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A Guide to Golf Fitness for Kids

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In this series of five articles, I will be offering guidelines for golf-specific physical activity aimed at five different golfing demographics:

This article covers the physical activity that’s best for kids interested in the game of golf, and is beneficial for children who simply want to engage in golf as a hobby, as well as those who one day hope to play golf as a professional. What you’ll find is that in childhood, what’s good for a child’s physical development as a whole is also good for their golf future.

Kids

Fundamental movement skills (FMS) are what most people would call basic game play, i.e. running, throwing, catching, kicking and striking — all elements that used to make up typical lunchtime play sessions and after-school activities. With less time in school curriculums being devoted to sport, and an increasing amount of play is done with just two thumbs and controller, kids are not getting the FMS we as trainers and golf coaches would like to see.

kids-playing-a-video-game

A typical “play session” for young kids: Zero activity combined with poor postural habits.

You might ask what running, throwing, catching, kicking and striking have to do with getting better at golf – and rightly so. At first sight, golf only involves one of those movements, however, one of the major benefits of solid FMS is body awareness and control.

FMS is championed by knowledgeable golf coaches, physios and trainers who specialize in the development young players. They love to see a talented teenager with a multi-sport background who has good control and awareness of their body. It means that the teenager is able to detect the subtle changes in movement that a coach is trying to teach, or activate a certain muscle group that the physio or trainer wants to strengthen.

As a result, they are better able to make the necessary adaptations and improve their swing action a lot quicker than someone who has only swung a golf club the same way through their crucial development years.

Developing solid FMS skills also has far wider-reaching benefits than preparation for elite-level golf. The general benefits of good FMS are widely believed to indicate a higher participation rate in sport and are directly correlated with lower BMI and waist measurements. Perhaps most important, learning functional movement skills is great fun! I’ve been involved in plenty of FMS sessions for kids where they’re having so much fun that they don’t want to take the T-ball bat out their hands and do the actual golf part of their session.

CIMG7145

Modified T-Ball: One person hitting, the rest running, throwing and catching with every play.

I can see how specializing early might be tempting — most of us have heard about Tiger Woods shooting even par before the age of 3, which can make parents feel as though their 8-year-old is way behind the curve. But who would encourage a child to drop every other subject and only focus on music on age 5 just because Mozart was composing symphonies at the same age?

With that in mind, why would we see it as necessary to stunt a child’s overall physical development by focusing on a single sport?

In an age where inactivity is fast being recognized as our culture’s biggest threat to health and well being, isn’t it better to encourage the kids to run, jump, kick, throw and strike while learning some basic golf skills and having fun doing it?

If you are interested in getting your child involved in improving their FMS while they learn to play golf, then do a little homework on the junior golf programs in the area and find out if they run sessions that incorporate well thought out physical activity in their sessions.

If you are a golf coach or trainer looking to up-skill in the kids department, check out the TPI Junior Certifications and Milo Bryant. They are doing a great job of teaching people how to effectively engage kids in fundamental movement skills.

Next week, I will talk about teenage golfers and how they can benefit from better postural awareness, good form and technique, and an introduction to the gym.

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Nick Randall is a Strength and Conditioning Coach, Presenter and Rehab Expert contracted by PGA Tour Players, Division 1 colleges and national teams to deliver golf fitness services. Via his Golf Fit Pro website, app, articles and online training services, Nick offers the opportunity to the golfing world to access his unique knowledge and service offerings. www.golffitpro.net

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. brian d

    Jun 1, 2015 at 12:56 pm

    the parents of that kid in the opening picture may consider getting that kid a basketball… Looks like he could be dunking by middle school

  2. Jeez Utz

    May 28, 2015 at 2:26 pm

    Play outside???
    That’s for the poor kids!

  3. Nick Randall

    May 28, 2015 at 2:23 pm

    Hi Guys,

    Just to be clear, I’m not saying never play another video game! I too played loads of video games as a kid, in my teens and early 20s on multiple platforms and got so much enjoyment out of it. I’m suggesting that adding some physical activity to the context in which they play golf will help them become a more athletic person overall.

    There was literally one sentence devoted to the video game topic. It would be nice if people leaving comments could actually consider the entire context and message of an article before charging after the one section that they don’t agree with…………

  4. Golfraven

    May 28, 2015 at 2:17 pm

    Good article but I actually hoped to read more about golf for kids. Rest is fairly common sense for parents who already engage their children in physical activities. However looking forward to reading more.

    • Nick Randall

      May 28, 2015 at 2:27 pm

      Hi Golfraven,

      Thank you, wanted to stay distant and vague with recommendations. Firstly because it isn’t my direct area of expertise and secondly because you don’t really need to get specific at this age – teach the fundamentals of the golf swing, make it fun and include varied game based activity.

