What's your ideal learning environment for junior golfers?
Games Based Learning
The ideal learning environment for junior golfers is FUN! At US Kids Golf we teach coaches to operate using 6 keys:
1. Teach Lightly – This means no lectures, no sitting around. Teach a new skill in 60 seconds then…
2. Play a game that increases the skill your introducing – After a short 60 second lesson and demonstration, launch into a game that helps the learner get better at what your teaching. For example, we use a large tic tac toe board on the green and multiple sets of colored balls. Each student gets 5 balls of the same color and tries to create a tic tac toe. Getting a tic tac toe means they have solved the problems of distance and direction control of a ball rolling on the ground.
3. Measure and award – For us, we have a 10 level curriculum with 5 skills at each level: Putting, Around the Green, Full Swing, Knowledge and Scoring. For each skill at each level the students have the opportunity to earn these pins. When they earn all 5 they level up and earn all 5 again.
4. Have a Next – In the old days, we taught the same thing over and over. By using a baby step approach with 10 levels of curriculum, there is always a next step, level, award etc.
5. Get on the Course – Getting on the course is essential for connecting the dots between what we are practicing on the range and what the game is about. Even getting out and playing a hole from 50 or 100 yards with 6 as a target score connects the dots and allows kids to get on course.
6. Include the Parents – We encourage parents to come close and when they do, we tell them to please repeat what they hear us say or what is written in the booklet for the level they are working on….please don’t add anything else…which means you’ll never say keep your head down and your left arm straight.
Following these 6 keys and allowing kids to progress at their own pace (structure without restraint) has created a very robust junior golf academy for us and many US Kids Certified Golf Coaches.
We make golf fun enough, long enough, till they can’t get enough!
Teaching & Coaching Junior Golfers
Children learn best when the environment created for them is fun, task specific & clear, and free of performance pressure… The following is a ‘recipe’ for developing healthy junior golfers/athletes. This ‘recipe’ is taken from Mr. Chuck Hogan’s book Golf & The Intelligence of Play:
“This is a rare dish, only for the most discriminating of palates. Many of your guests will like its presentation, while few will appreciate your efforts.
Unlimited amounts of unconditional acceptance
A limited number of rules without ambiguity
Every spice of play you can find
Lots and lots of various models
A pinch of technical advice.”
An excellent resource on coaching & supporting junior athletes is The Positive Coaching Alliance, www.positivecoach.org.
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Junior golf is the PRESENT and the FUTURE
Junior golf is a huge part of our facility at Canyon Springs. We have around 400 players throughout our year long programs. Our juniors are on the course as much as possible. I strongly feel that getting junior comfortable with on course settings is extremely important. When or if they need more instruction I find that juniors thrive in a group setting. Not only are you able to set up competitions but juniors feed off of energy from other juniors.
It depends a lot on the students age and where they are in their development. If you have a pretty standard junior golfer, I like an environment with open space for them to be creative and learn from competing. Learning to hit shots while competing helps the junior learn faster than hitting the same shot 50 times with a coach standing there.
It Depends On The Junior Golfer.
I think my ideal learning environment for junior golfers depends on the junior golfer and their skill level and goals in golf. If I have a junior with a lot of talent who wants to play college or pro golf, I would recommend that they take private individual range/short game lessons with playing lessons and a big focus on the mental game. If I have a junior golfer that just wants to play for fun, I may recommend them to a group lesson environment with other junior golfers. Either way, I usually put a huge focus on attitude and how juniors should always conduct themselves on the golf course (with good etiquette) when teaching any kids.
If we are trying to build/shape a swing I want high volume reps on the range. If we are trying to play the game then getting on the course is better. However this depends on your situation. I am at a very nice Public Facility that has a lot of rounds played. Getting out on the course for a playing lesson can be very difficult.
What I try to find out from both the player and parent is problem areas during their last round or two.
If the problems are green side we have a great short game area to replicate the situations.
If the problems are more full swing oriented we have a nice sized range that we can visualize/replicate where they are struggling.
Freedom - no helicopters
The best learning environment is one in which you can form a bond of trust with the student without interference from parents. I like to get on eye level with my students even if I need to get on my knees .. Trust on both ends is so important .. and sometimes the role of a coach expands beyond the game of golf
Social, Safe, Fun
Social – Where kids can meet new friends to play golf with
Safe – Assure the parents that when they bring their kid to golf, he or she is safe
Fun – Playing fun 15 minute games that develop skills and enhance learning
Ideal Junior Golf learning environment
The ideal learning environment for my Junior Golfers is the short game area on the driving range. The area is large enough to set up several different drills for skill development. Following the drills, we take the Juniors into the golf course to test their skills learned.
PGA Junior League is great for kids!!
We are fortunate to host two PGA Junior League teams at our course, Zaca Creek.
It is a perfect learning center, with full access for the juniors to learn and practice all aspects of the game. PGA Jr League gives them the opportunity to take it out onto the course, learn playing procedures, etiquette, and comradery from qualified PGA Professionals. The kids are able to face their own personal challenge to develop their golf game on a scaled-down golf course, in a safe, welcoming, and fun environment.
PGA Jr League is a team scramble format, and they are able to participate at any skill level.
Play Golf with your Friends
The best way for Juniors to be inspired is to play golf with their friends. Learning to play the great game of golf is just better with your buddies. What better learning environment than boys and girls together, playing games and learning golf skills without even knowing it. Just pure play! The fun is what it’s all about and that attraction is real. Forget trying to build a fire under your Junior golfer, instead put them in a playful environment and watch their golf IQ grow. And their self-confidence!
Junior Golf: Keep it Simple
It is extremely important to keep junior golf fun, safe, and engaging. When creating a junior golf environment, use props. The putting green is a great example. A few tees, some string, and creativity can go along way in getting kids excited about the game of golf.
The next time you create a fun environment for junior golfers, use six tees and set them up like bowling pins. Then, place golf balls on top of them and have the juniors try and putt the golf ball to the tees and bump off the golf balls. This helps them learn about pace, line, and how to set up properly to putts.
Secondly, use string to “draw” a ladder on the green. The juniors will then try and have their golf ball land in one of the rungs of the ladder. Have them try and hit every putt into each one of the rungs.
Lastly, place a line using string. The juniors will then line up on either side of the string and try and putt as close as they can to the line. The player who putts the closest wins.
Keep it fun, keep it safe, keep it engaging.
It is easy
I grew up listening to my golf pros in the Pro Shop. Telling stories about the tour or local tournaments. They gave me golf tips , as well, but listening to them was like reading the Bible. Dutch Harrison was able to mix humor with education,as one. I hung on every word. Pros can emanate by word and deed, as much as they do on the practice tee or the course.