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The 4 Tenets of Junior Golf Success

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I was fortunate to be raised across the street from a beautiful course in Illinois called Mt. Prospect Golf Club. MPGC had a wonderful junior golf program, and the experience was pivotal in my junior golf experience. To this day, my memories of attending the summer golf camps are still vivid.

The golf bug bit me when I was about 9 years old. I played all the sports: baseball, basketball, soccer and football, but golf stuck in my mind. My Dad played golf early Saturday mornings, and my older brothers played golf, too, so golf was always around in my family.

The first PGA Tour event I attended was the Western Open played at Butler National. I was exposed to the majestic fairways and huge trees, and I distinctly remember seeing what I thought was a giant of a man walking down the middle of the fairway. He looked so calm and cool with his clothes and shoes perfectly pressed and cleaned. At that moment, I knew I wanted golf to be in my future.

Now that I coach junior golfers, my mind frequently returns to the four tenets of junior golf that were taught at the junior golf camps I attended so many years ago at MPGC. They were just as important then as they are now.

No. 1: Keep it FUN

When you’re teaching junior golfers (and I’m talking about junior golfers like you’re going to see in these photos, not high school prodigies), try to create as many fun chipping, pitching, and putting contests as possible.

We had a basement in my childhood house, and me and my brother were always creating fun, miniature putt-putt courses. When I first started teaching junior golfers, I knew this would be a cool way to teach them to putt. Using string, ribbon and electrical wire, I was able to recreate my childhood putt-putt courses on regular putting greens. My students always enjoy the challenge of trying to keep the different colored golf balls inside the strings.

kid5

Another thing I remember loving as a kid was loud noises. One day I was thinking, “What causes a really loud noise?” The answer I came up with was metal garbage cans, and I knew chipping a golf ball into a metal garbage would give awesome feedback. That lead to me this awesome drill; just lay a garbage can on its side with the mouth facing the junior and have them hit pitch shots into it.

It’s amazing how much a junior golfer of any age loves smashing a golf ball into a metal garbage can, and how much it makes them focus at the task at hand… a the loud BOOM of success only makes kids want to do it more. What makes this type of practice even better is the it teaches a child to control the club face, ball position, shaft lean, ball flight and swing direction while having a lot a fun in the process.

kid4

No. 2: Let Them Play

“Let them play!” was the famous chant from the great movie, Bad News Bears, and it’s great advice for junior golfers. I always encourage junior golfers and their families to get them on the golf course as soon as possible. Even if the junior can’t play a full golf hole, they can play from about 30 yards in front of each green and see how low they can score on a hole or on 9 holes.

There are a ton of benefits to doing this, the first of which is teaching junior golfers how to score. I like to treat each hole as a par-3, and until they start making pars and birdies, there’s no reason to make the course longer. There is a story of Jack Nicklaus’ coach, Jack Grout, making Nicklaus play from the forward tees until he made a certain amount of birdies. This helped him get comfortable scoring and going low.

It’s no secret that most successful junior golfers have the best short games. They are by far the best putters, chippers, sand players and pitchers of the golf ball. That’s why I like to see junior golfers continue to work from the green backward in their development, progressing from 30 yards to 50 and maybe even 100 yards with the goal of making a target score. Eventually, your junior golf will be all the way back to the regulation junior golf course, and when they are, they’ll understand how to score and how to put the ball in the hole in the fewest number of strokes.

No. 3: Keep it Simple

Kid3

Golf instruction for juniors and adults is completely different. Junior golfers need to learn basics in the golf swing. Balance, a proper grip, the stance, good alignment and the finish position are just some of the basics junior golfers needs to understand.

These fundamentals can seem boring, but there are ways to make them fun. The first place to start is to remember that the less information a junior golfer receives, the better. My favorite lesson is to have a junior learn the finish position in balance. Knowing that, it’s easier for them to learn the full swing. All they have to do is work backward.

Another great way to help them learn the swing is to have them watch professional golf, specifically their favorite PGA Tour or LPGA Tour player. It will have a surprising and important effect on a junior golfer’s swing. Most importantly, let junior golfers develop their swing mechanics at their own pace. Pushing mechanics too early is a recipe from problems.

No. 4: Experiment

Kid 2

I want my junior golfers to be able to hit every level of shot, or at least try. I ask them to get creative and try to hit their shots higher or lower. My favorite drill is taking a chair and having a junior hit a full shot keeping the ball under the chair. This will help them learn how to playing into the wind or hit a shot under a tree on a course.

I also like my junior golfers to learn how to use each of their club in a bunker. You will be amazed at how a junior golfer loves a challenge of trying to get out of a bunker with their 7 iron. You can also teach them how to chip with their fairway wood, which will teach a them touch around the greens. One great drill is putting from super long distances, which will only benefit a junior golfer as he or she gets older. And every once in awhile, an 80-foot putt drops. That look on their face… it’s priceless.

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Jess Frank is a PGA Teaching Professional at Deer Creek Golf Club in Deerfield Beach, Florida. He's owner of the Jess Frank Golf Academy, and his passion is to help golfers play better and have more fun on the course. Students have described his instruction style as non-intimidating, friendly and easy to understand. Jess works with every level of golfer, and his lesson tee includes complete beginners and high-level golfers. Playing lessons are also a very important part of his lesson program. His greatest joy is seeing his students smile and get excited about playing golf! Please feel free to email him at pgapro@jessfrankgolf.com or contact him directly at 561-213-8579.

22 Comments

22 Comments

  1. Jess Frank

    Jul 9, 2017 at 8:42 pm

    Thanks again for your reply Sir!

