How to teach Junior Golf

Sorry for such a long blog post but I am just so excited and passionate about this topic. I recently became certified in the American Development Model for golf. Below is my feelings towards the model and also my notes from the seminar. Please excuse any typos or if I offend anyone in anyway because that was not my intention. My intention and goal is to always grow the game of golf and to look for better ways to do that. I think the PGA of America hit it spot on! Some information has been copied from the PGA lessons (PGA.COACH) and then transferred into my own words and what I think is important. If anyone wants to learn more please visit PGA.COACH for parents and coaches. Please comment below or email me any feedback or questions!

70 % of kids are quitting sports in high school because it is not fun anymore. In my day when I was growing up, my grandpa (Opa) who was my main influence in becoming a golfer, told me I can only play one sport and focus on that and become the best I could at that one sport to eventually get a scholarship. Well that worked out for me but did not work out for many of my friends at the time who only played golf at a high level very young. Parents were very tough and critical of everything they did and almost forced their kids to come to the golf course. And of course you can guess what happened when they got older… They were burned out before they could even get the opportunity to think about going to college. A lot of my friends who played baseball their whole childhood and teens were getting injured and having surgeries from making the same repetitive movement since they were elementary school. And I am not blaming the parents because they ultimately want what is best for their child and have the mentality of you are going to thank me later. But in their high school years, when kids rebel the most and are finding themselves, they need to be able to make the decision on what sport they want to do on their own. When they choose to play something and have that burning desire and GRIT, that is when they can grow to be the best at whatever it is they want.

This is why I am so happy the PGA is starting to use the American Development Model (ADM) as a guidelines for coaches and parents to learn not only golf but all sports. The ADM is based on guidelines and principles to make sure we’re approaching training in an age appropriate way. ADM aims to fix some aspects of sport that needs to be more effective then they are now. For instance, risk of injury from early age and overuse, reducing childhood obesity and even helping kids become leaders on and off the course are going to be possible from this approach. An early focus on just one sport, often leads to injuries, burnout and puts a ceiling on athletic potential. The ADM is not specializing solely in golf, it takes a broader approach for multi-sport participation. Developing better, more agile athletes who can play the sport longer and eventually winning more on and off the course. The success of the ADM model is defined by an increase in participation and longevity in the sport. This model was first used by the USA Hockey programs support and developed players, coaches, officials, and facilities. In January 2009, the organization launched the American Development Model, which - for the first time ever - provided associations nationwide with a blueprint for optimal athlete development and was highly successful. The PGA is adopting the ADM to change how we introduce young players to the game and ultimately the goal of all teaching professionals is to develop golfers for life.

“As many as possible, for as long as possible, with the best experiences as possible.” - Suzy Whaley, PGA President.

Outcomes from the ADM:

  1. Grow both the general athletic population and the pool of elite athletics

  2. Develop fundamental skills that transfer between sports

  3. Provide and appropriate avenue to fulfill an individuals potential

  4. Create a generation that loves physical activity and transfers passion to the next generation

The ADM guidelines have seven Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) stages based on age. It is critical to acknowledge that various ages and make adjustments for young players when necessary. Do not try and hold someone to a stage that they do not belong in.

LTAD Stages Overview:

Stage 1: Active Start

  • Discover Learn and Play

  • Ages 0-6

  • Encourage multiple sports through play

  • Main objective of this stage is to get kids moving and eventually link smaller movements together in play.

  • Should not be structured but fun and a regular part of daily life; not required or forced

  • Experience the environment where play is #1 and kids want to come to the golf course by making sure connecting golf with fun.

  • Specific activities relating to: balance, stability, object control, plyometrics, speed and agility

  • Related games/activities: Encourage to run and maybe not always in a straight line (stopping then starting again and then changing directions), Throwing soft objects at targets, cumin on one foot and basic movements with cab and ball. 

  • Learn how to share and say please and thank you. Be friendly and encouraged to explore and have positive experiences on their interests.

Stage 2: FUNdamentals

  • Ages 6-9

  • Goal is to provide fun, inclusive, multi-sport and developmental appropriate to have these experiences result in confidence and grow the desire to participate in multiple sports.

  • Three basic skills: Agility, Balance, Coordination and Speed

  • Fundamental movements: Skipping, hopping, jumping, catching and hitting

  • Skills to be mastered: Grip, aim, posture and weight transfer

  • Friendship: learn to play well with others through team work and sportsmanship

  • Keep them engaged by building rewards along the want

  • No formal practice at this age and is about positive experiences and participation based on the Childs interest level

  • Create games to improve overall golf knowledge which teach names of items and locations on the course, recording our score and basic golf etiquette are appropriate for players in this stage

  • Use smiley faces as a tool for monitoring simple things like their enjoyment level and basic understanding 

  • End training with light stretched to avoid future injuries and spend time with parents educating them on importance of recovery.

