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Why isn’t my child getting any better at golf?

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As a junior golf coach, I am regularly approached by parents who would like to discuss their child’s performance. They want to know why isn’t their child doing as well as they were in previous weeks or months, or why they haven’t advanced to the higher-skill group.

I always welcome these questions, because they give me an extra chance to educate parents on the goals of our junior golf development program. But unfortunately, some parents are not as understanding as they should be, or don’t have access to the right information. For that reason, unreasonable expectations are a big problem in junior golf.

I get it. As a parent, you want to see your child do as well and hit as many good shots as possible. It makes you proud, and that’s not a bad thing. It’s human nature that you want to see your child succeed. I wrote this article to help explain why your child can often struggle, and why long-term development supersedes instant success in junior golf.

Success does not follow a straight-line pattern

If you speak to any successful athlete, you will find that they likely experienced just as many lows in their career as highs. The important thing about their development, however, was that there was a general trend upward, despite the lows.

Success (1)

when I hear, “come on Johnny, you were doing better  last week,” I cringe. if you want your child to drop out of golf, then carry on.

For both parents and children, it’s easy to become obsessed with instant success, instead of thinking about long-term development. I guarantee that every child will at some stage go through a period of difficulty with their golf, as the top pros do. To aid long-term development, do not demotivate your child by highlighting their struggles. Instead encourage the child to be resilient and problem solve through this period. These are traits that top athletes have, and encouraging these traits in young children will not only help their golf, but also their development as people.

Growth spurts

Growth spurts are unavoidable. All children go through them, and these changes in body proportions drastically affect the coordination abilities of a child.

Body proportions (2)

  • At age 2, a child’s legs make up 2/5 of their body. By age 7, their legs are now 1/2 of their body.
  • At age 7, a child’s arms are 2.75/6 of their body, but by age 14 their arms are 3/7 of their body.

Imagine if I added 3 inches to your arms and asked you to swing a golf club. Your swing would be all over the place. Of course, a child’s arms do not lengthen 3 inches overnight, but the growth process affects coordination and movement skills. Furthermore, when bones grow quicker than muscles, subsequently stretching and stressing the tissue, a child’s abilities can also be affected.

Don’t make growth spurts harder on children than they already are by expecting them to maintain the same level of performance they had before their growth spurt. It won’t be long before your child is feeling confident in his or her body again.

Performance Plateaus

With anything in life, there becomes a time when performance plateaus and the journey to the next level may not be as quick as the previous journey. For example, reducing your handicap from 28 to 20 may have been reasonably easy, but the lower your handicap got the harder it was to reduce it, right? For a child, a common plateau occurs when they cannot hit the ball any farther. And in most cases, we need to wait for a child to get stronger before worrying about more distance.

Like periods of growth spurts, there will also be long periods of no growth, where a child’s strength may not increase for a period of months. So, if your child is struggling with gaining distance, do not get over concerned and let their bodies grow. To me, this is another great example of times when development supersedes instant success. While there may be no instant successes of hitting the ball farther, other valuable sport and life skills can be developed during this time, such as work ethic, team work, goal setting and important social skills, to name a few.

In our FUEL Junior Golf Programme, we are passionate about creating well rounded individuals who are physically active and love the game of golf, hence our motto #personathletegolfer.

Relative age affect

In short, relative age effect discusses the chronological age (how many years old the child is) and the biological age (actually how old/developed their body is).

Let’s say an 8-year-old named Billy and an 8-year-old named Johnny play against each other. Johnny might hit it 30 yards past Billy off the tee, but Billy’s relative age is only 6. Chances are, Billy won’t be 30 yards behind Johnny for long.

Cognitive development versus motor development

In layman’s terms, research has shown that a child’s movement skills are heavily related to their ability to process information. For that reason, it’s common that young children can sometimes not grasp new movements, despite all our efforts to help.

Childs Brain (3)

In this case, we have to allow time for a child’s mental abilities to improve before expecting any changes in movement. Moreover, a young child is often more interested in looking at the clouds than listening to your swing tips. So quit the advice and let them play, fail and learn.

When was the last time a top athlete thanked their parents for their coaching? That rarely happens, but they almost always thank their parents for their support.

