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Growing Up Golf Part 5: Structured Play

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There will be a time when your child is going to cross over from “play time” to what I like to call “structured play time.” In the beginning stages of your child’s golf career you have been able to get by with taking them to the practice area and letting them have fun. As your child grows and develops into a young golfer, they will need to start some form of structured play.

Notice that I still refer to their time at the practice area or on the course as “play.” We never want to forget that golf is still a game to them, and we as parents need to keep it fun. After all, what child wants to go and “work” at something.

Structured play can come in the form of lessons, participating in the First Tee Program or enrolling into an ag- appropriate group class.  Our daughter starting going to a program created for children ages 3 to 5 called “Little Tigers” when she turned 3. The class curriculum is very basic and there is no complicated instructions other than to have fun playing golf with other children the same age as her.

They play putting games such as putting a ball to a bell that rings when they hit it and chip shots through a hoola-hoop. I found this class in a local golf publication in my area. Check your local publications to see if a similar program is available for your children.

My wife and I wanted to introduce golf to our children because we love golf. Knowing that golf can be played for a life time, we wanted to share this with them and have something that we as a family can always do together. I am guessing most of you are golfers and maybe some you are not, and that’s ok too. I mention this because I know some of you are going to take on the role of “coach” sooner or later.

I can tell you from my experience, taking the leap from parent to coach is not an easy transition. When I was instructing baseball/softball, I would have a parent bring their child in for a lesson. I would observe and point out what I felt needed to be improved. The child and I would discuss it and then start working towards becoming better. The child would without question work at whatever needed improvement. Nine times out of 10 I would have a parent say something like, “I have been trying to get them to stop doing that for a month.” I would walk over to the frustrated parent while the child was working on a drill (so they child could not hear me) and say to them:

“Every parent who brings their son/daughter to me for a lesson all say the exact same thing.”

I would then go on to explain it’s not that you don’t know what your talking about, it’s because you’re “MOM” or “DAD.”  It’s perfectly normal.

I share this story because there is going to be a point in time when your child is going to believe you have exhausted all your knowledge of the game, even if it’s not true and you have a wealth of knowledge to share with them. They will simply look at you as Mom or Dad, unless of course, you are a certified teaching pro (sometimes that doesn’t matter either).

This is completely normal and please don’t get frustrated if it happens. I want you to be aware of this and recognize it if it should start to happen. At that point, you will probably need to seek out an instructor who specializes in working with juniors and younger children. This will save an enormous amount of frustration for you and your child.

If you frequent the GolfWRX forum, you may be aware I was selected as one of the five members to represent GolfWRX in the TaylorMade RocketBladez Ultimate Experience. Myself and four other members where flown to Naples, Fla., for a fitting at the TaylorMade Performance Lab at the Tiburon Golf Club. While we were there we attended the grand opening of the Performance Lab, where guests received a gift package that included the PGA Tour Academy Home Edition.

Before I start, I am a firm believer that there is no substitution for one-on-one instruction with a certified teaching professional. But after reviewing this product I have to say, this is as close to personal instruction as you can get. If funds are limited this may be a solution to improving your child’s development.

The PGA Tour Academy Home Edition is an eight week course of instruction and comes complete with everything you need to improve your game.

 

TEN DVDs with 28 LESSONS & PRACTICE SESSIONS: Each lesson is about 20-to-40 minutes and designed to be completed at home. The lessons are dynamic, so make sure you actively follow the instruction, give yourself enough room, and focus on learning and trying the movements and skills.

THERE ARE TWO PRACTICE TRACKS that follow each lesson – white track for all abilities and BONUS blue track for advanced players. After each DVD lesson, watch your corresponding practice routine for the White or Blue Track. This practice routine shows you the specific drills you’ll be completing at the practice facility. The drills are straight forward, easy to follow and support the new skills and techniques you learned during the home lesson.

PRACTICE CALENDAR: Each home lesson has two levels of practice that follow the white track or blue track. Each practice session consists of three customized 15 minute drills that reinforce what you learned during the home lesson.

PRACTICE GUIDE: Thiscovers every practice routine in the program and describes each of the drills you’ll be completing during the eight-week program. It helps every level of golfer improve their game in just eight weeks with structured-practice program based on skill development and building a swing from the ground up. Players will learn what the pros know and achieve a breakthrough in their golf skill and knowledge.

INCLUDED: Contact bag and alignment sticks for all lessons.

INSTRUCTION BOOK: Over a 100 pages to help every golfer reach their potential and accelerate improvement.