Stage 3: Learn to Play

  • Ages 9-12

  • Emphasis should still be on general sport skills suitable for a number of different sports and activities, rather than focusing on one.

  • Can start to focus on technical skills and training or practice can be more effective with competitive games

  • Pitching, chipping and full swing should be practiced while structured introductions of bunker play, reading the green and pitching

  • Practice 30% competitive and 70% Fun/Activities/Games

  • This stage is crucial for athletic development because is also the stage of puberty. Players begin to put together fundamental skills and express a sense of individuality

  • Goal setting can provide a foundation for future success in sports.

  • Enjoyment and success will increase the possibility of the child being active in the sport for life.

  • When developing programs for this stage remember: Teach general fundamental golf skills, skills, further develop all movement skills, develop speed by using activities that focus on agility, quickness and change of direction in warm ups, provide developmentally appropriate conditions and identify sports the child enjoys and may have a predisposition towards.

Stage 4: Play to Improve

  • Ages 11-16

  • Monitoring: muscle development, alignment and flexibility.

  • Should happen quarterly to communicate any physical changes

  • Goal in this stage is to continue to strengthen basic skills and acquire new skills suited for competition

  • Stage of beginning of specialization

  • Practice should be 60% trainman and 40% competitive

  • Recommend to still avoid year round competition

  • PHV-Peak High Velocity is the time when kids grow the fastest and is best determination of when to increase endurance and strength development

  • Focus on general: speed, strength, and endurance during training becomes critical to succeed in competition for players in this stage

  • Distractions come into play and raining should include tactics for managing these distractions during competition

  • Technical training should include day of competition strategies to maintain focus

  • This stage is self selecting in that kids who are serious about pursuing the game of golf, tend to emerge while others decide to spend their time playing other sports.

  • Development off course: give young players accountability, off course behavior leads o in game discipline, and coaches should clearly state the importance of determination and commitment in training to achieve results during competition.

  • Players may look more mature than they are able to act

  • In this stage players will experience: physical puberty, emotional tendencies, moodiness and increased interest in their peer but will also have greater ability to think abstractly. Meaning seeing different ways to do different tasks and consequences for their actions.

  • Practice sessions should be 45-90 minutes or 5-7 hours per week

  • Practice sessions should still be fun and should include games and activities that measure and encourage player development. For example: how many putts can you make in a row? Or how many balls can be hit in an imaginary fairway? Or games with friends like         HORSE or 21

  • 60% training and 40% competition 

  • Equipment should have a full set that fits them

  • Players should be playing and investing time on the golf course as much as they are on the practice facility. The more play time a player gets on the course, then the more comfortable they will be on the golf course as it prepares them for competition.

  • Coach should be encouraging flexibility training as the rapid growth of bones during this stage leader to stress on tendons, ligaments and muscles

Stage 5: Play to Compete

  • Girls Ages 15-21 and Boys ages 16-23

  • Develop a culture that is stress free. Eliminate stress by developing a routine and breathing exercises. Preparation and communication with parents, teachers and coaches.

  • At this stage in the players life, they have a lot going on. As a coach, it is our job to simplify these thoughts and understand them and how much they have going on. Our job is to create an environment that is fun and the players have their support.

  • At this stage they have already chosen the sport thy want to excel in.

  • Stage of competitive spirit

  • Only having one sport for them to focus on to achieve maximum results

  • Players should be able to hit trouble shots: punch, ball position, buyer and flop shots

  • Optimize preparations to be tactical, technical, mental and physical

  • Key concepts tha will improve competitive skill: 

    • Centeredness of ball contact and understanding on impact conditions and related ball flights

    • Accuracy and ball distance control with all clubs

    • Detailed knowledge of escape shot techniques

    • Detailed knowledge of trouble shot techniques

  • Introduction to use of caddy

  • Rules of golf

  • Development off the course: GRIT.

    • Grit is not talent and not luck but a combination of passion and perseverance that grows when talent and skill are added to the mix.

  • Strengthen their mental approach. Mental strategies boost confidence especially during competition but also allows players to remain calm and focused 

  • Athletic development plan: process goals, pre and post shot routines, calming strategies, focussing and refocusing and standard debriefing process are all important as long as you have a plan.