Summary

As parents and coaches, we must understand that the development of a child is a highly diverse process and crucially, it is not always about golf. Sport is a great tool to help children develop in a variety of ways, and it is important not to judge them on only their sporting skill. So the next time you’re frustrated with the development of your junior golfer, remember all the reasons they could be struggling.

  • Success does not follow a straight-line pattern.
  • A child has no control over growth spurts, which can dramatically hinder their performance.
  • Performance plateaus again cannot be avoided in some areas of the game. Remember, there’s isn’t one world-class athlete who hasn’t hit a performance plateau. What’s the worry?
  • A 6-year-old can hardly add 12 and 15 together, so it makes sense that they won’t always understand the leg, knee and arm positions of the golf swing.
  • Developing your child into a well-rounded, respectful and mannered individual is most important.
  • Remember that as parents, you are there to support… not coach.

On a final note, if you want your child to become the best golfer in the world (and they better share that goal), understand that you have 20+ years to achieve it. Believe me, there is little value in being the best 10-year-old golfer in the world.

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Thomas is an Advanced UKPGA Professional and Director of the Future Elite (FUEL) Junior Golf Programme. Thomas is a big believer in evidence based coaching and has enjoyed numerous worldwide coaching experiences. His main aim to introduce and help more golfers enjoy the game, by creating unique environments that best facilitate improvement.

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. James G

    Nov 14, 2016 at 10:46 am

    Kids will improve at their own pace and interest level. Main thing is to make sure it is fun for them even if they are playing horribly. The little league overbearing parents we’ve all seen exist in golf too and it actually hurts a kid’s development. Finally, no matter how badly a parent may want their child to be good in a sport some kids just have little or no athletic ability and that’s ok. Some kids are musically talented and others aren’t as another example. Be encouraging, get good instruction and let them have fun. Make games out of it. Maybe bet the kid pizza against chores.

  2. Harry White

    Nov 12, 2016 at 1:57 am

    Juniors or adults of any age can improve steadily with a totally different way of teaching. So called modern teaching methods guarantee an average score of just under 100 as evidenced over the past 100 years. Learning is an art and should be offered that way. Count Yogi Golf does just that.

  3. Bob Jones

    Nov 11, 2016 at 10:35 am

    Maybe your child is just not into golf.

  4. Grizz01

    Nov 11, 2016 at 9:41 am

    That is insulting to Offensive lineman. They are not just couch potatoes. If you want to play in a high level College. You need to bench 225 lbs. x20 and have incredible 10 yard burst and run a 40 in about 5.0-5.4. A height of no less than 6’3″ weighing in over 270lbs.

  5. KoreanSlumLord

    Nov 10, 2016 at 5:15 pm

    Fact…you were born with golf talent. No one reading this website was born with the golf gene. You either are or are not a player.

    • Grizz01

      Nov 11, 2016 at 9:37 am

      I was thinking in the same lines. All the info shared is good, but it may just come down to being athletic enough to pull it off. Another item is desire, there are people out there (which the PGA and USGA doesn’t seem to understand) who just don’t care and will never care about the game.

  6. golfbum

    Nov 10, 2016 at 1:41 pm

    Why? Well look at all the answers so far; they are all spot on. When I was a kid, at 6:00am is was “by mom, I am going to the golf course!…will be home for dinner!” Today, parents would never allow this to happen. They hover over the kids. Kids need to play golf with other kids, and develop their skills together.

    You know, when things like this come up my first reaction is to blame the GOLF CHANNEL….you see all these shows that highlight junior golf at the highest levels..thus parents make the false assumptions that their child should be this or that good by 11 years old. It just doesnt work that way, mommy! Far too many kids I see being coached by their 12 handicap fathers, spend far too much time at the range instead of just playing and again, playing with their peers. The game is supposed to be fun, but forcing a child to practice or managing their process should not be part of the equation. Standing over them while they do so, is not going work out well for you, Dad! Because daddy may be a CEO of some 100 million dollar company, but you have no clue how to play golf! You may be able to manage subordinates, but you have no clue how to play golf!

    Kids should play golf with kids! Play in tournaments and make friends. Lifelong friends!

