year-old would rather play more, keep it fun, and slowly adapt as they get older. A 16-year-old may look at it differently and focus on practicing more than playing. The bottom line is you can play or practice on either the golf course or range but learning how to play the game is the difference.
Learning how to score is an art form. Some are born with that instinct to take advantage of golf course weaknesses, and others take a long time to learn it. Start them young with understanding how to take advantage of hole weaknesses by taking them out to the course and asking them, “Where is the weakness of this hole?”
In Photo 1 you can see me asking my students just this question. We start at the green and work backwards in our minds. After we talk about a strategy, we may change clubs, so we discuss the options as you can see in Photo 2. I get my students to talk to each other independently as teams of two (Photo 3) and then discuss what they will do together. Usually the teams have very different approaches then each other. It is a great way to expand your mind. I usually find that artistic students are great scorers because they have the imagination. Linear students have a hard time because they let the course architect guide them. Remember we are playing a course architect’s mind that is anywhere from brand new to hundreds of years old. I find that fascinating.
Bottom line is talk to your child; it will always come down to the goal of the student in question. Are they good enough to have to practice religiously to get to a school or college team? Are they unrealistic in their goals? These are the types of things that you as parents should be considering.
Knowing how to practice is important as well. I see far too many times the failure of communication from coaches to their students (of any age) HOW to practice. Many students turn into driving range pros where they are able to hit the ball nicely on the range, but once they step foot on a golf course they collapse. They have not been taught the art form of the game; sadly this is the case for many juniors. We are so worked up on d-plane, spin rate, stats, cause and effect, and looking perfect, that we forget the vision and art form required to SCORE in this game. A caddy once told me years ago, “It is not a postcard, it’s a scorecard.”
This has stuck with me for a long time. Think about that one. I don’t care how pretty your swing is, or effective you may think it is, golf is about adapting to unique situations that require a different approach, finding a way to get the ball into the hole, and that sometimes the situations are so different that without the ability to adapt, the student collapses.
My next subject is a touchy one: Dealing with parents who are overbearing and pressure their children, making things worse. Most of the time your child is trying to please you; regardless, if you add pressure and get mad if they miss a shot, or putt, it cannot free them up to make the mistake naturally and learn how to recover. The funny thing is that most of the parents I see who have this negative attitude with their children can’t even hit a ball, yet expect their child to be perfect in an imperfect game. Let me shed some light on parents who are reading this. Hopefully you don’t shout at your child for missing putts, but if you do, please read these stats and realize that the odds of any student reaching college level golf is hard enough, let alone becoming a tour pro. That is almost impossible.
- Your child has a 2/100 chance of being a standout golfer in High School. (Here come the college recruits)
- Your child has a .002/100 chance of being a standout in college. (Here comes a possibility of the tour)
- Your child has a 0.00000375 percent chance of playing on a tour at a level where it is a successful job.
I think the odds of becoming the U.S. President is only slightly worse. Would you yell at your child for not becoming the President of the U.S. every chance you get? Probably not, or at least I would hope not. Why put so much pressure on them at the youth level? The game of golf is here to help us get a head start in life and learn how to use the secrets of the game of golf to our advantage for life. Not to mentally abuse your child and put them further away from you and the treasures of the game.
In conclusion, be nice to your child and allow them to make mistakes. If they are not learning from their mistakes, that may be a different issue entirely. Work with your local PGA profes-sional, as the PGA is one of the oldest associations in the game and every PGA professional with that PGA logo has gone through years of training and hands-on experience to tackle these issues.
Until next time … for our final issue:
- Course management
- Drills to help everyone get their personal par
- Should your child play tournaments?
- Keeping statistics to grow (both for juniors and adults)
Tony Brooks is a PGA Master Professional and owner of Lion Golf Academy in Diamond Bar, California. Reach him at www.liongolfacademy.com