It’s said that children learn best through play, and there’s nothing that says play can’t happen on the golf course. Rather than being a good walk spoiled, golf is a good chance to spoil your grandchildren with quality time.
The first rule of golf — especially with kids who are just learning to play — is to focus on having fun. Every golfer in the history of the sport has had bad shots or a frustrating round that didn’t go as planned. Taking grandchildren out should be fun for them, and for you, so leave the missed putts and duffed drives at home and focus on enjoying the game.
Where to begin?
Mike Mendelson, the Head Golf Professional for Elkhorn Ridge in Spearfish, says, “it’s almost best to start backwards; teach kids how to putt and chip first, then work on the range, and then if they’re ready head out to the course. Sometimes going straight out on the golf course can be too much for kids, and they’ll get tired and not want to come back.” To prevent this, head to the putting green first. There’s less technique required to get a ball in the hole with a simple putt; that’s why mini golf is so popular. Try to go out early in the morning or later in the evening when they’re less likely to be busy so you have space to play.
When you’re ready to move away from putting, consider finding a set of clubs that fit your grandchild. Having clubs that are too long, too stiff, or too heavy will negatively impact their ability to swing correctly. The fastest way to a frustrated day on the course for both of you is by using clubs that work against your grandchild rather than for them. Some courses in the hills have juniors clubs you can rent if you want to try them before buying a set.
Once you have clubs that fit, you open up the rest of the golf course to your grandchild. Starting at the driving range or learning to chip can help them learn the mechanics of a full golf swing. Kids tend to learn better visually, so step up and show them how it’s done!
Practice areas are also a great opportunity for friendly competition — see who can chip closest to a pin or get the closest to a sign on the driving range. Up the ante and put ice cream at the clubhouse on the line; kids love to compete when there’s a prize to win, especially if it’s sweet treats.
Head out to the course
If they’re ready to head out onto the course, make sure they understand the basic rules of play and course etiquette. If they want to look for their ball or play in the trees, that’s fine, but it’s up to you to keep the game moving. You’ll set your round up for success if grandchildren understand this from the start.
To keep young kids from tiring out, consider letting them tee off further down the fairway rather than at a designated tee box. Some courses do have kids tees, but if not, Mike recommends picking a spot 100-150 yards from the hole and letting them start there. That way they can still play a normal hole, but the distance isn’t so far that they’re tired after three holes.
Not ready to teach on your own?
Consider taking lessons with a pro! Just be sure it’s something that your grandchild is interested in doing, as lessons may feel like a chore to some kids. Mike recommends group classes as a family or letting your grandchildren meet up with other kids: “kids just have a lot of fun learning with other kids, which can take some of the pressure off for grandparents.”
Remember that you’re there to have fun, be outside, and do what they want to do, not what you want to do. Taking your grandchildren out for a day on the golf course should be about bonding, laughing, and making memories together.