  2. B Moore

    Jul 9, 2017 at 10:46 am

    Jess thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge and experiences. The galvanized garbage can is a great idea.

    • Jess Frank

      Jul 9, 2017 at 12:18 pm

      Hey B Moore! Thank you so much for reading and responding to my article! It’s my passion to help players of all abilities and ages to have more fun playing and practicing the game of golf:) Both adults and kids love the garbage cans! The smashing is fun! Thanks again!

  3. Alex

    Jul 8, 2017 at 8:52 pm

    Good article. That’s what I did as a kid. And what children did too when we had a great junior program at my course. The kids would spend the day making up games. Some of them are scratch players now and they have some impressive touch around and on the green.

    • Jess Frank

      Jul 9, 2017 at 12:22 pm

      Thanks for reading and reaching out Alex! Growing up around an awesome junior program, I was fortunate to be exposed to a game that lasts a lifetime! Many of my friends who I grew up with ended up playing high school and college golf because of the program in Mt. Prospect, IL! FUN and Learning the game for kids and adults is so important! Kids and adults learn solid ball striking in a manner that is fun and exciting! Thanks again!

  4. PPPP

    Jul 7, 2017 at 10:03 pm

    Ludicrous!
    The 4 tenets are
    Practice, practice, practice, play

    • Jess Frank

      Jul 8, 2017 at 7:22 am

      Hey PPPP,

      Thank you so much for reading and responding to the article! I totally agree with your 4 tenets. However, you are now competing in a different world with X Box, Mine Craft, etc. and as a junior golf instructor we need to be creative to keep the child’s attention. Children learn through play and expressing themselves so they feel comfortable in their own learning environment! Phil Mickelson just had an awesome interview on Golf Channel Academy with Martin Hall about how he learned how to compete with short game contests growing up. Getting kids to the course and around golf is the way to grow the game. Thanks again!

    • Ude

      Jul 8, 2017 at 2:56 pm

      PPPP = Pretty Pathetic Practice Player

      • Jess Frank

        Jul 8, 2017 at 6:29 pm

        LOL! I like it! I bet you are better on the course under the gun PPPP!

        • Ude

          Jul 9, 2017 at 1:00 am

          As a child I didn’t play golf; I played the piano for many years. I had weekly lessons and practiced a lot, a lot, so when I got on stage I performed.
          I also played b’ball, tennis, soccer, all leg-foot running sports.
          Golf came later in life and I have a decent homemade swing because I know solitary practice based on my childhood piano practicing.
          The difference between my and my golf buddies is they freeze on stage while I step up and perform, not flawlessly but respectably.
          I have no indecisiveness and can perform within my capabilities.
          No stage fright here.

          • Jess Frank

            Jul 9, 2017 at 8:37 pm

            Hey Ude!

            Thank you very much for your comments! I agree 100%! One of my mentors said you don’t practice once and then go play Carnegie Hall. It takes hard work, perseverance and lots of practice. People see the finished product on TV but what they don’t see is a kid who has hit millions of golf balls and grinded for years. Traveling to no name towns and building confidence and grit under pressure. Your background has conditioned you and prepared you for high pressure situations. Sam Snead used to listen to classical music while practicing. So music and golf are intertwined. Good luck with your game and thanks again!

  5. Was

    Jul 7, 2017 at 9:07 pm

    Oh please don’t feed the monkey=

    • ooffa

      Jul 9, 2017 at 6:34 am

      See what I mean Jess, If you travel down his rabbit hole of lunacy don’t say you weren’t made aware.

  6. Old Putter

    Jul 7, 2017 at 3:10 pm

    When number one wasn’t “have a rich dad” I didn’t bother with the rest of the article

    • Ude

      Jul 7, 2017 at 4:15 pm

      bitter bitter bitter

    • Jess Frank

      Jul 7, 2017 at 4:49 pm

      Hello Old Putter, thanks for your comments! There are so many positive ways to get children into the game at a very low cost. Check out the First Tee Program in your areas. There are many YMCA’s that also offer inexpensive ways into the game. Most public courses will let children chip and putt for free and even have discounted rounds or free rounds of golf for kids accompanied by an adult. We have a local par 3 course you can play for $7 in Boca Raton on the Ocean too:)

    • Jon Doyle

      Jul 8, 2017 at 12:16 pm

      I suggest you Google the First Tee or the Tiger Woods Learning Centers. Golf isn’t just for rich kids anymore, and it hasn’t been for a long time.

      • Jess Frank

        Jul 8, 2017 at 6:30 pm

        I agree 100% Jon Doyle! So many inexpensive ways to get kids into the game now! Many junior programs also offer hand me down US Kids sets:)

  7. BlubberButt

    Jul 7, 2017 at 11:24 am

    Are you that desperate for ad revenue that you need video ads that cover the entire screen when loading a page?

    • Joey5Picks

      Jul 7, 2017 at 3:12 pm

      You could give some people a $100 bill and they’d complain it’s not crisp and brand new.

      • BlubberButt

        Jul 7, 2017 at 4:34 pm

        False equivalency much? This site has ads at the top banner, down the sides, in the middle between the articles and comments, and popup banners at the bottom. I think putting up with that level of ads is pretty reasonable compared to most websites. Adding those big things that fill up the whole screen and cause the page’s material to shift seems excessive. Maybe they should focus on cutting their costs if they are that short of money.

    • AG

      Jul 8, 2017 at 3:11 am

      What Ad? Just use AdBlock Plus and Ghostery. You won’t see a thing

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