      Cheers

      Nick

  5. TR1PTIK

    May 28, 2015 at 11:07 am

    I don’t see any problem with this article. Yes, kids can (even should in some cases) play video games as it can be a good stimulant for the brain (depending on the game at least). However, I think what the author should have emphasized a little better is that kids don’t get as much playtime and physical activity at school anymore. Therefore, parents should get out with their kids and be active. It’s good for the kids and it’s good for you.

    • Nick Randall

      May 28, 2015 at 2:29 pm

      Hi TR1PTIK,

      Thanks again for constructive feedback

      Nick

      • TR1PTIK

        May 28, 2015 at 4:37 pm

        You’re welcome. I enjoy reading your articles. While it may seem like common sense to some, this article is a good reminder to make sure your kids stay active, and you don’t have to push them into any one particular sport – it’s best that you don’t. When I was growing up I played baseball, soccer, golf, and rode bmx to name a few – I also played plenty of video games. Now, even though I’ve put on a few years (and a few pounds) I am still quite athletic and have fairly good muscle control which helps me when working on swing changes with my instructor.

  6. Dave S

    May 28, 2015 at 9:26 am

    This is overly simplistic. There needs to be a balance, yes, but most people in their 20s and 30s grew up playing NES, SNES, Sega, PS, Xbox, etc. A LOT! I was a very good athlete and I played countless hours of video games as a kid. I also spent countless hours shooting baskets, playing football, running around w/ friends, etc. It’s true that no kid should spend their entire childhood indoors in front of a screen, but that actually does have some value – just like physical activity. We live in an ever-increasingly digital world. The skills kids learn in solving puzzles, using strategy and not giving up (on a hard level they can’t beat) are valueable as well. If you think video games didn’t help prepare our current generation of UAV pilots you’ve got your head in the sand.

  7. ZQ

    May 28, 2015 at 7:55 am

    Lol it’s ironic that many of the best players in the world grew up playing Playstation, SNES etc, in that exact position and did just fine eh. They also played other sports. Didn’t buy too much into biomechanics and developed what is becoming more and more elusive to the new generation = FEEL. Let kids be kids man, this is too much.

  8. Ryan K

    May 28, 2015 at 7:41 am

    Nicely done, can we just take the golf specificity out of this article and make it required reading for every parent?

    • Nick Randall

      May 28, 2015 at 2:25 pm

      Thanks Ryan, whist I don’t work in other sports or much with non golfers…….yes I think everyone could benefit from lots of varied active play when they are young.

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The 3 best ways to train your golf swing

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Understanding how to effectively train and practice is critical to transferring skills to the golf course.

In golf, I view training as a thoughtful, deliberate rehearsal of a motion to develop technique. This is better rehearsed away from the golf course. Practicing golf consists of developing your skill to take to the golf course—an example being learning to hit shots in certain winds and shot shaping.

“A lawyer will train to be a lawyer, then he or she will practice law” – The Lost Art of Golf

I find the below examples the best ways to train effectively. These techniques will also help facilitate a swing change and make your training and practice more efficient.

Mirror Work

I like my student to implement what I call “mirror work”. This is done by looking into a mirror from the face-on position.

This is a great way to get external feedback (information delivered from an outside source). Learning by external feedback will help facilitate the required body movement to produce a particular shot. It’s also a cheap and effective way to train. Research suggests observation in a mirror is considered external, so the use of mirrors will elicit external feedback, enhancing the learning process.

I prefer students to only check positions from the face-on view. If a player starts checking positions in a mirror from down-the-line, moving your head to look in the mirror can cause your body to change positions, losing the proper direction of turn.

Train Slow

Learning a new motion is best trained slow. At a slower speed, it is easier to monitor and analyze a new motion. You will have increased awareness of the body and where the shaft is in space. At a faster speed, this awareness is more difficult to obtain.

I often use the analogy of learning how to drive a car. First, you took time to learn how to position your hands on the wheel and position your foot next to the break. When comfortable, you put the car in motion and began to drive slowly. Once you developed the technique, you added speed and took the car on the freeway.

In martial arts, there are three speeds taught to students: Slow-speed for learning, medium speed for practice and fast speed for fighting. Again, the movement was trained slow to start. Once comfortable, the motion was put into combat. This should be similar to golf.

Finding Impact

Use an impact bag to get the feeling of impact and an efficient set-up. If you don’t have an impact bag, a spare car tire, bean bag or something light and soft that can be pushed along the ground can be used.

