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Growing Up Golf Part 2: Play Time

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Click here to read more stories from Kadin’s series, “Growing Up Golf.”

As our daughter approached her third birthday, my wife and I thought it was time to move towards purchasing her some real golf clubs. Now when I say clubs, I am referring to an 8 iron and a putter. There really isn’t a need for anything else at this stage of development. So I headed out to our local pro shop and spoke with a PGA Certified Instructor on what he felt would be a good fit. He showed me what they had in stock for children. He asked me how tall she was and I told him 40” and he looked at me and asked me how old she was. I said “She is turning three,” and quickly followed with, “Yeah, I know she’s very tall for her age.” Our daughter falls into the 99 percentile for height. So we picked out an 8 iron and a putter that were the correct length for her height. My wife and I wrapped her new presents and were excited to see her open them.

The day of her third birthday arrived and she opened the clubs and smiled that big smile that all parents love. She pulled the 8 iron out, stood up and attempted her first swing with a real club. The problem is she swung this club like it was a sledge hammer. Now our daughter is far from being a frail little girl. She can pull herself up on monkey bars and hold her own weight on a climbing rope. I was shocked to see that the club was just too heavy. She insisted that she wanted to use it and she’s a “big girl” and wants to use real clubs like Mommy and Daddy. Ok, no worries. I said, “Come on sweet heart, let’s go to the store and pick out one that feels better to you.”

But the problem was that the next smaller club was too short for her — one was too short and the other one that fit her perfectly was too heavy. Now what? Well, we kept the club that was the correct length as I saw no benefit to having her use a club that was too short. The putter fit her perfect and wasn’t an issue at all.

The numerous attempts to find an iron that wasn’t too heavy for her proved to be an exhausting search. Every club that was the correct length was always too heavy. So I am now in the process of having some weight removed from the head of the club by a local machinist. Prior to that we let her use the club that was too heavy and our daughter would take short back swings and hit chip shots with it. We figured it was better than nothing, and what a perfect way it was for her to develop her short game. She still plays with the plastic clubs with her brother and will take full swings with him. All was not lost. She gets to use her “big girl” clubs and still has fun playing with the plastic ones.

Now that we have our children interested in the game of golf how do we keep them interested in it? That is an excellent question and one of the easiest to answer. Simply by keeping it fun! I know, it sounds so simple right? Before we get started I would like you to take note of the following words and phrases:

Practice, Work, Concentrate, Focus, Pay Attention, Try Harder, More Effort and We didn’t come here to play around.

I know what your thinking, the list seems ridiculous. But time and time again I will be on the range and there is some parent there with their child and this is what I am listening to:

  • “You need to practice and work on your swing”
  • “Concentrate and focus on what you are doing”
  • “Would you pay attention and try harder please”
  • “You’re not giving enough effort — we didn’t come here to play around”

If I was that child I couldn’t wait to get off the range and go do something else. Then the parent can’t figure out after a short time why little Johnny or Suzy doesn’t want to continue to play golf. Here is the key word that we as parents need to focus on: PLAY.

 

There is a reason why I titled this article “Play Time.” I want you to visualize a play ground. Now, if you will picture a golf course or better yet the practice area of a golf course what do you see? Well, at the play ground I see a bunch of fun things to play with or on. What do I see when I look at the practice area? I see a putting green, bunkers, flags, buckets of balls and maybe a rake for the bunkers. So now let’s take a look at it from a child’s perspective. What does the child see when they look at a playground? They see the same thing you did, a bunch of stuff to play with or on. Now what does the child see when they look at the practice area? Guess what? It’s not a putting green, bunkers, flags, buckets of balls or a rake. They see the same thing they saw when they looked at the playground. A bunch of stuff to play with or on.

Now the time has come to take that first visit to the range or short game area. I said to my daughter, “Do you want to go with Daddy and play golf.” I always use the word “play.” I never say, “Lets go work on our game” or “Lets go practice.” To a child, the words work and practice don’t sound like fun at all. Of course she couldn’t wait to get there, even though the course is literally is just a few blocks from the house. But she must have asked me five times, “Are we there yet?” She was more excited than I was.