  7. Rors

    Nov 10, 2016 at 12:00 am

    Wow, isn’t that a fact… XBOX generation…

  8. Pingback: Why isn’t my child getting any better at golf? – Swing Update

  9. Eric

    Nov 9, 2016 at 4:15 pm

    Probably because you’re not yelling at the loud enough

  10. Looper

    Nov 9, 2016 at 2:56 pm

    Some kids are just not going to make in some sports. Try’m all and see what sticks…

  11. Butter

    Nov 9, 2016 at 11:41 am

    The Parents need to take a look at themselves and ask how they were at all kinds of hand-eye ball sports when they were growing up themselves.
    And now kids have so many other things that they do, other sports and, video games etc. Are the kids willing to drop some of those other things to focus more on golf.

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Forum Thread of the Day: “How I learned to stop worrying and love single length irons”

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Today’s Forum Thread of the Day comes from pinestreetgolf who shared his experience using single length irons. In pinestreetgolf’s excellent and thorough write-up, he explains just how single length irons worked for him, despite his previous suspects, and why he feels others should considering making the move to single length clubs in the future.

“First, I made a mistake I am constantly on others for making. I thought all-or-none. The whole “same stance, same swing, same plane” thing isn’t true. However, I decided that since one of them wasn’t true (if the lie changes, it all changes), then none of it was true. That was dumb. It’s about 80% true, and that is a lot. What I mean by that is that I struggle with ball position. Now I don’t. The club always feels the same, so you always just sort of start lining up the same all the time. It’s hard to describe, exactly. When my ball position creeps back, I start to get stuck. Now it doesn’t creep back. I grab the club, and the address position feels natural and easy.

Second, I made the mistake of thinking yardage gaps have to be consistent to be useful. They don’t. As my SL set tends towards its extremes, my gaps get larger. My 5 iron isn’t 10 yards behind my 6. But I know how far it is behind my six and I know I hit the center more often, so effectively, because I get much better contact, my gap is much more consistent even though it is smaller.

Third, I learned to hit a hybrid. I play them through 4 iron. I cannot get a SL 4 iron off the ground consistently, but my gaggle of G30 hybrids from the 2nd swing is fantastic.

Fourth, I kept my PM Grind for in and around the green complex.
Fifth, it makes practice MUCH more effective. Swap them out all the time. Hit a 6, hit a SW, hit a 9, hit a 7, rapid fire.

It took me a long time to get used to them, but the two massive pros are the setup/stance and practice. You set up the same way almost instinctively, and that is HUGE. I also feel like I get a ton more out of practice AND that my practice feels like the course a lot more.

There are some drawbacks. I found three specialty shots I had to add clubs at top and bottom to pull off:
1. A short-game only club, like a PM Grind.
2. Where the last SL doesn’t get airborne anymore. I used 3 hybrids below it. They hit middles of greens.
3. Ground balls – I can’t punch out nearly as well with a SL 5 as a CB 3 or 4. I’ve learned to use my driver on this shot.

If you are thinking about something new for irons and have some cash, I would recommend trying SL. It grew on me. I was wrong about it. The key is to stick with it. Just throw them in the bag for two months and when practicing switch up irons constantly – do NOT just bang one iron with an SL set.

Finally, either get fit or play with lie angle a lot. Mine are +3 up, and I’m only 6′. Feel great, dead even dirt line. But since they are all the same, they better be right. Just my thoughts on SL. They’ll be in my bag for the May – Sept. tournaments. I would highly recommend 1. ignoring my earlier posts on them and 2. trying them.”

Here are what a few of our members have said in response to pinestreetgolf’s post, but make sure to check out the entire discussion and have your say at the link below.

  • snowman9000: “Some people get hung up on thinking that they aren’t supposed to have a shorter wedge. I kept one, no big deal. As to hybrids, that’s no biggie either. I mean, it’d be great if we could get good results with 13 clubs the same length, but that’s just not possible. Having SL irons is a huge simplification of the game, regardless of the rest of the bag.”
  • ChrisLC40: “OP I love how you summed everything up. I made the switch a little over two years ago and have made huge improvements. At times I think about going back to variable length irons because of the offerings, but OL is so repeatable, and I feel I may go backwards and need to relearn some things.”
  • LONGBALL777: “Welcome to the Dark Side!”

Entire Thread: “How I learned to stop worrying and love single length irons”

 

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WRX Spotted: A pair of custom putters

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This week’s Zurich Classic is all about pairs — that goes for the two-man teams competing for the winner’s check(s), and in the case of notable putters we spotted, a pair of new one-off customs in bags this week: Abraham Ancer’s personal Bettinardi and Danny Lee’s new Scotty Cameron Super Rat.

