Growing Up Golf Part 3: “Golf Association”
Cold weather has reached Northwest Indiana. Though I have no issues going out and playing in 40 degree weather, most of my children’s adventures in golf are now somewhat restricted to indoor activities. Our daughter still asks me every day if we can go “hit balls,” but with daylight becoming shorter and shorter it has become very hard to get out to the practice area before dark. With this challenge, we have been on the creative side of golf related activities.
Before I start listing some ideas for you to share with your children, I want to address a question. What happens when your child doesn’t want to putt or take swings with a club? After all, they are kids and their attention span is short for the most part. I have a list of 25 activities that will keep the interest of a child without having to always have a “Practice Routine.” Now, some of these activities utilize swinging and putting but some are just fun ways to keep an association to golf, even if the child doesn’t realize it. Others are fun new ways to work on their game without doing the same old trip to the range or putting green.
Here they are:
1. Hit balls into a pond or lake. Kids love to see the splash of the ball. Just pick up some old “hit away” balls and let the fun begin.
2. Dye your ball like an Easter Egg. Any over-the-counter clothing dye will work.
3. Hit balls through a Hoola-Hoop. This is a fun and challenging new way for them to practice the short game.
4. Hit balls into a kiddie pool. Not only will they enjoy the splash but you can incorporate distance control.
5. Draw on your ball with a stencil. Any stencil will work and can be found at most hobby stores.
6. Place candy/treats into a plastic cup and have them knock the cup over while putting to earn the treat. This is a great way to work on distance control with putting and accuracy.
7. Set up a putt-putt course. Be as creative as you want indoors or out.
8. Roll balls back and forth on a practice green underhand to each other. When they don’t feel like using the putter, roll the ball back and forth to one another. This is a great way for them to learn how to read greens.
9. Spell their name on the ground using tees. Sometimes, the easiest part of the game can be a challenge for little kids. Placing a tee in the ground can prove to be a difficult. This is a fun way for them to work on it, without pressure.
10. Draw on a ball. Kids love to color and draw. Let them draw on some shag bag balls.
11. Hit water balloons in the summer and snowballs in the winter. This is a fun way to work on their swing and stay cool at the same time.
12. Build a snowman using old golf gear. Snow on the ground can prove to be the end of a golf season. This is a fun way to keep golf on their minds.
13. Let them explore your golf bag. Younger kids are inquisitive by nature allow them to explore your bag. My son loves this.
14. Paint an old pair of golf shoes. This is another way to be artistic and keep a golf association.
15. Paint on a shirt using a golf ball as a roller. The dimples on the ball make for a cool looking pattern for children.
16. Roll balls over Play-Doh, clay or silly putty. Teachers will tell you that clay is one of the best toys for your child to play with. Like painting the shirt, a ball the dimples will have the same effect.
17. Decorate poster board and cut out holes to putt through. You can use this in your putt-putt course design or just use it for a putting station. Decorate it with what your child has an interest in.
18.Poke tees through some foam and space them out so they can place balls on the tees. This is another way for them to practice balancing the ball on top. Like I said, this seems very easy but may not be for little hands.
19. Draw faces on golf balls.
20.Hit balls into a laundry basket. This is a great way to work on chipping and the ball will rebound right back to your child.
21. Let them help when cleaning your clubs. Just like washing your car, kids will want to help when it comes to washing your clubs.
22. Paint old golf balls. Another fun artistic activity.
23. Let them color on old score cards. Why throw out your old score cards? This will give your child a chance to start learning how the card is used.
24. Use old score cards to practice adding and subtracting. What a great way for them to learn how to score and strengthen their math skills at the same time.
25. Use wiffle golf balls and yarn to make a long necklace or count down chain. This will improve hand eye coordination and the creative possibilities are endless.
This list could go on and on. Just let your creativity run wild. Some of the activities are new twists on old routines and others are a nice break from the “usual” routine. There are several activities that don’t improve skills but keep golf fun. As I stated in the previous article, as long as you can keep an association to golf, you’re doing ok. These are great ways to keep it fun and stress free for you as a parent. Your child also gets to be … well, a child.
When I was instructing baseball/softball what I found to be the best way to instruct younger athletes was by incorporating skill-building drills that didn’t feel like “practice.” I tried to create games and equipment that made grooving a swing or throwing/fielding a ball fun and interesting. I kept it challenging enough to motivate them to be better without having to “coach” them at the same time.
While searching for golf-related activities for my son and daughter I ran across a company called S.N.A.G. (Starting New At Golf). What attracted me to this their product was their approach to teaching. It was very similar to how I instructed baseball/softball.
SNAG is a first-touch development program designed for new learners of all ages. In 1995, two PGA TOUR professionals, Terry Anton and Wally Armstrong, joined forces to discover if there might be a simpler, less threatening way to learn the game. What they learned through interviews with golf’s pros is how they acquired their skills. The pros all had one thing in common — they learned to play with one club. The pros experienced the “simple” feel of the golf club and the ball versus students of complicated instruction that involved body positioning, correct postures, swing angles, weight transfer, grips and stances.
What S.N.A.G. has designed may be the easiest way to teach and introduce golf to children. They only have two clubs: the Launcher (a club with an over sized head) is used to launch, pitch, and chip the ball. The Roller, which is like a putter, is used to roll the ball toward the target. All shots other than rolling (putting) are played off of a mat and tee called the Launch Pad. This ensures that the player will have an optimal lie every time. The target, called a Flagsticky, also differs from anything else in golf, as it is not a hole with a cup inside but rather an above-ground weighted cylinder covered with a hook material. The SNAG Ball is slightly smaller than a tennis ball and is covered with a loop material. Striking the ball has the same feel and compression as hitting a real golf ball. Unlike golf, where you finish by putting your ball into the cup, in SNAG, you finish by sticking your ball to the Flagsticky. Because of the mobile Launch Pad and Flagsticky, SNAG is portable and playable just about anywhere.
Snag also has golf swing mechanic specific training aides. My favorite one is the SNAGazoo. It is designed to develop the proper swing positions for a pitch shot. When the child swings away to the 9 o’clock position, their target arm and the SNAGazoo form an “L”. If this is done correctly, the device will then produce a sound (like a kazoo) indicating correct position. If done incorrectly, it makes no sounds.
This allows your child to self-correct when practicing their swing. They also have one called the Snapper. It looks like a club with a streamer on it that shows swing path. The Snapper is designed to develop the proper movement of a full golf swing. The training aide accomplishes this through a series of four exercises that focus on hands, arms and weight distribution. The streamer follows the swing path giving a visual effect. Your child is instructed to “pop” the streamer, which if successful would indicate the correct use of the hands at the impact area. S.N.A.G. also has several “sticky” targets available. They have one that floats in water or stands up like a bulls eye. They even have a suit that you can wear that the ball will stick to when hit.
From swing mechanics, alignment to proper hand placement (the club has a color coded grip for your child to follow) S.N.A.G. has created teaching and introducing golf has fun and easy as you can make it. They even give you different verbiage to use with your child. They simply made it simple. I recommend this to anyone starting out or even as use as something to just shake it up a little and give your children a different look at how fun golf can be.