Teaching kids to play golf

Teaching boys and girls of all ages and skill levels has been my life for the last 20 years, and I love it.

By David Emerick

I began playing golf in 1967 and started playing junior golf in 1969. Real wood club heads, forged irons, metal spikes and all. My parents didn’t play golf so my brother and I took to the local muni Emerald Valley Golf Course (nothing emerald about it) and with the help of PGA pro Joe Kucirek, we both fell in love with the game.

Joe the pro had a lot to do with developing our passion for golf just by being there and playing golf with us. By the time we were 12 years old we both had jobs at the course.

Boy, junior golf has sure changed. My brother and I to this day continue to teach the game of golf to kids all ages and skill levels.

Kids are such eager students and need both nurturing and discipline. It is such a joy to be part of a child’s life and watching them grow and mature to become young men and women before you know it. My goal when working with the kids is to earn their respect by creating a solid relationship based on honesty and truth. Getting the kids to love the game and enjoy practice is so important in making them golfers for life.

Here are a few simple truths when teaching the kids:

• I must earn their respect – not just criticize them.

• Always be positive – it’s OK John, with a swing like that you will be hitting it great soon!

• No need to patronize the kids – don’t tell them they are doing great when they aren’t.

• Learn something every lesson – offer one piece of advice they can remember.

• Keep it simple and make it fun – it’s a long and winding road, you have time to get good.

Making notes after a lesson is a good way to make sure the kids know what to practice and gives parents an answer for when they ask “what did you learn today?” Plus, they keep the notes and look at them when they are practicing it is a reference guide.

We are not trying to make the next great champion – that is up to the child. We must guide the learning and get the kids to understand that golf is a game for a lifetime and there are many ups and downs along the road.

As a coach I am always there for them. Not every golf lesson has to be about what the student is doing “wrong” and needs to “fix.” If the student comes to me before a big tournament, I may just go to lunch with them and discuss their game plan and let them know they will be playing in many events during their life and this is just one of them.

What I love about working with the kids is their enthusiasm and their willingness to learn and try new things. As the kids grow, what I teach changes as do the goals we set. Creating goals and understanding golf stands for “Game Of Life First” is important for kids and parents to understand.

Oh yes – I usually reward the kids with Dum Dums and a smile!

David Emerick is a PGA professional at The Crossings at Carlsbad and co-founder of the North County Junior Golf Association in San Diego.

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