I fully believe that you need to first create a love for the game, then work on developing skills. However, at no point should skill development trump fun. The requirements for developing skills are time and energy. If you don’t enjoy what you spend hours trying to develop, it will ultimately become a slug and drag, and even perhaps something where the love for the game fades.
So how do you ensure that fun and development happen together?
Well, especially for young golfers, I believe it is through games. Jordan Lashoones, my longest running Little Linksters coach with a decade under his belt with us, heads up our afterschool programs, so I asked him his thoughts on the importance of games in the development of young golfers.
“Games are a great way to encourage the kids to practice and enjoy golf,” he says. “When they’re having fun, they don’t even realize they are practicing specific skills — to them, they’re just having fun.”
One of the leaders in the youth golf arena is U.S. Kids Golf. Not only do they provide excellent age-appropriate equipment, but they also provide educational opportunities for coaches to develop their craft in working with young golfers.
One excellent resource that U.S. Kids Golf provides is its Play-and-Learn Game Guide. This book is chalked full of great games to help kids learn to have a passion for golf and develop the skills needed to play.
Three of the games from that guidebook have become the most popular throughout all our Little Linksters programs, PGA Jr. League offerings and our PGA Junior Golf Camps are the following:
Cow Pasture Pool
Games do not have to be as formal as you see above. Often, with our afterschool programs at schools, we must get creative based on space and where we conduct classes. You can make a super cool target practice game by simply creating a “range” with hitting stations, using Almost Golf Balls, a hitting mat, and making targets with dollar store items like cheap laundry baskets, pool noodles, and other things. The kids in our G.O.A.L.S. Special Needs program (Golf, Outreach, Advances, Life, Skills) at Celandine Life Prep Academy near Orlando love that simple setup and scoring points for hitting targets.
My coaches and I often joke about how many adults gravitate toward the games set up around the practice area when we take breaks or before we start a class. Golfers, no matter their age, want to have fun! Games accomplish that, as well as helping develop skills in an enjoyable way.