Investing in children’s future through golf

From a snowmobile to a lawnmower in one week! Only in Alberta can you find this fluctuation in temperatures and ground conditions.

From a snowmobile to a lawnmower in one week!

Only in Alberta can you find this fluctuation in temperatures and ground conditions.

Two weekends ago I was racing around the driving range at Lakewood Golf Resort attempting to break up the snow, hoping that by doing so would allow the heat to melt it quicker and enable us to open our range.

Apparently it worked, as not only did we open our range, but with Mother Nature’s help we were able to open our golf course as well.

It still amazes me after all of these years how Alberta and its weather patterns can change in what seems almost overnight. Regardless of what was, now is the time to break out your equipment, clean it up and hit the course for your first round of the year….Yah!

When I look back over this past winter the only thought that comes to mind is long, super long, extremely long.

As a matter of fact, I do not remember much of it because I do believe I went into a deep sleep starting in November and ending in April.

I have heard this sort of thing referred to as hibernation. I suspect that I was no different than the hibernating bear. I found my den in early November, escaping into a comatose state only to awaken in April feeling extremely hungry and somewhat agitated.

Attempting to analyze the reason for my agitation, I can only come up with one answer. It seems my winter rest was interrupted by screaming, yelling kids playing outside of my house.

Who in their right mind would be outdoors, enjoying the frigid temperatures and deep mounds of snow that we experienced this winter. Kids!

Kids, full of energy and optimism, do not see the snow and cold as a negative or a hindrance, but instead as an opportunity to have fun and enjoy what the day brings. Living for the moment and enjoying whatever that moment brings, is the epitome of innocence and simply priceless.

Children bring the same energy and optimism to the game of golf. Their number one goal is to have fun, whether they know it or not.

They do not care how to hold the club or stand; whether the ball is in the correct position or that they finish properly.

All they care about is whether the ball is smacked up in the air and further then mom or dad’s ball.

I am often asked by parents with children — what is the best age to get them going?

Should I get my children into lessons right away or should we just let them hit balls at the range. There seems to be many questions as to the best way and age to introduce our children to the game of golf.

In the following paragraphs, I shall relay the best age to begin introducing your children to the game, instruction, etiquette, typical junior programs and the benefits of joining a league.

First of all — and what we cannot loose sight of — is that golf is for fun and fun comes first. Golf is a game, has always been a game, and will always be a game. Children will be children, and depending on their age, we must ensure that they enjoy the whole experience of being on the golf course.

Doing so will assist in keeping their interest levels up and wanting to join you when playing on the course or just hitting a bucket of balls.

Most golf courses in the area will offer a junior program to their members or to the general public.

The ages can vary depending on the facility, but generally speaking junior programs are structured for kids between the ages of six to 18 years.

This being said, it is never too early to get your child out and hitting balls on the range.

Groups will be divided into age categories that best suit their maturity level and learning patterns.

This, in most cases, will be 6-8, 9-11, 12-15 and 16-18 year olds. This structure is determined by each program coordinator based on the depth (size) of the individual program.

The game of golf is entrenched in tradition and teaches golfers of all ages strong values.

These values included honesty, integrity, respect and dedication, to name a few.

Golf-course etiquette makes up of many of these values and is a key component that we discuss and teach with all members of the junior program.

These “rules” are simply an extension of the rules and values we teach our children on a daily basis at home.

Instruction can begin at a very young age. Keeping this in mind, instructors have to design their instruction content based on the age of the student. For example, keeping in mind that the 6-8 year-olds attention level, coordination, strength and intellect is not that of a teenager’s, we can not get nearly as technical when teaching the younger students.

In most cases with the younger group, we show them the proper set-up, finish position and the swing motion, and then let them hit balls ensuring they finish properly.

Some programs go as far as including coordination drills by introducing soccer and playing catch in their programs. This is important as the younger students (in most cases) have not developed these skills yet.

Whereas, with the older kids, we become more technical in our instruction techniques. We also introduce video to them as their knowledge, coordination, strength and attention levels are much better.

Regardless of the age, learning the basics of the golf swing properly will assist them in hitting the ball better throughout their golfing lives.

Finally, joining a golf league or purchasing a membership can be one of the best investments you make for your child. A golf course is one of the healthiest, safest and enjoyable locations for our children to spend their summers.

The lessons they learn through golf is simply an extension of what we attempt to teach our children each and every day in our own households.

Life’s lessons is what golf is all about and preparing them for the challenges they will face as adults is one of the best gifts we can give our children. For more information on junior programs, consult your local CPGA golf professional.

Scott Bergdahl is the head professional at Lakewood Golf Resort near Sylvan Lake. His column appears Tuesdays in the Advocate.