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A Guide to Golf Fitness for Kids

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In this series of five articles, I will be offering guidelines for golf-specific physical activity aimed at five different golfing demographics:

This article covers the physical activity that’s best for kids interested in the game of golf, and is beneficial for children who simply want to engage in golf as a hobby, as well as those who one day hope to play golf as a professional. What you’ll find is that in childhood, what’s good for a child’s physical development as a whole is also good for their golf future.

Kids

Fundamental movement skills (FMS) are what most people would call basic game play, i.e. running, throwing, catching, kicking and striking — all elements that used to make up typical lunchtime play sessions and after-school activities. With less time in school curriculums being devoted to sport, and an increasing amount of play is done with just two thumbs and controller, kids are not getting the FMS we as trainers and golf coaches would like to see.

kids-playing-a-video-game

A typical “play session” for young kids: Zero activity combined with poor postural habits.

You might ask what running, throwing, catching, kicking and striking have to do with getting better at golf – and rightly so. At first sight, golf only involves one of those movements, however, one of the major benefits of solid FMS is body awareness and control.

FMS is championed by knowledgeable golf coaches, physios and trainers who specialize in the development young players. They love to see a talented teenager with a multi-sport background who has good control and awareness of their body. It means that the teenager is able to detect the subtle changes in movement that a coach is trying to teach, or activate a certain muscle group that the physio or trainer wants to strengthen.

As a result, they are better able to make the necessary adaptations and improve their swing action a lot quicker than someone who has only swung a golf club the same way through their crucial development years.

Developing solid FMS skills also has far wider-reaching benefits than preparation for elite-level golf. The general benefits of good FMS are widely believed to indicate a higher participation rate in sport and are directly correlated with lower BMI and waist measurements. Perhaps most important, learning functional movement skills is great fun! I’ve been involved in plenty of FMS sessions for kids where they’re having so much fun that they don’t want to take the T-ball bat out their hands and do the actual golf part of their session.

CIMG7145

Modified T-Ball: One person hitting, the rest running, throwing and catching with every play.

I can see how specializing early might be tempting — most of us have heard about Tiger Woods shooting even par before the age of 3, which can make parents feel as though their 8-year-old is way behind the curve. But who would encourage a child to drop every other subject and only focus on music on age 5 just because Mozart was composing symphonies at the same age?

With that in mind, why would we see it as necessary to stunt a child’s overall physical development by focusing on a single sport?

In an age where inactivity is fast being recognized as our culture’s biggest threat to health and well being, isn’t it better to encourage the kids to run, jump, kick, throw and strike while learning some basic golf skills and having fun doing it?

If you are interested in getting your child involved in improving their FMS while they learn to play golf, then do a little homework on the junior golf programs in the area and find out if they run sessions that incorporate well thought out physical activity in their sessions.

If you are a golf coach or trainer looking to up-skill in the kids department, check out the TPI Junior Certifications and Milo Bryant. They are doing a great job of teaching people how to effectively engage kids in fundamental movement skills.

Next week, I will talk about teenage golfers and how they can benefit from better postural awareness, good form and technique, and an introduction to the gym.

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Nick Randall is a Strength and Conditioning Coach, Presenter and Rehab Expert contracted by PGA Tour Players, Division 1 colleges and national teams to deliver golf fitness services. Via his Golf Fit Pro website, app, articles and online training services, Nick offers the opportunity to the golfing world to access his unique knowledge and service offerings. www.golffitpro.net

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. brian d

    Jun 1, 2015 at 12:56 pm

    the parents of that kid in the opening picture may consider getting that kid a basketball… Looks like he could be dunking by middle school

  2. Jeez Utz

    May 28, 2015 at 2:26 pm

    Play outside???
    That’s for the poor kids!

  3. Nick Randall

    May 28, 2015 at 2:23 pm

    Hi Guys,

    Just to be clear, I’m not saying never play another video game! I too played loads of video games as a kid, in my teens and early 20s on multiple platforms and got so much enjoyment out of it. I’m suggesting that adding some physical activity to the context in which they play golf will help them become a more athletic person overall.