Let’s start with the Danny Lee’s because there is a LOT going on with that club including first and foremost – it’s one nasty wand:

  • Super Rat head shape with a single sight line
  • The milled (actual) loft appears to be pretty standard for Cameron Putters
  • The hosel has been bent to accommodate Danny’s “armlock” style. This keeps the loft of the head where it should be while forward pressing. This kind of adjustment would need to be made to any standard putter if you were to try the armlock, or else you would deliver negative loft at impact
  • The shaft is LA Golf Shaft OZIK TP — a shaft designed to remove undesirable vibration through the shaft, while also reducing putter head oscillation at impact. Not a surprise considering the number of multi material/graphite putter shafts that are available right now to help improve consistency.
  • Last but not least a SuperStroke Flatso grip installed with the flat part of the grip aligned parallel to the putter face! This isn’t the first time we’ve seen something like this, and it makes sense – Utilizing the orientation of the grip to create greater awareness of the face angle can help players of all skill levels create more consistent results, even tour pros.

Danny has had an interesting golf bag to follow this season with a number of changes coming almost weekly from irons to putters. Maybe this change could help turn his putting around (currently ranked 116th in strokes gained: putting), all while still being inside the top 50 in the FedEx Cup.

Now to Abraham Ancer’s new Custom DASS BBZero Tour Dept. Putter.

  • This putter is based off of the BBZerostyle head with rounded bumpers and a plumbers neck
  • Compared to the BBZero though, the heel is thicker and it could have a slightly shorter blade length (TBD)
  • It has a recessed sight line on the top that runs perpendicular to the sight line in the flange to form a “T.” This is interesting for a couple of reasons including that it looks to be the width of a golf ball, which could help Abraham find the center better. Also as a right-handed golfer, this type of alignment is an indication that he is most likely right-eye dominant and uses the face of the putter to align to the target as much if not more than the flange line.
  • Just like Danny’s above, this putter is also shafted with the LA Golf Shaft OZIK TP — there must be something about that that has more players testing it out.
  • And finally, the grip is the SuperStroke Claw. Judging by the cleanliness of both these grips these are both new to the players and testing will prove what ends up come tournament time.

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Forum Thread of the Day: “Iron type for controlling shots into the wind?”

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Today’s Forum Thread of the Day comes from eckmanjp who is on the hunt for irons to help with controlling shots played into the wind. Our members give their opinions on what are the best options for eckmanjp, with plenty of different clubs and shafts recommended.

Here are a few posts from the thread, but make sure to check out the entire discussion and have your say at the link below.

  • driveandputtmachine: “Into the wind, spin is NOT your friend. No matter how low launching it will balloon. I was an extremely high spin player, in my search for something lower spinning my three best were…. TM P 790, Cobra Forged TEC, and Ping i500.The final piece is a shaft that spins high enough to hold greens, but not too high to balloon into the wind.”
  • mogc60: “Sounds like you have good clubs and shaft combo for reducing spin. Shafts do make a difference…but don’t cure the upshoot into the wind. Good advice above about more club and swinging slower…speed equals spin. I find the biggest mistake people make into the wind is playing the ball too far back and hitting down too hard. The key is smooth through impact and finishing low in your follow through…not pounding it down…that creates that upshooting shot that the wind destroys.”
  • dpb5031: “Technique plays the major role here, not equipment. Generally, anywhere from 1 to 3 extra club, grip down on the handle, and use what I call a wide-to-wide swing at 3/4 speed. Think limited arm swing (no longer than left arm parallel with the ground in BS) and then cover the ball, keep body turning through it, and finish wide & low, with handle following your rotating trunk around to the left.”
  • rxk9fan: “I think the head/shaft combo can make a huge difference of course along with how you deliver the clubhead into the ball. Take a look at the Titleist shaft chart and see what they are showing. FWIW though, the OP’s current shaft should not be a high launch/high spin shaft. I found both the 716 AP2 and CB to be tough to control spin with, but as suggested it was 100% my delivery at impact. I found the Srixon Z9xx series to spin less but the best thing I did was get to a quality teacher, and we improved a pretty tiny swing flaw that had a big impact on spin. Good luck. I can say I tried to “new club” my way through the spin problem, but three lessons is what it took to fix it.”

Entire Thread: “Iron type for controlling shots into the wind?”

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