Let kids decide when to play

A few weeks ago, my daughter Stella said she drew me a picture for my birthday; it was the two of us on a golf course together. Obviously one of my favorite pieces of art ever, I was excited about her bringing up the idea of golfing this year.

She followed that picture up with an “ask” to go to the golf course. So on a nice Saturday afternoon, we packed everyone up and headed for the course. We talked about what we were going to practice, how to behave on the course and where to stand when I was hitting.

After about 20 minutes of loading and unloading cars and golf carts, we got to the first tee. Two swings later and Stella declared, “I think I’m just going to drive the cart.”

Maybe next year!

But this story seems to coincide with the annual handful of questions I get related to one main topic: “When should I start my kid in golf lessons?”

Now let me be perfectly clear here; I am not an expert at parenting nor child psychology. Nor am I an expert at teaching golf. But that doesn’t prevent me from having an opinion, which is all this answer really is.

And my answer to this age old question is this: Ask your kid if they want to take lessons.

In all honesty, I did, at one point, give golf lessons for a living. And every time I gave lessons to kids, it was evident within five minutes of starting, which kids wanted to be there vs. which kids were told they were getting a golf lesson that day. Care to guess which group of kids had the better results?

My daughter Stella is 4. Just this week we talked about what activities she would like to participate in this summer, and her choice, somewhat surprisingly, was swimming. So that’s what we’ll try. And I know everyone parents differently, so I’m not trying to push my parenting approach on others. But I feel like at this point my job as Stella’s dad involves the following:

Ask her what she cares about to help identify what she wants to do.

Try to make those activities accessible to her.

Make it clear it’s important to work hard at what she chooses.

And encourage her as she progresses.

To tie this back to golf, getting children involved with the sport early is beneficial. The golf swing builds upon itself, so the earlier a student excels at fundamentals “one” the sooner they can excel at fundamentals “two.”

For most kids, I’m guessing this progress can take place between 6 and 10 years old. I know there are the Brian Terleskys and Matthew Morrones of the world — perfect-swinging phenoms who can beat most adults by age 5. Knowing both families well, I can state confidently that while many great lessons may have been taught by their fathers, the natural ability these boys possessed at young ages certainly came from other parts of the family tree!

But those cases are the rarity, not the norm. And even in those cases, I’d be willing to bet it was the child who possessed a passion for the game, and a parent who provided access and, to a degree, stayed out of the way.

So to Stella, who had no idea I wrote this column each week, your mom and I are very excited for you to start your swim lessons this summer. And I hope you get a kick out of reading your name in the paper!

And to all the parents out there hoping their child will be the next Rickie Fowler or Michelle Wie; make the sport available, but don’t push it on him or her. Those types of talents will let you know when they are ready to get serious.

Jonah Karzmer is a former golf professional who writes a Sunday golf column for The Vindicator. In his spare time he sells commercial insurance and loves getting feedback on his weekly columns via email at Jonah@thekarzmerinsurance.com.

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