We pulled up, got out of the car and of course she wanted to carry her bag like a big girl. We headed down to the short game area which consists of a putting green, two bunkers and two flags. It was a perfect set up for her — Not too much going on with other golfers hitting balls like at the range and it’s big enough for her to get a real feel for playing golf. We started off by placing our bags to the side and I explained to her we never put our bags on this smooth grass. “Why not Daddy?” I explained that is called the green and we never want to put our bags on it because it could leave marks or little dents on it. We want to try and keep it as smooth as possible. Kids for the most part have an inquisitive mind. Now I could’ve started off by explaining all that to her before we put our bags down but I want her to ask why. This way she doesn’t feel like I am giving her limitations or bogging her down with rules. Let them reach out for the information — you don’t always have to lay it all out on the table for them.

She took out some colored balls out of her bag and grabbed her putter and proceeded to putt around the green. After a few minutes she realized that if you take the flags out you can putt the balls into the holes. I didn’t take the flags out because I wanted her to feel like she was in control of what we were doing. After all, we were playing. I don’t tell her what toys we are going to play with at home, and I wanted her to feel the same way at the course.

o after playing for about 10 minutes she wanted to try and use her 8 iron. I teed up a ball for her and she hit a chip shot. I teed up another ball and she stopped what she was doing and was just staring at the bunkers. So I was just waiting for the question, “Daddy what’s that sand box doing there?” I smiled holding back the laughter and said those are bunkers. “No, Daddy look, the sand boxes.” I said, “Sweetheart those are not sand boxes they are called bunkers,” and she quickly said, “Can we go in them?” Now, you know I am sitting there thinking I would rather you not go in and get sand all over you and then all over the car, but I said, “Sure, we can go and play in there.” Again I used the word play and I use it as much as I can when we are playing golf.

She played in the bunker for all of 5 minutes and then she pushed the rake a little and realized sand isn’t all that fun without other toys mixed in it. After her trip to the beach she walked back up to the green picked up her bag and started walking around the green along the fringe in a big circle. Her clubs and balls were on the putting green still. I asked her what she was doing and she said she was carrying her bag like they do on TV. A few trips around the green, a few more putts and she was ready to head back home and play something else.

Our trip to the practice area lasted around 45 minutes. In that time she made some putts and took one swing all in about 15 minutes. The rest of the time she played with sand and walked around the green. At no point and time did I say to her that we had to hit balls or work on our putting. The point I am trying to make and this is probably the most important one that I am going to convey to you. When you are taking your child to your practice area you are there for them. When I say this I mean you can’t go expecting to work on your game and you can’t expect them to work on their game the entire time either. You need to let them explore and play in the sand or with the rake. Even if they just want to walk around the green carrying their bag so be it. Remember, this is play time to them and the practice green is just another playground. As long as you allow them to have fun they will want to keep going back.

When you decide to take them to the course the same is going to hold true there as well. You will need to keep in mind that they may only want to play one hole and be distracted by something else. Let’s revisit that playground again. When you watch children playing, ask yourself this, “When was the last time you saw a child play with the same swing the entire time or go down the same slide again and again?” My guess is probably never, because kids have short attention spans. They like variety when it comes to entertainment or playing. This holds true on the course as well.

In my first article a fellow member had posted a comment regarding his son not keeping an interest on the course to keep playing, he said, “I have a 9-year old son who doesn’t want to do much more than chase frogs or drive the cart when I take him out.” He also explained that his son had lessons from certified PGA Professionals. So we are not talking about a little boy who had no exposure to the game and was going out for his first time. The fact is this is pretty normal behavior for kids. I responded to his post with:

“Keep taking him to the course and let him chase frogs if he wants. He will still associate going to the golf course as fun and may eventually want to start playing. This goes without saying of course… no matter what he decides to do, he will always remember spending time with Dad and how much fun it was going to the golf course to chase frogs.”

