Teaching juniors how to play golf is one of the most enjoyable and most rewarding things I get to do. I think that working with youngsters is a huge responsibility for any coach and it is not one to be taken lightly. I feel very proud about the work I get to do with juniors and I feel very confident that I have a system which can consistently build good golf swings and good all round golf games. I truly believe that with the proper guidance and with expert instruction, every child has the potential to not only become a good golfer, but have a lot of fun along the way.
The learning process for a youngster is much different than that of an adult. I like to focus on three main areas:
- Building golf skills that can last a lifetime.
- Nurturing every boy or girl through the evolving stages of athletic development.
- Inspire in every student the desire to play, practice, and improve.
I firmly believe in a systematic approach when building golf swings for juniors. I use a tried and tested method which starts with some basic fundamentals i.e.: grip, aim and posture. Added to these basis fundamentals are specific movements which are essential for developing every golf swing i.e. balance, forward swing, and backswing motion.
As these skills start to develop and the students become more advanced we will start to see a lot of individual traits. That is ok because every child will have a different body type, and every swing will have a template of its own. At this stage I focus, again systematically, on other essential elements in a golf swing i.e. club face, swing path, impact, leverage, speed and power. Developing these skills is what will give any junior the chance to excel.
As young golfers become highly advanced he or she will already be skilled at swinging the club and hitting the ball. They should also have developed great fundamentals and be well developed both athletically and neurologically. At this stage instruction becomes less systematic and should be more focused on improving specific individual traits. The important part during this stage is not just developing an already good swing, it is about building and ingraining a great effective swing that can produce the desired results effectively and consistently for years to come.
I teach juniors to build their short games and putting strokes in the exact same way that I would build a golf swing, with a very systematic plan. I start with basic fundamentals i.e. grip, aim and set up. Then add basic swinging and striking motions for low shots, high shots and putting. Initially and in all development stages there will be a tremendous amount of focus not only on technique but in developing great feel and touch.
When taught properly it never fails to amaze me how quickly juniors can develop a really good short game and putting stroke. As their skills develop and become much more advanced I will always start fine tuning their technique to make it not only fundamentally sound, but reliable and repeatable. It becomes very important now to put more and more emphasis into feel, touch and shot making. One of my most favorite things to do in teaching is showing juniors the different techniques involved with their short game shots, then watching them discover all of the many great things they are able to do around the green.
Understanding Long Term Athletic Development is also an integral part of my teaching philosophy. When nurturing juniors it is essential for any coach to know the different stages of development a child will go through. It is also important to know how to use that information to help teach golfing skills effectively. See LTAD
Finally, no amount of information or encouragement will help unless students are inspired to play and to practice. The most important thing for children is to have some fun. Initially this might be a trip to the golf course with mum or dad, a ride in a golf cart, whacking balls on the driving range or playing a game of putting with friends. But pretty soon they will start judging their performance and will want to see positive results. The fun factor then becomes about performance, improvement and results. This is where good coaching and parental support are essential. The quicker he or she can develop effective golf skills, the more fun they are going to have. And the enjoyment and gratification they get through improving results and performance, is what will inspire them to continue playing, practicing and improving.