As an instructor, one of the hardest elements for me to teach a student was “feel.” I worked very hard at creating drills and training aids to teach it, and found that feel is one of the hardest things to teach. What impressed me most about the learning system is how they teach and isolate body movements. The novice or beginner may not realize that the drills they are doing are teaching feel and proper body movements, but those of you who know proper swing mechanics will recognize that the learning system is teaching feel immediately.

When the time arrives to cross the bridge of play to structured play, keep it fun, make it simple in the beginning, keep an eye out for parent to coach back to parent transition and seek the help of a certified teaching professional who specializes working with youths. If funds are a concern, the PGA Tour Academy Home Edition may be a solution for you.

Click here for more discussion in the “junior golf” 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.

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Podcasts

Gear Dive: Legendary club builder Larry Bobka speaks on Tiger’s old Titleist irons

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Legendary club builder Larry Bobka joins us in the first episode of our new podcast called “Gear Dive,” hosted by Johnny Wunder, GolfWRX’s Director of Original Content. Gear Dive is a deep look into the world of golf equipment, and Wunder will be interviewing the craftsman, the reps and the players behind the tools that make up the bags of the best golfers in the world.

Bobka, our first guest, is a former Tour rep and club builder involved in some of the most important clubs of the past 25 years. From his days at Wilson Golf working with legends such as Payne Stewart, Hale Irwin and Bernhard Langer, he transitioned into the Golden Age of Titleist/Acushnet building clubs for Tiger Woods, Davis Love, David Duval and Brad Faxon. He currently runs Argo Golf where he builds and fits handmade putters for Tour players and amateurs alike. He’s one of the Godfather’s of modern golf equipment.

Skip to 45:30 for the discussion about Tiger’s Titleist irons.

Check out our podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

What do you think of the new podcast? Leave your feedback in the comments below!

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Podcasts

Gary Player joins our 19th Hole podcast, talks past and future of golf

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Hall-of-Famer and career Grand Slam winner Gary Player joins host Michael Williams for an exclusive one-on-one interview at the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf tournament and Big Cedar Lodge in Branson, Missouri. Player talks about the past and future of the game, including his take on everything from reigning in the golf ball and golf courses, to advocating for more testing for performance enhancing drugs on the Tour. Steve Friedlander of Big Cedar Lodge also appears.

Listen to the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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Opinion & Analysis

Let’s Retire Old Man Par: A Modest Proposal

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In 1729, Jonathan Swift wrote a satirical essay entitled “A modest proposal,” in which he suggested that the Irish eat their own children. As might be expected, the piece drew a great deal of discussion and controversy. He was of course not serious, but simply attempting to make a point. As you will read this piece contains “A Modest Proposal” as well, but it is not intended to be satirical. I am for the record dead serious.

The golf industry is wringing its hands, trying to find a way to bring new players into the game, while at the same time keeping those that are in the game from leaving. They have initiated any number of programs designed for this purpose. How successful have they been? I would venture that they have barely moved the needle.

Barriers to the game

What we do know is that today there are three major barriers that confront the industry. They are first, the time required to play the game; second the costs associated with playing the game; and third the difficulty of the game.

There are among those adults that start the game, three distinct different groups:

  1. Those who would like to start playing golf but for any number of reasons decided not to take up the game.
  2. Those who once played more frequently but have reduced the number of rounds that they play.
  3. Those who started to play the game but then after a short period decided to leave it.

Those who leave the game

Those in the golf industry, the hand-wringers, have developed any number of programs to bring new players to the game. I would ask the question, “What is the point, when almost an equal number of players that start playing the game each year, decide to give it up within a span of a few months.

Does it make any sense to continue to put water into a bucket when there is a hole in the bottom? Of course not, but that is effectively what is being done. The first question to be ask, why do these new players quit the playing after a short time? In my opinion, the number No. 1 reason is the method of scoring being used.

Were an exit poll to be conducted asking these people why they quit playing, I seriously doubt they would answer truthfully. Who would want to admit that they were discouraged by their inability to succeed at any endeavor? The two answers that would be given the most often would be 1) that golf is too expensive to play; or 2) that they simply didn’t have time.  In this case both answers serve to preserve the individual’s dignity. And who could blame them?

The concept of par

Why did these individuals find the game difficult? The short answer is that while golf is a hard game to learn, there  is a more compelling reason.  I would venture, that the underlying reason they quit the game is that it ceased to be fun because of how they viewed their performance. And for one central reason… the concept of par. The idea that an amateur golfer, especially a beginner, should measure their level of success against an imaginary set of numbers that represents what an expert player would score on each hole is on the surface ridiculous.