Sometimes we as parents just have to let our kids chase frogs, play with the sand in the bunkers and so on. As long as we allow them to have fun they will always want to go back.

The keys to keeping your child interested in golf is by allowing them to play and have fun. Even if they are not swinging a club or putting on the green as long as there is an association with golf during the activity you’re doing ok. These activities can be as simple as allowing them to play with the head covers from your clubs. A lot of the covers today are animals and characters you could even put on a little puppet show with them. My daughter loves to color on my golf balls. Let them mark a few for you. My son has an obsession with wanting to go through all the zippered pockets on my bag. So from time to time I will bring my bag into the family room and let him rummage through it. You can color golf balls with any over-the-counter clothing dye. Try coloring some like Easter eggs. All these little activities have nothing to do with swinging a club but all are associated to golf.

So remember it’s “Play Time” and there is no difference between Candy Land and Golf to our children. Keep it fun and allow them to make the decisions just like when they are playing with toys at home. When the time comes to go out on the course they just might chase frogs instead of birdies.

In Growing Up Golf Part 3, I will share with you 25 activities that you can do with your child. I will also give a review of a product that I found while searching for solutions to lighter golf clubs.

Click here for more discussion in the “Juniors/College golf talk” forum. 

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Kadin Mahmet has a passion for golf. He has coached at the collegiate level and has worked as an instructor specializing in youth athletics. You can follow Kadin on Twitter @BigKadin. "Like" Growing Up Golf on Facebook @ facebook.com/Growing.Up.Golf for more content.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Kadin Mahmet

    Dec 18, 2012 at 11:44 pm

    Thank you Alex! Sorry for the late reply.

  2. Pingback: Junior Golf, Golf lessons, golf tips and news for the week 10/20/2012 | Athletic Golf Training

  3. Alex

    Oct 20, 2012 at 8:37 am

    The early specialization of golf and indeed any sport is a dangerous game. With the work of the International Youth Conditioning Association and the message they spread to coaches and parents alike is the importance of play, enjoyment and including well rounded activites that focus less on the outcomes (results) and more on long term development.

    This is truly a great article!

    I will be sharing this for sure on the blog.

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Opinion & Analysis

A new NCAA transfer rule gets passed… and college coaches are NOT happy

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New rules just keep on coming from the NCAA; college coaches are not happy about this one.

In a summer of block buster coaching changes, the NCAA has done its best to stay atop the news cycle by making some significant changes, which will impact the recruitment process. In an article two months ago entitled “The effect the NCAA’s new recruiting rules will have on college golf,” I spoke to college coaches about a new rule, which will not allow unofficial or official visits until September 1 of the players Junior Year. To go along with this rule, the NCAA has also put in place a new recruiting calendar which will limit the sum of the days of off campus recruiting between a head and assistant coach to 45 days starting August 1, 2018.

The 45-day rule will have several potential impacts for both recruits and assistant coaches. For recruits, it is likely that after a couple (2-3) evaluations, coaches will make offers and ask for speed responses to ensure they are not missing out on other options. I also think you will see far less assistant coaches recruiting, which ultimately hurts their opportunities to learn the art of recruitment.

The new transfer rule

In the past, players were subject to asking their present institution for either permission to contact other schools regarding transfer, or a full release.

Now, starting October 15, players can simply inform their institution of their intensions to leave and then start contacting other schools to find an opportunity. This is a drastic shift in policy, so I decided to poll college coaches to get their reactions.

The poll was conducted anonymously via Survey Monkey. Participation was optional and included 6 questions:

  1. New NCAA Legislation will allow players to transfer without a release starting October 2018. Do you support this rule change?
  2. Do you believe that this rule will have APR implications?
  3. Who do you think will benefit most from this rule?
  4. What are the benefits of allowing students to transfer without a release? What are the potential harms?
  5. New NCAA Legislation will make December a dead period for recruiting off campus. Do you support this legislation?
  6. What implications do you see for this rule?

In all, 62 Division I golf coaches responded, or about 10 percent of all Division I coaches in Men’s and Women’s Golf. The results show that 81.25 percent of DI coaches said that they do NOT support the rule change for transfers.