  • In this stage they will be apt to contribute to decision making and express thoughts the may differ from others.

  • Offer choices and options in their training as well as pt them in “what if”situations. 

  • Learns to perform to and beyond their potential otherwise known as developing GRIT. 

  • GRIT is important to develop on the golf course and in life.

  • Practice Times 32042 weeks a year and about 30-40 hours per week

  • This is an elite group where players will most likely go on to play collegiate golf, semi or even pro level.

  • Practice sessions should be 3-4 hours

    • 20% short game 40% putting 40% long game

  • Practice sessions should have an element of achieving personal bests

Stage 6- Play to Win

  • Girls ages 18+ and Boys ages 19+

  • Coaches main goal at this point is to try to help manage things the may come up and to also try to anticipate things

  • Main objective is to reinforce, refine and optimize technical, tactical and ancillary skills.

  • But overall main goal and objective is to WIN!

  • Athletic and technical skills should have:

    • Full mastery of technical skills

    • Centeredness of ball contact

    • Ball control

    • Distance control

    • Ability to adopt a variety of conditions

    • Ability to set a game plan

    • Understanding of their personal strengths and weaknesses

  • Athletes in this stage should understand the need for rules and regulations and planning and structure. They also should see the long-term pay off their hard work and goal setting.

  • Athletes will be more self directed and independent. Now players reach level of maturity where they start taking responsibilities for them selves and actions. They start to think critically about their choices.

  • Practice at this stage should be focused on further developing their skills

  • Practice plan for this stage can include 44-48 weeks per year (not consecutively) and 35-45 total training hours per week (on and off the course)

  • 3-4 18 hole rounds of golf per week

  • Practice sessions are 4-6 hours with varied focus on rest and recovery

  • Reinforcing good decision making in practice is critical if you want to build playing skills. Was good does hitting a perfect 8 iron if it is 20 yards short of green because of poor judgement.

  • Progression in difficulty and skill level is key during this stage. Creativity got various shot making skills should be encouraged as part f their practice.

  • Train golfers to peak at major competitions

Stage 7- Play Golf for Life

  • Lifelong sport that teaches kids life skills and core values. The game makes champions in life not just in golf.

  • This is impactful as a coach because know the game of golf has truly helped them become a better version of themselves

  • If you see players having fun, learning and improving, then as a coach you are probably on the right track.

  • If you see students frustrated and overthinking and getting down on themselves, then you are probably becoming a technical and to focused on results rather then the process and enjoyment

  • In this stage players can still be participants in the game by becoming competitive for life (still enjoying the game but can no longer play at high competitive levels so play in clubs or events) or Fit for Life ( plays for physical activity and enjoyment)

  • Those that want to give back to the game in a leadership role can become sport and physical activity leaders in coaching, officiating and mentoring.

  • He game can be enjoyed outdoors by anyone whether its in a junior camp or a retiree who has never played but would like to learn.

As a coach we are teachers and parents in a way. As they get older and we as coaches continue to push them but also continue to encourage them because with people sometimes it takes a bit more. So understand the students you have, because in being a good coach, we are good teachers by communicating with them and we are parents by showing that we care. We care not only as a golfer but also as a person. And that is our role as a coach, to be there for them as a teacher and as a parent. Most of my students now are like family to me. I have baby sat some of my students and have taken them on many different fields trips and quite frankly cannot imagine m life without them.

Im so excited about the promotion and implementation of the American Development Model because it makes golf fun again. It makes learning golf seem easier and less stressful in a way by having all the stages lined up. You can prepare yourself for whatever stage in our life may be next. But the important thing is having the choice to take on the next stage in golf when ready.

When I was first presented with the ADM, I was a bit skeptical because really you are going to tell coaches how to coach and parents how to parent? But a lot of time parents do not know and are asking me, “Ok what is next, what should she be doing now? She has taken a month of lessons, so should we be signing her up for tournaments? When can she start doing tournaments?” There has never been an easy road map for parents on how to prepare their child for golf. Its not as simple as basketball or soccer for kids. Now there is a guideline or blueprint for parents so they can relax if their 8 yer old son is not hitting it 200 yards his first year learning golf. It helps understand that the process is a long time achievement with different obstacles along the way. So now when I see the PGA adopting this model, I am very excited for what is next for the future of golf.

I hope you have enjoyed this article and may have learned or cleared some things up about learning to golf. Please pass this article along to any parent or coach you know. Thank you for reading and #driveon!

Heather KingComment