    There was literally one sentence devoted to the video game topic. It would be nice if people leaving comments could actually consider the entire context and message of an article before charging after the one section that they don’t agree with…………

  4. Golfraven

    May 28, 2015 at 2:17 pm

    Good article but I actually hoped to read more about golf for kids. Rest is fairly common sense for parents who already engage their children in physical activities. However looking forward to reading more.

    • Nick Randall

      May 28, 2015 at 2:27 pm

      Hi Golfraven,

      Thank you, wanted to stay distant and vague with recommendations. Firstly because it isn’t my direct area of expertise and secondly because you don’t really need to get specific at this age – teach the fundamentals of the golf swing, make it fun and include varied game based activity.

      Cheers

      Nick

  5. TR1PTIK

    May 28, 2015 at 11:07 am

    I don’t see any problem with this article. Yes, kids can (even should in some cases) play video games as it can be a good stimulant for the brain (depending on the game at least). However, I think what the author should have emphasized a little better is that kids don’t get as much playtime and physical activity at school anymore. Therefore, parents should get out with their kids and be active. It’s good for the kids and it’s good for you.

    • Nick Randall

      May 28, 2015 at 2:29 pm

      Hi TR1PTIK,

      Thanks again for constructive feedback

      Nick

      • TR1PTIK

        May 28, 2015 at 4:37 pm

        You’re welcome. I enjoy reading your articles. While it may seem like common sense to some, this article is a good reminder to make sure your kids stay active, and you don’t have to push them into any one particular sport – it’s best that you don’t. When I was growing up I played baseball, soccer, golf, and rode bmx to name a few – I also played plenty of video games. Now, even though I’ve put on a few years (and a few pounds) I am still quite athletic and have fairly good muscle control which helps me when working on swing changes with my instructor.

  6. Dave S

    May 28, 2015 at 9:26 am

    This is overly simplistic. There needs to be a balance, yes, but most people in their 20s and 30s grew up playing NES, SNES, Sega, PS, Xbox, etc. A LOT! I was a very good athlete and I played countless hours of video games as a kid. I also spent countless hours shooting baskets, playing football, running around w/ friends, etc. It’s true that no kid should spend their entire childhood indoors in front of a screen, but that actually does have some value – just like physical activity. We live in an ever-increasingly digital world. The skills kids learn in solving puzzles, using strategy and not giving up (on a hard level they can’t beat) are valueable as well. If you think video games didn’t help prepare our current generation of UAV pilots you’ve got your head in the sand.

  7. ZQ

    May 28, 2015 at 7:55 am

    Lol it’s ironic that many of the best players in the world grew up playing Playstation, SNES etc, in that exact position and did just fine eh. They also played other sports. Didn’t buy too much into biomechanics and developed what is becoming more and more elusive to the new generation = FEEL. Let kids be kids man, this is too much.

  8. Ryan K

    May 28, 2015 at 7:41 am

    Nicely done, can we just take the golf specificity out of this article and make it required reading for every parent?

    • Nick Randall

      May 28, 2015 at 2:25 pm

      Thanks Ryan, whist I don’t work in other sports or much with non golfers…….yes I think everyone could benefit from lots of varied active play when they are young.

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Why you are probably better at golf than you think (Part 1)

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Golf is hard. I spend my career helping people learn that truth, but golfers are better than they give themselves credit for.

As a golf performance specialist, I give a lot of “first time working together” lessons, and most of them start the same way. I hear about all the ways the golfer is cursed and how s/he is never going to “get it” and how s/he should take up another sport. Granted, the last statement generally applies to an 18-plus handicap player, but I hear lots of negatives from better players as well.

Even though the golfers make convincing arguments for why they are cursed, I know the truth. It’s my job to help them realize the fates aren’t conspiring against them.

All golfers can play well consistently

I know this is a bold statement, but I believe this because I know that “well” does not equate to trophies and personal bests. Playing “well” equates to understanding your margin of error and learning to live within it.