Also, 90 percent of coaches polled believe that the rule will have APR implications. APR is Academic Progress Rate which holds institutions accountable for the academic progress of their student-athletes through a team-based metric that accounts for the eligibility and retention of each student-athlete for each academic term.

The APR is calculated as follows:

  • Each student-athlete receiving athletically related financial aid earns one point for staying in school and one point for being academically eligible.
  • A team’s total points are divided by points possible and then multiplied by 1,000 to equal the team’s Academic Progress Rate.
  • In addition to a team’s current-year APR, its rolling four-year APR is also used to determine accountability.

Teams must earn a four-year average APR of 930 to compete in championships.

While the APR is intended as an incentive-based approach, it does come with a progression of penalties for teams that under-perform academically over time.

The first penalty level limits teams to 16 hours of practice per week over five days (as opposed to 20 over six days), with the lost four hours to be replaced with academic activities.

A second level adds additional practice and competition reductions, either in the traditional or non-championship season, to the first-level penalties. The third level, where teams could remain until their rate improves, includes a menu of possible penalties, including coaching suspensions, financial aid reductions and restricted NCAA membership.

Clearly coaches are not happy about the move and feel that the rule unfairly benefits both the student athletes and major conference schools, who may have a swell of calls around middle of October as Student athletes play great fall golf and look to transfer. Although coaches are unhappy about the new rule, it is very difficult to predict what direct impact the rule will have on teams; coaches are extremely smart and understand recruiting and development within the frame work of college better than anyone can imagine. As a result, I think coaches will react in many ways which are impossible to predict.

The survey also asked, “new NCAA Legislation will make December a dead period for recruiting off campus. Do you support this legislation?” For this, coaches were more divided with 45 percent in favor of the rule, and 55 percent not.

Although coaches supported the legislation, many (41/62) suggested that it would potentially hurt international recruiting at tournaments like Doral and the Orange Bowl and they had, in the past, used December as a time to recruit.

As we move forward with these changes, here are some potential things that recruits, and their families should consider, including consequences of the rules:

  1. With a limit of 45 days and these transfer rules, it is likely that coaches will be doing significantly more investigation into a player’s personalities and family situation to make sure they know what they are getting.
  2. Coaches may also start skipping over better players in favor of kids they think will be a good fit and are likely to stay
  3. Rosters may get bigger, as coaches are trying to have larger numbers to potentially offset transfers

Unfortunately, we enter a new era of rules at the worst time; we have never had a more competent and deep group of college coaches, the clear majority of whom are tremendous stewards of the game. Hopefully this rule will have insignificant effect on the continued growth of college golf but only time will tell.

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Opinion & Analysis

Is golf actually a team sport?

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Do a little research on the top PGA Tour players, and what you’ll see is that most (if not all of them) employ a team of diverse professionals that support their efforts to perform on the golf course. Take two-time major champion Zach Johnson; he has a team that includes a caddie, a swing instructor, a sports psychologist, a physiotherapist, an agent, a statistician, a spiritual mentor, a financial adviser… and of course his wife.

“I know this seems like a lot, and maybe even too much,” Johnson readily admitted. “But each individual has their place. Each place is different in its role and capacity. In order for me to practice, work out and just play golf, I need these individuals along the way. There is a freedom that comes with having such a great group that allows me to just play.”

My best guess is that Zach Johnson commits hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to this team, and I assume most players on the leading professional tours are making significant investments in their “teams.” There are three questions that jump out at this point. First, is a team necessary? Second, how can anyone compete without one? And third, how to pay for it?

From the club player to the collegiate player to the aspiring/touring professional, everyone can benefit from a team that offers individual instruction, support, guidance, and encouragement. Such a team, however, needs to be credible, timely, beneficial and affordable.

To be affordable, serious golfers should build their team one piece at a time. The obvious first choice is a swing coach. Golf swing coaches charge from $100-$1,500 per hour. The cost explains why players have historically been responsible for their own practice. The next piece, which is a newly developing trend, should be a performance coach who specializes in the supervision of practice, training and tournament preparation. Performance coaching on-site fees range from $200 to $3,000 per day.

