The questions I pose are not what mistakes to avoid when golfing with kids … but more importantly “What is not to be gained from taking your children and their friends golfing?” I can think of few experiences in life that provide an outdoors, video game void, cell phone off, text free environment to talk, walk, and actually listen to what kids have to say. “Golf if a good walk spoiled” … and trust me I can think of no better location in world than a golf course to listen, learn, and when the opportunity presents itself mentor a son, daughter or one of their friends.
Let me explain my points raised here and please feel free to challenge or champion my thinking.
First and foremost … you can spend a lifetime learning while golfing. Golf is a mental pursuit that involves physical motion and some ability to watch, listen, and apply what you have absorbed. Simply, golf is about learning and for the subject being discussed here … the biggest mistake is to not understand and accept that teaching our children about life is one of or primary responsibilities. Golf is not easy, and it is a difficult activity to start. The beauty of it is that small successes can come early, and it can have a rapid improvement curve. In comparison, many other activities from team sports like baseball, football, basketball, and soccer … improvement is not so nearly noticeable and the young “non-gifted” athlete is often passed over by zealous parent coaches and youth organizations. Unfortunately … these sports teach and re-enforce the primacy of winning, losing, and doing over learning. The golf course can be a classroom and as a parent not accepting it as a learning environment is one of our biggest mistakes.
Second, teaching kids to have goals is much more visible with the game of golf. Start on the putting green not the driving range. Seeing the ball going into the cup is a simple, positive, and easily repeatable goal to start kids with. The biggest mistake I see parents make is pushing the “John Daly” mentality to tell you child “Let’s get to the range to learn how to hit it far.” Again the teachable moment, “putting the ball in the cup” is the goal of golf. “Start with the end in mind” … and learning what success looks and sounds like (i.e. the kerplop of the ball dropping into the cup) will give your child that “success” rush they feel when they play their video game and advance to the endless next levels. Yes … this will get old and hitting the ball far will become that same kind of rush … but remember it will be much more difficult to achieve that and the time to do so will be significantly longer.
Finally, when you feel your child or their friends really wants to learn and play the game of golf … hit the ball far, learn the rules and customs of the game, take it up as a life-long sport … please … get some help. I am a good golfer and have a great relationship with my two sons, and teaching them to be good golfers is something I will never try to do myself. I would strongly advocate for someone else to teach them the game and learn what is really required to continually improve and begin playing at a level where every aspect of the golfing game if fun. I have seen to many “golfing dads” forget that golf should be fun and as I proposed earlier … primarily be the time to watch, listen, and mentor. Make sure your child can enjoy the game before you take them out and expect it to be a sport where the length of their drives and scores start to matter. It’s not the mistakes to avoid when golfing with your kids … it’s the way you take advantage of the opportunity that golf with your kids brings. Make sure you focus on the opportunity … and don’t worry as much about the mistakes.