“He put my hands on the club and said, ‘That’s the way you hold it.’ He said it just once, but that was enough. I have held it that way from then on.” – Arnold Palmer on his father’s golf lesson
The simplicity of how Deacon Palmer instilled the fundamentals of golf into his son, Arnold Palmer, is the perfect model for all parents to mirror. Let’s review these simple fundamentals and how best to introduce and reinforce them with your child.
Fun! It has been proven that children retain a much higher percentage of the lesson when they are having fun while learning. Having fun through play allows you and your child to gain value far beyond the golf lesson. Fuel your child to keep trying by praising his or her effort and attempts. Similarly, always celebrate improvement because there is nothing more rewarding and fun than feeling like progress is being made.
Fast! Promote an ideal learning environment that captivates your child. It’s easy to become discouraged when you perceive your child isn’t interested or cannot stay in it long enough to finish the lesson. Think about when your child walked into a store’s toy section and how quickly he or she moved from one toy to the next. Emulate this in the lesson. Instead of standing in one spot attempting one 3-foot putt after another, create multiple 3-foot putts around the same hole or around several holes on a practice putting green. Keep your golf sessions productive but brief. Change your environment and shot focus before your child exhibits a lack of interest. Strive to hear your child say, “I can’t wait until next time!”
Friendly! Developing your junior golfer should never resemble doing a chore. Acting as the authority isn’t a bad thing, but you must take off the parent hat and wear a coach’s hat instead. As a coach who desires to keep the lesson time friendly, point out what is going right and techniques that are being performed correctly. Also, invite another parent and child to join you to double the fun. This can be of great help to both parents because when work or another challenge interferes with a regularly scheduled session, the other parent can carry on.
Fundamentals! Focusing on the fundamentals will help grow your child’s golf ability and develop their own unique swing. Experts constantly debate the fundamentals of golf, and parents sometimes struggle to deliver them to their child. Take a tip from Deacon Palmer, who taught his boy, Arnie, five basic fundamentals: grip, address, one-piece takeaway, steady head and acceleration. Roughly 50 years later, Mr. Palmer instilled the importance of these five fundamentals into me, and I have had the privilege to do the same with our team of golf instructors.
Kids are fantastic emulators and learn best by visual demonstration. Show them how slowly so they can see it, feel it, do it and grow it with positive results. With the proper, positive introduction to golf, I believe your junior golfer will look at the sport with “a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantment of later years” as Rachel Carson so eloquently penned.