GOLF 707: Get ’em Started Early
By Bruce Meadows
Some golfing advice for kids
I recently posed a number of golf-related questions to local golfers – pro and amateur – and got some thoughtful and interesting responses. Thanks to those who participated, and would like to hear from more.
One question had to do with teaching youngsters the game of golf. Here are some suggestions I received.
Gaylord Schaap, Northwood GC:
“I run our junior golf program at Northwood and have done so for several years
“Teaching kids golf is really about attention span and not age. If they cannot pay attention and do drills, it is better to wait for real instruction. Most kids enter our program at fourth grade and are either in or out by sixth grade. One thing I do is try to teach golf from the hole on the green back to the tee. We begin with putting and chipping and working around the practice green. I put two tees in the ground three feet from the hole and have them practice from six feet hitting between the tees and into the cup. This gets them to visualize their putt and the break better and to develop a consistent putting stroke.
“Another greenside drill is to roll the ball into the hole in an underhand motion to teach backswing and release of the club. The club eventually is placed in the hands and become an extension of the hands.
“After chipping and putting, we move to the practice range and work on just hitting the ball into the net. We want a straight shot with a 5 and 7 iron. We work in stance, grip, take-away, hinging the wrists, and beginning the downswing. Left arm stays straight, right arm hinges at the elbow, pause at the top and follow through with and extension of both arms.
“When we go out on the course, I put the yellow tee blocks at the 150 yard markers and we plan in from there with iron, wedges and putters.”
Daniel Stewart, Fairgrounds GC:
“Once they’re 2 or 3, a practice plastic club set with plastic balls would do. Get them started on the range around 5 or 6 and if they’re ready to play a
Tom Isaac, CourseCo:
“I remember being pushed early into cello, then trumpet. I enjoyed both but neither stuck, but I will return to cello 60 years later.
“An alert parent might recognize this: ‘When the student is ready the teacher will appear.’ I would look for some spark of interest, then the beginnings of an ability for sustained focus
“As to how to start: it’s hard to beat being with mom or a best chum doing what they like to do with them.”
Bob Miller, Sacramento, Certified Golf Instructor at PGA NorCal Hope
“Kids can start to play golf as soon as they have enough balance and strength to hold a club.
“Kids love games, so make instruction a game . . . the putting green is a great place to start.
“From my experience with JGANC events, boys seem to be more coordinated at age 10-12 and girls seem to be more able to play well at 8-9.”
Herlinda Heras, Certified Tourism Ambassador, Co-Host Craft Beer Radio; Coordinator for Sonoma State University Beer Education Extension
“I started my daughter early; at 7 in golf at our ‘take your daughters to the course’ week. I think the earlier the better but not forced. Only if they want to join mom, dad and family on course.”
Future Champions Golf Academy:
“Introducing the game of golf to your kids can be done at any age. There are also many ways to do this.
“Nintendo Wii has been a great way to introduce your kids to golf. They get to play the game on a computer and get excited about it. They learn the concepts of the game and learn the areas of the course and also get to see what a swing looks like. Kids are very visual and this helps them want to play the real game sometime.
“When to start your kids with golf lessons? When they have the attention span to be able to place their body into certain positions. We have seen 3-year-olds be able to place their feet and their grip, and swing the club with consistency, but have also seen 10-year-olds who cannot get into a playable set up.
“We always tell parents that we can try their son or daughter in a private lesson first and see how it goes. From there we recommend a plan to get them interested. It may be that they are not ready and should start their kids with plastic clubs in the yard, video games, or maybe to have the kids sit in the cart and watch the parents play. It may also be good to take your child to a PGA Tour event or a Junior Tournament to see if they get excited about it.”
Hazeltine National, Chaska, Minn.
“It’s a question we get asked often working with junior golfers. Parents with young children want to know when they should start their son or daughter with lessons.
“Our answer to that question now takes on new meaning for those of us with young kids.as Having that perspective as a parent has changed our answer over the years and we ask ourselves: At what age should kids start playing golf? After all, our children are all different with various interests and abilities.
