As a Tournament Director of the IMG Academy Junior World Golf Championships (the largest junior event in the world) and Board Member and Past President of the renowned San Diego Jr. Golf Association, I feel compelled to address a serious issues with the parents of junior golfers. My intentions are to assist parents with the process of their junior reaching their full potential and make the game more fun for your junior.
The first issue has to do with respect. Respect for the golf course and fellow players. I hear adults complaining about juniors not fixing ball marks and sanding their divots. Don’t place the blame entirely on the kids. It all starts with the parents educating their junior on the etiquette of the game. Teaching your child respect for the golf course should be a high priority in the process of learning the game.
The rules of the game is the second issue. Everyone should know the basic rules of the game. However, if your child is truly interested in being a tournament player, you should educate yourself thoroughly and then your child about all of the rules. I see juniors melt- down in competition when confronted with a ruling with which they are unfamiliar. Often the melt-down comes from a confrontation between a parent/caddie and rules official with the parent thinking they know best. Knowing your options will save strokes. It helped Jordan Spieth, on the 13th hole of Royal Birkdale, win the 146th Open Championship.
Number three may be the most important. It centers on the issue of passion for the game. The passion needs to be inherit in the junior and not solely that of the parent. Successful golf parents are those who give their juniors the proper tools to succeed, know when to step away and let a professional coach lead the charge. I believe your junior will be more inclined to embrace the game.
Pace of play is the fourth issue. Creating an effective pre-shot routine is essential to preparing for the upcoming shot and speeding up play. Are 3 and 4 practice swings really necessary? NO. Not only does it slow the pace of play but it will drain your junior’s level of energy as the round progresses. The pre-shot routine should NOT create “paralysis by analyses. Allow your junior to get into a comfortable flow. Instruction should primarily be limited to the range. Once on the course, a junior should be focused on only one or two swing thoughts during the round.
Finally, one of the areas often overlooked is equipment. I see the majority of juniors starting out playing the game with clubs that are too long and too heavy. Fitting them with the right equipment will promote a better swing and improve their play. They will enjoy the game more which should be the goal.
As a parent myself, I am well aware that parents have good intentions. However, we have to educate ourselves, be realistic with our goals, realize our boundaries and know when to let go. Empower your child by allowing them to take ownership in their game. For example, ask them if they are comfortable with a particular instructor. The instructor may be the best but if they do not have a connection, it won’t work. In the process, you will allow your junior to determine the depth of their passion for the game. You will both be rewarded with wonderful memories together on and off the course.