With the newest addition to my family barely a week old, I thought I would address the issue of teaching kids golf.
The first question I am usually asked is how old does your child have to be to learn to play golf? Most are surprised when I say two, or three. Tiger Woods was appearing on a U.S. talk show at the age of 3, so keep that in mind.
The real question to be asked is do you want your child to learn to play golf, or learn to enjoy golf? I have found the latter fosters the former. Over the years I have taught a great many kids aged three to five and to be honest, I didn’t teach them much. At least not skills-wise. I started golf when I was eight years old and my initial memories of it were not good ones. “Hurry up, slow down, keep that straight, bend that, don’t move this, move this!” I did not enjoy it.
When I teach golf to very young kids there are three things – and three things only – I focus on. Safety, fun, hit down. The first two sound cliché, but they are too important to gloss over.
Kids – especially boys – love to swing sticks. Look out when they get a golf club in their hands. It is critical to delineate an area in which they are allowed to swing their club, and stress that when outside that area the club remains down. If dealing with multiple kids, it is important to ensure they understand where those areas are for all the kids participating. Without even thinking it is nothing for a kid to drop their club and run to get more balls, and potentially run straight into the backswing of another child swinging. Not good.
If you are teaching your kids to play golf it is likely because you enjoy it. If you want your kids to say, “Can we do golf again?” you must ensure they have fun each and every time they play. Fun – especially in golf – is far more important than learning skills. Skills come easy when you enjoy something. If your right handed child is more comfortable hitting left handed, let them. If your child finds it easier to use a reverse grip or hit back handed (many do for leverage) let them. Let them just have fun. If they have fun they will come back for more, and there will be plenty of time to teach them skills later. You won’t be able to teach them skills, however, if they are not there, or do not want to be there.
The one skill-related piece of wisdom I do try to instill is the need to hit down at the ball to make it go up. The nice thing is they will not question it; kids are not nearly the doubters that adults can be. Hitting down is physically easier for a child than hitting up, so you may even find they are already hitting down. If that is the case reinforce the fact and commend them. Hitting up is the number one curse of an adult golfer – imagine if you had been hitting down naturally since you were three. As I said, I started when I was eight years old and did not enjoy it initially. Imagine where your child will be at eight if he or she is already hitting down at the ball, and most importantly, enjoying golf.
Clive Scarff is a teaching professional, and author of Hit Down Dammit! More information on his teaching philosophies can be found at