So is team support essential for a player to be as good as he/she can be? My research says it is. When a player schedules a practice session, that session is usually based on what the player likes to do or wants to do. “Best Practices” utilized by world-class athletes suggest strongly that great progress in training always occurs when someone other than the player writes, administers and supervises the programs and sessions. The team approach says the player should focus on what needs to be done. Sometimes what the player wants to do and the things needed to be done are the same thing; sometimes they aren’t.

Now for the question of how to pay for it all. Wealthy players, or those with substantial or institutional support, have access to what they need or want… whatever the cost. If you use an on-site coach, teacher or other professional you will be paying for blocks of time. Fees can be hourly, weekly, monthly, yearly or lifetime arrangements based upon several factors. If your coach of choice is not local, you can also incur travel and per diem expenses. The process of paying for someone’s time can really add up. You can review what I charge for various services that require my attendance at edmyersgolf.com.

For those of you who don’t have easy access to on-site expertise or don’t want to incur the expense, I want to offer an approach that business, industry, colleges/universities and entrepreneurs are turning to: “Distance Coaching.” Distance learning is made possible through modern technology. In today’s world, expertise can be delivered using FaceTime, Skype, texting, email and (old fashion) phone calls. Textbooks, videos, specific programs and workbooks can be accessed from anywhere at any time by anyone with a desire to do so… and who knows what’s coming in the future. Through Distance Coaching, individuals can employ professional expertise on an as-needed basis without incurring huge costs or expenses.

The primary team expenses that can be avoided are those associated with face-to-face, on-site visits or experiences. Distance Coaching brings whatever any player needs, wants or desires within financial reach. For example, a player in Australia can walk onto the practice ground and have that day’s practice schedule delivered to a personal device by his/her performance coach. The player then forwards the results of that session back to the coach — let’s say in Memphis, Tennessee. The player is then free to move onto other activities knowing that the performance, training and preparation process is engaged and functioning. In the same vein, that same player in Australia may have moved into learning mode and he/she is now recording the golf swing and is sending it to the swing teacher of choice for analysis and comment.

So what is the cost of Distance Coaching? Teachers, trainers and coaches set their own fees based upon their business plan. Some require membership, partnership or some other form of commitment. For example, I offer free performance coaching with the purchase of one of my books or programs, as do others. Where face-to-face, on-site fees for performance coaching is available for $200 a day, the same expertise from the same coach can cost as little as $50 a month using the distance format, tools and technology. I highly recommend that players responsibly research the options available to them and then build the best team that fits their games, desires and goals. I’m happy to forward a guide of what to look for in a performance coach; just ask for it at edmyersgolf@gmail.com.

Back to Zach Johnson; he recently admitted that his lack of recent success could be traced to his lack of focus and practice discipline. Additional, he concedes that he has been practicing the wrong things. “It goes back to the basics,” he said. “I have to do what I do well. Truth be told, what I’m practicing now is more on my strengths than my weaknesses.”

Zach Johnson has a great team, but as he concedes, he still needs to put in the work.

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Opinion & Analysis

What is “feel” in putting… and how do you get it?

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You’re playing a course for the first time, so you arrive an hour early to warm-up. You make your way toward the practice green and you see a sign at the first tee that reads, “GREEN SPEED TODAY 11.”  That brings up two issues:

  1. How did they arrive at that number?
  2. How is that information valuable to me?

How did they arrive at that number?

They used what’s known as a stimpmeter — a device that’s used to measure the speed of a green. With a stimpmeter, the green’s surface is tested by rolling a ball down the 30-inch ramp that is tilted downward at a 20-degree angle. The number of feet the ball rolls after leaving the ramp is an indication of the green’s speed. The green-speed test is conducted on a flat surface. A total of three balls are rolled in three different directions. The three balls must then finish within eight inches of each other for the test to be valid.