“It really comes down to how much interest the junior golfer has. What we observed was how a son or daughter shows a real interest because it’s a way for them and the parent to spend time together. They know that golf is what we like to do, and they want to be a part of that. There is no greater feeling than having your son look up to you, and want to be like you. It is a big responsibility that we don’t take lightly.
What we teach any junior golfer under the age of 8 years old is basics. Here are a few things we try to do withall juniors:
We want him to understand how to hold the golf club. Where he should stand to hit the shot, and how he should finish the swing.
Then it’s about creating an environment for fun! We play games with the kids, and and try to get them to mimic us. This is the best way to teach young golfers how to learn to hit a golf ball. We demonstrate how to do what we are asking them to do, and then they have to copy us.
Keep the lesson to a half-hour unless they show they can handle an hour.
Make sure it’s what they want to do, have them try golf, but don’t push them if they don’t seem interested.
Golf is a lifetime sport, if they don’t seem interested now at a young age reintroduce them to it when they get into their teenage years.”
Paul Nikol, Windsor High golf coach:
“I always taught my second graders golf skills indoors around their desks once a week using SNAG equipment . . . fuzzy balls, Velcro targets to putt and chip and pitch. Then in the spring we would go outside and hit rubber balls with emphasis on the full swing.
“Kids at the age of 7 are capable of concentrating and can assimilate and accommodate the necessary information that makes it fun, and in turn this portion of my GEL program (Golf at the Elementary Level) relates back to the classroom by providing retention and recall skills that are needed for success with daily school related activities”
Thanks for the suggestions and please keep sending them to email@example.com
High school golf
It’s always helpful and educational to check in with John Berry, who runs the show at Adams Springs GC and also is a longtime coach at Kelseyville High. Here are some thoughts from John:
“Regardless of the long winter of heavy rains, storms, floods, and even snow in the higher elevations, the high school golf season is on the horizon for boys’ golf teams in the North Bay League, the Sonoma County League, and the Coastal Mountain Conference.
“A number of Sonoma County golf courses play host to high school teams for after-school practices and league matches. The Sonoma County League plays dual matches with one school competing against another, while the North Bay League and the Coastal Mountain Conference hold weekly league tournaments at a single site for the entire league.
“Over the past two years, three area golf courses have also hosted the North Coast Section championships in both girls and boys golf. Windsor hosted the NCS girls in the fall of 2015 while Oakmont West was the site for the boys’ championship last May. Rooster Run was the host site for the girls’ NCS playoffs last October and they will also serve as the home course for the boys NCS this coming May.
“A number of Sonoma County area courses serve as the home of multiple high schools and as the venue of multiple league tournaments. Rooster Run, under the direction of PGA head professional Rob Watson and LPGA tournament director Marian Arcia, have had an outstanding history of a gracious open door policy towards Petaluma area schools including Casa Grande, Petaluma, and St. Vincent de Paul. This kindness towards youth golf is especially appreciated in light of the recent closure of Adobe Creek. Watson, who played golf at Healdsburg High in the early 1980s, takes great pride in his facility’s positive relationship with the North Coast Section, having hosted six NCS tourneys since 2011.
“Foxtail South Golf Course in Rohnert Park is another area course that has multiple schools and leagues competing at their facility. Rancho Cotate of the NBL and Technology High, a relatively recent member of the CMC, both practice at Foxtail South and host league tournaments. In a recent conversation with general manager Mark Brouwer, he reiterated Foxtail’s philosophy to welcome area high school programs to his facility. Brouwer emphasized the importance of growing the game by exposing the younger generation to golf and feels that it is imperative that Rancho Cotate and Technology have access to the quality practice facility and the golf course at Foxtail South. Foxtail is also the home course to the men’s and women’s golf teams at Sonoma State University.
“Bennett Valley is the home of Montgomery High School of the NBL. Oakmont’s two golf courses host multiple teams from the NBL, the SCL, and the CMC. Windsor is the home of Windsor High of the SCL as well as CMC teams from Rincon Valley Christian and Geyserville. Northwood is the scenic host of El Molino, fellow SCL member Analy and Piner play at Bodega Harbour on the coast, and Healdsburg competes at Tayman Park.
