What are the complexities of junior golf? Part one
Welcome to a 3 part series of a large topic area - Junior Golf.
As coaches, we have the opportunity to be a part of the lives of many junior golfers and their families. Not only do we get to see them grow, mature and develop into different people, but, best of all, we get to help in the process.
It seems as though everyone is in a rush to gain stardom, wins, tournament trophies, US Kids golf wins, Atlanta junior tour wins, etc. There does not seem to be many juniors or parents in it for the long run anymore. It is a very long process, and the road to mastery is a lengthy one that most people seem to forget.
We often hear that money plays a large part in the acquisition of high levels of performance, and to some degree, it does. However, it is not like most people think. Being financially wealthy and giving junior golfers everything that tour players would experience could contribute to a depletion of motivation, while at the same time fuel the wrong motives. It is important to get a junior golfer to understand the value of hard work and their best effort. Too often, they get everything they need handed to them. As coaches, we stress that it is ok for them to have to fight to achieve what they want and work hard to get that new putter they’ve been eyeing.
As junior golfers progress into their teens, encourage them to do simple tasks and chores like cleaning their room, making their bed, learning how to cook, etc. As they get into their mid-to-high teens, teach them how to be accountable for the money/support they receive. This will put them in a great position for managing themselves if they are fortunate enough to play at an elite level in the future.
On the other end of the spectrum, not having enough money to provide the opportunity for a junior golfer to play or practice can be harmful to their development. On this point, we recommend that playing is far more important than practicing on the range; however, gaining access to a golf course can be very expensive in many countries. Also, as they move into their teens, the importance of playing tournaments is paramount to gain access to college golf.
What Is A Golf Course Challenge?
One of my favored strategies lies in the realm of a golf course practice principle that I like to implement: have junior golfers play from tee boxes, or the length of the golf course they will be competing on. Once upon a time, it was seen as a benefit to make junior golfers play off the very back tees, which is a full-length golf course. However, this often has diminishing returns. My advice is to learn how to compete and play at the correct length, then move back. It can also create a more accurate context. I once had a player tell me how much she loved playing off this length of golf course because she can play and practice the same as the players on TV. This has massive development benefits.
Learning to score par or less on the correct length course is more beneficial than scoring well over par playing the incorrect length course and associating that as a good score.
How to deal with a Growth Spurt in Junior Golf
Another large factor in the process of junior golf development that is completely missed by most parents (in our experience,) and sometimes even golf coaches, is the growth spurt. Not every junior is the same, so each and every one starts and ends a growth spurt at different times. Measuring the growth of juniors is critical to preparing the types of practice and focus needed for when the growth spurt does hit. At the point of a growth spurt, juniors are still trying to figure out how long their arms are, and where they are in time and space, never mind swinging a golf club. At this stage, the golf swing changes. It might look bad, and might actually be bad, but there is not much you can do about it. Unfortunately, we must let nature take its course for a short period of time. If juniors are going to continue to play golf (and maybe even compete,) it’s about educating them so they understand what and how to practice during this challenging time.