With this said, I have arrived at my first point of proving why golfers are not cursed or bad golfers: They typically do not know what “good” looks like.

What does “good” look like from 150 yards out to a center pin?

Depending on your skill level, the answer can change a lot. I frequently ask golfers this same question when selecting a shot on the golf course during a coaching session and am always surprised at the response. I find that most golfers tend to either have a target that is way too vague or a target that is much too small.

The PGA Tour average proximity to the hole from 150 yards is roughly 30 feet. The reason I mention this statistic is that it gives us a frame of reference. The best players in the world are equivalent to a +4 or better handicap. With that said, a 15-handicap player hitting it to 30 feet from the pin from 150 yards out sounds like a good shot to me.

I always encourage golfers to understand the statistics from the PGA Tour not because that should be our benchmark, but because we need to realize that often our expectations are way out of line with our current skill level. I have found that golfers attempting to hold themselves to unrealistic standards tend to perform worse due to the constant feeling of “failing” they create when they do not hit every fairway and green.

Jim Furyk, while playing a limited PGA Tour schedule, was the most accurate driver of the golf ball during the 2020 season on the PGA Tour hitting 73.96 percent of his fairways (roughly 10/14 per round) and ranked T-136 in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee. Bryson Dechambeau hit the fairway 58.45 percent (roughly 8/14 per round) of the time and ranked first in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee.

There are two key takeaways in this comparison

Sometimes the fairway is not the best place to play an approach shot from. Even the best drivers of the golf ball miss fairways.

By using statistics to help athletes gain a better understanding of what “good” looks like, I am able to help them play better golf by being aware that “good” is not always in the middle of the fairway or finishing next to the hole.

Golf is hard. Setting yourself up for failure by having unrealistic expectations is only going to stunt your development as a player. We all know the guy who plays the “tips” or purchases a set of forged blades applying the logic that it will make them better in the long run—how does that story normally end?

Take action

If you are interested in applying some statistics to your golf game, there are a ton of great apps that you can download and use. Also, if you are like me and were unable to pass Math 104 in four attempts and would like to do some reading up on the math behind these statistics, I highly recommend the book by Mark Broadie Every Shot Counts. If you begin to keep statistics and would like how to put them into action and design better strategies for the golf course, then I highly recommend the Decade system designed by Scott Fawcett.

You may not be living up to your expectations on the golf course, but that does not make you a bad or cursed golfer. Human beings are very inconsistent by design, which makes a sport that requires absolute precision exceedingly difficult.

It has been said before: “Golf is not a game of perfect.” It’s time we finally accept that fact and learn to live within our variance.

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Walters: Try this practice hack for better bunker shots

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Your ability to hit better bunker shots is dramatically reduced if you have no facility to practice these shots. With so few facilities (especially in the UK) having a practice bunker it’s no wonder I see so many golfers struggle with this skill.

Yet the biggest issue they all seem to have is the inability to get the club to enter the sand (hit the ground) in a consistent spot. So here is a hack to use at the range to improve your bunker shots.

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Golf Blueprint: A plan for productive practice sessions

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Practice range at the Dormie Club. Photo credit: Scott Arden

Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

You’ve gotten lessons.  Several of them.  You’ve been custom fitted for everything in your bag.  You even bought another half a dozen driver shafts last year looking for an extra couple of yards.  And yet, you’re still…stuck.  Either your handicap hasn’t moved at all in years or you keep bouncing back and forth between the same two numbers.  You’ve had all the swing fixes and all the technological advances you could realistically hope to achieve, yet no appreciable result has been achieved in lowering your score.  What gives?

Sample Golf Blueprint practice plan for a client.

