One of the great things about golf is that it is a game you can play your entire life. However, like many sports, the earlier you begin, the better you can ultimately become. When you see young kids stepping up to the first tee with their childrens golf clubs, how many times has the thought run through your head that you wished you had started at their age? Kids who start early and are successful will continue to develop skills far beyond their years. The more they play, the more they develop a real feel for the game, and their game improves still more.
It is about this time when parents see how well their child is playing that they begin to wonder just how good their child might really be someday. But recognizing your child’s potential in golf can be tricky, especially if you’re not a golfer yourself. As you are watching your 10, 12 or 13 year old playing golf, don’t fall into the “I bet he/she could get a college scholarship” trap, or worse the “He/she could make a bundle as a pro” trap. It’s not to say your young golfer might not earn a scholarship or have a career in golf, it is just a warning that if you become one of “those” parents, your child might end up dreading the game they are beginning to love. Your job is to provide them with encouragement, well fitted childrens golf clubs so they can play their best, and access to a golf course. Don’t be their coach, don’t be a drill instructor-style motivator.
When you are trying to assess your child’s potential, remember that children grow and learn at different rates. If you have a kid who is big for his age, he might have some issues as his coordination tries to catch up with his growth. Conversely, if your child is small for his age, don’t enter him in a long ball competition with kids who are much larger.
Instead of trying to evaluate your child by looking at numbers, like their score or how far they drive, take it a level deeper. Look at their entire game. How well do they chip? How well do they putt? Are they really trying to get better in every aspect of the game or are they only interested in hitting long drives? All these will give you clues to your youngster’s golf IQ and their long-term potential in the game.
If your child wants to compete, then get them into tournaments. Playing in tournaments against their peers will also give you a very good idea about their potential. Encourage your child to play in as many tournaments as they want to. The operative phrase is “as they want to.” Don’t push them, as that can turn them off from golf forever.
As they continue playing in tournaments, you will see how they progress or if they plateau in their skills or enthusiasm. Generally, when someone is very good at golf or they have a burning desire to get better, they will excel. Encourage your child to continue on at each level through juniors and into high school. Who knows, your child might actually get that college scholarship or pro career… And if they don’t, they will still have the solid foundation for a lifetime of enjoying great golf.