For example, if the ball is rolled down the ramp and were to stop at 8 feet, the green would be running at an “8.” Were the ball to roll down the ramp and stop at 12 feet, the green would be running at a “12.”

Stimpmeter history

The stimpmeter was invented by Edward S. Stimpson, Sr., a Massachusetts State Amateur Champion and former Harvard Golf Team Captain. After attending the 1935 U.S. Open at Oakmont, he saw the need for a universal testing device after watching Gene Sarazen, who was at the top of his game, putt a ball off the green. He was of the opinion that the greens were unreasonably fast, but he had no way to prove it — thus the motivation for creating the invention.

The device is now used by superintendents to make sure all of their greens are rolling close to the same speed. This ensures that golfers are not guessing from one putt to another if a green is fast or slow based on the way it is maintained. The device is also used by tournament officials who want to make sure that green speed is not too severe.

Do Stimp readings matter for my game?

Not very much. That piece of abstract knowledge is of little value until you can translate it into your own personal feel for the speed of the putt. There is a method that will allow you to turn green speed into a legitimate feel, however, and you don’t even need a stimpmeter or a stimp reading to do it. I call it “Setting Your Own Stimpmeter.”

Before we get to how to do it, the first step is to determine if the putting green is the same speed as the greens on the course. The best source of information in this regard are the professionals working in the golf shop. They will be happy to share this information with you. You only need to ask. Assuming that the speed of the putting green is close to the speed of the greens on the course, you are ready to begin setting your own stimpmeter. This is done by inputting data into your neuromuscular system by rolling putts and visually observing the outcome.

Contrary to what most golfers believe, a golfer’s feel for distance is based in the eyes — not in the hands, which only records tactile information. It’s just like basketball. On the court, you look at the distance to the hoop and respond accordingly. While you would feel the ball in your hands, it doesn’t play a role in determining the proper distance to the hoop. Based on what you saw with your eyes, you would access the data that had been previously inputted through shooting practice.

Setting your own Stimpmeter

  1. Start by finding a location on the putting green that is flat and roughly 15 feet away from the fringe.
  2. Using five balls, start rolling putts one at a time toward the fringe. The objective is to roll them just hard enough for them to finish against the edge.
  3. You may be short of the fringe or long, but it is important that you do not judge the outcome— just observe, because the feel for distance is visually based.
  4. You should not try and judge the feel of the putt with your hands or any other part of your body. You can only process information in one sensory system at a time — that should be the eyes.
  5. You should continue to roll balls until you’ve reach the point that most of them are consistently finishing against the fringe. Once you can do that, you have successfully set you stimpmeter.

The key to the entire process is allowing yourself to make a subconscious connection between what your eyes have observed and the associated outcome. You must then trust what you have learned at a sub-conscious level. A conscious attempt to produce a given outcome will short-circuit the system. When it comes to judging speed, you must be prepared to surrender your conscious mind to your sub-conscious mind, which is infinitely wiser and more capable of calculating speed. Want proof? Work through the steps I’ve outlined below. .

  1. After having loaded the data as described in the exercise above, pace off a 25-foot putt.
  2. Using the same five balls, putt to the hole as you would normally using your conscious mind to control the outcome.
  3. Mark the location of the five balls with a tee pushing them down until they are level with the surface of the green.
  4. Allow your eyes to work slowly from the ball to the hole while clearing your conscious mind of any thought.
  5. Using the same five balls, putt to the hole allowing your subconscious mind to control the outcome.
  6. Compare the proximity of the five putts that you just hit to those marked with a tee. What do you observe?

Did you have trouble clearing your mind of any conscious thought? Assuming that your conscious mind intruded at any point, the outcome would be negatively affected. You should then repeat the exercise but this time, emptying your mind of any thought. You will have mastered the technique when you are able to quiet your conscious mind and allow your subconscious to take over.

This technique will improve your proximity to the hole on longer putts. And you know what that means? Fewer three-putts!

Editor’s Note: Rod Lindenberg has authored a book entitled “The Three-Putt Solution”  that is now available through Amazon. 

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