One could argue that no one scientifically disassembled and then systematically reassembled the game of golf quite like the great Ben Hogan.  His penchant for doing so created a mystique which is still the stuff of legend even today.  A great many people have tried to decipher his secret over the years and the inevitable conclusion is always a somewhat anticlimactic, “The secret’s in the dirt.”  Mr. Hogan’s ball striking prowess was carved one divot at a time from countless hours on the practice range.  In an interview with golf journalist George Peper in 1987, Mr. Hogan once said:

“You hear stories about me beating my brains out practicing, but the truth is, I was enjoying myself. I couldn’t wait to get up in the morning so I could hit balls. I’d be at the practice tee at the crack of dawn, hit balls for a few hours, then take a break and get right back to it. And I still thoroughly enjoy it. When I’m hitting the ball where I want, hard and crisply—when anyone is— it’s a joy that very few people experience.”

Let me guess.  You’ve tried that before, right?  You’ve hit buckets and buckets of range rocks trying to groove the perfect 7-iron swing and still to no avail, right?  Read that last sentence again closely and you might discover the problem.  There’s a difference between mindful practice and mindless practice.  Mindful practice, like Mr. Hogan undoubtedly employed, is structured, focused, and intentional.  It has specific targets and goals in mind and progresses in a systematic fashion until those goals are met.

This is exactly what Nico Darras and Kevin Moore had in mind when they started Golf Blueprint.  In truth, though, the journey actually started when Nico was a client of Kevin’s Squares2Circles project.  Nico is actually a former DI baseball player who suffered a career-ending injury and took up golf at 22 years old.  In a short time, he was approaching scratch and then getting into some mini tour events.  Kevin, as mentioned in the Squares2Circles piece, is a mathematics education professor and accomplished golfer who has played in several USGA events.  Their conversations quickly changed from refining course strategy to making targeted improvements in Nico’s game.  By analyzing the greatest weaknesses in Nico’s game and designing specific practice sessions (which they call “blueprints”) around them, Nico started reaching his goals.

The transition from client to partners was equal parts swift and organic, as they quickly realized they were on to something.  Nico and Kevin used their experiences to develop an algorithm which, when combined with the client’s feedback, establishes a player profile within Golf Blueprint’s system.  Clients get a plan with weekly, monthly, and long-term goals including all of the specific blueprints that target the areas of their game where they need it most.  Not to mention, clients get direct access to Nico and Kevin through Golf Blueprint.

Nico Darras, co-founder of Golf Blueprint

While this is approaching shades of Mr. Hogan’s practice method above, there is one key distinction here.  Kevin and Nico aren’t recommending practicing for hours at a time.  Far from it.  In Nico’s words:

“We recommend 3 days a week.  You can do more or less, for sure, but we’ve found that 3 days a week is within the realm of possibility for most of our clients.  Practice sessions are roughly 45-70 minutes each, but again, all of this depends on the client and what resources they have at their disposal.  Each blueprint card is roughly 10 minutes each, so you can choose which cards to do if you only have limited time to practice.  Nothing is worse than cranking 7 irons at the range for hours.  We want to make these engaging and rewarding.”

Kevin Moore, co-founder of Golf Blueprint

So far, Golf Blueprint has been working for a wide range of golfers – from tour pros to the No Laying Up crew to amateurs alike.  Kevin shares some key data in that regard:

“When we went into this, we weren’t really sure what to expect.  Were we going to be an elite player product?  Were we going to be an amateur player product?  We didn’t know, honestly.  So far, what’s exciting is that we’ve had success with a huge range of players.  Probably 20-25% of our players (roughly speaking) are in that 7-11 handicap range.  That’s probably the center of the bell curve, if you will, right around that high-single-digit handicap range.  We have a huge range though, scratch handicap and tour players all the way to 20 handicaps.  It runs the full gamut.  What’s been so rewarding is that the handicap dropping has been significantly more than we anticipated.  The average handicap drop for our clients was about 2.7 in just 3 months’ time.”

Needless to say, that’s a pretty significant drop in a short amount of time from only changing how you practice.  Maybe that Hogan guy was on to something.  I think these guys might be too.  To learn more about Golf Blueprint and get involved, visit their website. @Golf_Blueprint is their handle for both Twitter and Instagram.

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