You might imagine a beginning player scoring an eight on a par-four hole after hitting six good shots and then two putting for an eight. In the context of their ability, they should be ecstatic — but of course they are not (because as their playing partner reminds them) they were four-over par on that hole. The time has come for Old Man Par to retire. And retire permanently. He is killing the game.

Perceived failure

In another scenario, the beginning player scores sixty for nine holes, which is an excellent score given the short amount of time they might have spent playing the game. And yet their nine-hole score was 24-over par. How would that make you feel? Would you be encouraged or discouraged? You might imagine yourself back in school and regardless of the amount of work that you put into a given class you always receive an “F.” At some point, would you give up?

Why should every golfer be judged by the same standard when there is such inequality in their ability? The equivalent would be placing a high school freshman in a graduate-level college course, expecting that they could perform at the same level as the other graduate students. The disparity in knowledge, based on age and experience, is precisely the reason why there are different grades in school. The same disparity exists among golfers. In this case, the difference being the ability to perform on the golf course as opposed to the classroom.

What about the second group of players that now plays less than they did in the past? Could it be that they are no longer having fun playing the game?And then there is the third group, those that consider playing the game but abandon it for another sport. Could it be that they are intimidated by the scoring system, knowing that as a beginner par is an absolute impossibility?

Old man par 

The legendary Bobby Jones was the first to coin, perhaps with the help of his friend O.B. Keillor, the phrase “Old Man Par.” Jones was, of course, the greatest amateur to have ever played the game. He won the Grand Slam in 1930, retiring then at the age of 28.

The time has come to retire “Old Man Par” and devise a new system for measuring a golfer’s progress in the game. I know that those in the USGA. would reject the concept immediately for fear of, and here is a $10 word used primarily by attorneys, “bifurcate” the game. What that word essentially means in this context in having more than one standard. The USGA is responsible for preserving the nature of the game, but at the same time it should be equally concerned with preserving the future of the game.

Personal par

What I would suggest is a system based on the principle of what might be termed “personal par.” This was essentially the system that was used to groom a young Tiger Woods. As a young child, he was not capable of reaching the longer holes in regulation, making par a virtual impossibility. Consequently, his coach wisely devised a system in which par was adjusted upward based on his ability at a given point in time. This served to keep the young child feeling good about his performance and subsequent progress.

This is the type of system that needs to be devised for the health of the game. The system would begin at a nine-hole level using a par of thirty-six as a basis. The actual numbers are not as important as the basic concept. There would be within the nine-hole and the eighteen-hole groups five different levels as follows with assigned par for each hole and eighteen holes roughly equal with the player’s ability.

As players improved, they would graduate from one level to another based on their total score. The handicap system would work in similar fashion as it does now with a single modification. The strokes give from one player to another would depend on the level in which they fall and the par assigned to that level.

The personal par handicap system would not be as exacting as it is presently used, but it would be sufficient to allow players to be reasonable competitive without any significant sacrifice. There would then be two scoring systems then, allowing players to choose which one they wanted to use. Or a recommendation might be given that until they reach a given scoring threshold that they use the personal par scoring system.

There would, of course, be the usual concern with something new being injected into the system, but the proposed change would be no greater than when the system of equitable scoring was introduced or when courses were first assigned a course rating number.

A few years ago, when life-long teacher and educator Dr. Gary Wiren was inducted into the Golf Teacher’s Hall of Fame, he wanted to pass along a single piece of advice to those teachers in the room. “Gentleman,” he started and then paused for emphasis. “We must find a way to make the game more fun for our students.”

I’m in full agreement with Dr. Wiren. The question is, “What is the best way to accomplish that goal?” I believe that that the first step in that direction is to change the scoring system so that golfers experience more satisfaction and accomplishment. That is what makes learning fun.

And so, I would have you consider “The Modest Proposal” that I have put forward. And rather than attempting to find reasons why a revised scoring system couldn’t never work, for the benefit of the game, look for the same number of reason why it could work. The time has come for Old Man Par, as we know him, to retire. He has served us well, but he has become an anarchism. He is as obsolete as the horse and buggy. Let’s hand him his gold watch and let him enjoy his golden years in peace.

And at the same time, let’s welcome the “new kid on the block” who will pave the way for the next generation of golfers pioneering a scoring system that promises to make the game more “fun.”

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