“To the credit of all of the aforementioned Sonoma County public access golf courses, the high school kids you see competing during the afternoon hours are playing as non-paying guests of these facilities. Athletic budgets for non-revenue producing sports such as high school golf are non-existent, and local courses are to be highly commended for allowing teams to play during weekday afternoons at no cost.
“The boys’ high school golf season is upon us, whether or not Mother Nature is ready for the arrival of junior golfers each afternoon over the next three months. The future of the game is in good hands due to the positive open door policy to high school golf set by daily fee and public golf courses throughout Sonoma “
Thanks, John, and if any of you out there have some comments on local prep or youth golf, let me know.
Big things happening at Little River
Little River Inn GC superintendent Terry Stratton reports that last year was good and 2017 could be even better for the scenic nine-hole coastal course. If you’ve never had the opportunity to experience Little River, I can strongly recommend it as a course you should really play sometime.
“We opened the newly renovated No. 4 green and it got rave reviews,” said Terry. “Then in October the first tee was completely rebuilt, enlarging it by 100 percent, leveling and realigning it.”
He said the new first tee should be ready to play by April and that both projects should greatly improve play at Little River.
Terry said that while golf was generally down at a lot of courses, rounds were up in 2016 at Little River and 2017 looks promising with a full slate of golf outings and events planned by pro shop manager Kathy Shepley, who noted that golf camps in conjunction with the Mendocino Coast Rec and Park District are planned for summer.
Little River has once again received the National Audubon Society Cooperative Sanctuary certification, an honor received since 1999.
“We are gearing up for the sixth annual Earth Day Celebration Saturday, April 22,” added Terry. “This year butterflies will be highlighted . . . in past years we have featured bats, bees, reptiles and frogs.”
Little River is also rolling out its 2017 Golf Getaway packages for two that include a two-night stay in an ocean-view fireplace room; unlimited golf for two or unlimited golf for one and one massage; unlimited use of the driving range, and use of complimentary golf clubs and a motorized cart.
Call 937-5942 for information, or check out https://golflabmedia.uberflip.com/i/702948-california-golf-travel-july-2016
NCGA Junior Championship July 10-11
The 2017 NCGA Junior Championships are scheduled July 10-11 at Contra Costa CC.
Entries close May 28, with qualifying scheduled for Franklin Canyon, Del Monte, Haggin Oaks and Oakmont June 17 and June 24. Entry fee is from $71 to $100. Oakmont qualifying is June 24.
A little history: According to the NCGA, “The NCGA Junior Championship began in 1930 and carries with it a rich history of young champions including eventual PGA Tour players. Notable winners include Ken Venturi in 1949, Bobby Clampett in 1976 and Joel Kribel in 1993. Johnny Miller triumphed at The Olympic Club in 1963 and when Todd Miller claimed the title at Orinda in 1996 they became the only father-son champions.
“Eddie Fry holds the most wins, after claiming victories in 1941, 1942 and 1943. In 1983 the championship changed from match play to 54-holes stroke play. Since the format changed, the only player to win back-to-back championships is 1998 and 1999 winner Tom Johnson. Patrick Nagle holds the scoring record of 13-under-par 203 set in 2002 at Brookside CC.
“The only players to win back-to-back tournaments since the girls’ division began in 1982 are Jamille Jose (1988-1989) and Sabrina Iqbal (2015-2016). Haley Andreas holds the girls’ championship record with three-under-par 143 at Spyglass Hill in 2009. With his Boys’ win in 2016, Thomas Hutchison joined sister Samantha (2013) as a champion.
Let’s hear from you . . .
If you have any thoughts on golf in our area – including ideas for stories or column items — or any questions about golf-related matters, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get you some answers.
If you have any items you think might be of interest to golfers in our area, let me know. That can include upcoming tournaments, clinics or any golf-related activity.