I like to refer to the impact bag as a “Push bag”. Start by setting up into the bag, lightly pressing the shaft into the bag. You will notice how your trail arm slightly tucks in and as your right shoulder drops below the left with your body leaning forward, an efficient set-up.

To get the feeling of impact swing the club back and down into the bag while maintaining your body shape. Don’t move the bag by hitting it, rather pushing it. Note how you maintain your wrist angles while pushing the bag (not flipping) and the right side of your body moves through impact.

Train your swing with these three training techniques to play better golf.

@KKelley_golf

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How posture influences your swing

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S0 what exactly is posture and how can it alter your swing? Posture is often the origin to a player’s swing pattern. I like to look at posture as the form of the body from the front view and down the line position at address.

“Shape” in posture is the angles our body creates at address. This includes the relationship between the upper and lower half of our bodies. This article will examine the importance of this shape from the face on view.

For an efficient posture that creates a simple, powerful, and repeatable swing, I like a player’s shape to be set into what I call their “hitting angles.” Hitting angles are similar to the impact position. In the picture below, note the body angles at address highlighted in green.

Once we are set into these hitting angles, the goal of the backswing is to maintain these angles, coiling around the spine. When these angles are maintained in the backswing, the club can return to impact in a more dynamic form of our set-up position. This creates minimal effort that produces speed and repeatability—essentially doing more with less.

The further we set up away from these hitting angles, our bodies will have to find impact by recovering. This is often where a player’s swing faults can occur. We want our body to react to the target in the golf swing, not recover to strike the ball.

Think of a baseball player or football player throwing a ball. When the athlete is in their throwing position, they can simply make the movement required to throw the ball at their intended target. If their body is contorted or out of position to make the throw, they must re-position their body (more movement) to get back into their throwing position, thus making them less accurate and powerful.

The good news about working on your posture is that it is the easiest part to control in the swing. Posture is a static motion, so our body will respond to 100 percent of what our mind tells it to do. It’s talentless.

Here is a simple routine to get you into these hitting angles.

To start, tuck in your trail arm making it shorter and below the lead arm, which makes your trail shoulder lower than the lead shoulder. This will give you the proper shape of the arms and wrist angles. Pictured right is Ben Hogan.

With these arm angles, bend from the hips to the ball and bump your body slightly forward towards the target getting ‘into yourself’. You may feel pressure on your lead foot, but your upper half will still remain behind the ball. Note the picture below with the blue lines.

Practice this drill using a mirror in front of you, head up looking into the mirror. Research has shown mirror work enhances motor skills and performance. Anytime you have external-focus based feedback, the learning process will escalate.

There are a lot of different postures on the PGA Tour and many ways to get the job done. There are no cookie-cutter swings, and players have different physiology. However, research and history have shown that an efficient posture gives us the best chance for solid contact and our desired ball flight. Work hard on the areas that are easiest to control: the set-up.

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Golf 101: How to chip (AKA “bump and run”)

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Although golf for a beginner can be an intimidating endeavor, and learning how to chip is part of that intimidation, this is one part of the game that if you can nail down the fundamentals, not only can you add some confidence to your experience but also you lay down a basic foundation you can build on.

How to chip

The chip shot, for all intents and purposes, is a mini-golf swing. To the beginner, it may seem like a nothing burger but if you look closely, it’s your first real way to understand contact, launch, spin, compression, and most importantly the fundamentals of impact.

What is a chip shot? A pitch shot?

Chip: A shot that is hit typically with anything from a 3-iron to a lob wedge that launches low, gets on the ground quickly, and rolls along the surface (like a putt) to the desired location.

Pitch: A shot that is hit typically with anything from a PW to a lob wedge that launches low- to mid-trajectory that carries a good portion of the way to your desired location and relies on spin to regulate distance.

Now that we have separated the two, the question is: How do I chip?

Since we are trying to keep this as simple as possible, let’s just do this as a quick checklist and leave it at that. Dealing with different lies, grass types, etc? Not the purpose here. We’re just concerned with how to make the motion and chip a ball on your carpet or at the golf course.

Think “rock the triangle”

  1. Pick a spot you want the ball to land. This is for visualization, direction and like any game you play, billiards, Darts, pin the tail on the donkey, having a target is helpful
  2. For today, use an 8-iron. It’s got just enough loft and bounce to make this endeavor fun.
  3. Grip the club in your palms and into the lifelines of your hands. This will lift the heel of the club of the ground for better contact and will take your wrists out of the shot.
  4. Open your stance
  5. Put most of your weight into your lead leg. 80/20 is a good ratio
  6. Ball is positioned off your right heel
  7. Lean the shaft handle to your left thigh
  8. Rock the shoulders like a putt
  9. ENJOY!

Check out this vid from @jakehuttgolf to give you some visuals.

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