I have a confession to make.
I haven’t been playing much golf recently.
Perhaps this isn’t as surprising as it might first appear. I’ve been working with a few players, amateur and professional, and I’m planning to expand this in the near future.
(interested? I’ll be putting out an email to those who’ve subscribed in the next couple of weeks; places are limited and subscribers will be getting first option…so why not click here to subscribe now, if you haven’t already?).
To ensure I’m giving my very best to my clients, I’m always learning…which, in addition to the demands of family and working life, means there isn’t always as much opportunity to play as I’d like.
But this might all be about to change.
My son has become obsessed with golf.
And I do mean obsessed. My daughter enjoys coming out with me to swing a club, but more as a way for us to spend time together (which is, of course, absolutely fine by me). She’ll have a few swings, and then lose interest and we’ll go off and do something else.
But her brother is different – he’ll beg me to take him out and, more often than not, it’s me who decides we have to finish up.
We recently spent 40 minutes on the practice green; he started to lose focus and I decided to head back to the car. But he made it clear he wanted to go to the range rather than home. Luckily I’d taken my 54 degree wedge and his 7 iron, so we then split 25 balls before coming home.
Much fun was had, and it promises to be a regular occurrence.
It reminded me of a something I’d experienced not long after starting to play.
I’d taken what was becoming my favoured booth at the range. I’d got 100 balls (this was before I understood the principles of productive practice), so I was there for some time. After a while, a family came into the bay to my right. The Dad was clearly a golfer, and his son also had clubs with him. The son was around 7 or 8; his mum came too but was sitting behind the bay with the resigned air of an NGP, or Non-Golfing Partner.
The Dad clearly loved golf, and was keen to help his son develop his skills. So far, so good.
The only problem was how he tried to help.
Every instruction seemed to start with a “don’t”; don’t lift your head, don’t swing too hard, don’t forget to follow through.
It wasn’t as if I was trying to listen in, either. But it was difficult not to overhear the conversation. As the boy struggled to deal with the negatively-framed advice, his father became ever more frustrated, communicating in terse yelps resulting in even worse performance as his son got tighter and tighter with every swing.
At one stage the dad went to the toilet…and his son started to get better results. But, when he came back, the cycle all over again. The mum tried to weigh in on the discussion, but her lack of experience meant she was at a disadvantage.
A father and daughter then arrived in the bay to my left. The little girl was younger, perhaps 5 or 6, and not as technically proficient as the boy to my right.
But her dad’s approach couldn’t have been more different.
Smiling, laughing and softly spoken at all times, he encouraged.
When his daughter shanked the ball into the side of their bay, he didn’t berate her or rush to apologise. Instead, he caught my eye and smiled by way of apology – which literally went over his daughter’s head, leaving her to enjoy her exploration unfettered by embarrassment.
And she was exploring.
As she explored, she smiled. At times, she even laughed.
And why not? She was having fun.
But, even more than that, she was having fun whilst learning how to play golf. Something which was eluding the family on the other side of my bay.
Her Dad stood back, only breaking from encouragement to offer instruction when she asked for it. And instead of answering directly, he guided her to the answer by asking questions himself.
Which type of parent would you like to be?
Who was the better coach? Which child was more likely to view golf as fun?
Which child is more likely to keep playing?
This is important.
Golf is in trouble. The “Tiger Boom” is falling away, and golf clubs are struggling to make a profit as we struggle to find the time and money to play. Throw in a global economy with the yips, and it’s clear lean times are ahead.
Some clubs and courses won’t survive.
One of the main problems is the lack of golfers aged 16-30; at 37, I’m usually the youngest in the bar by some distance. As the article suggests, clubs need to be creative – few youngsters can afford the jump from junior to full membership, so many leave the game for a while. Some don’t come back. Clubs need to address this if they want to survive.
But even this might not be enough.
These measures only work if there are junior golfers who want to play golf. And this is our responsibility as parents and coaches.
How we teach is as important as what we teach.
We can teach our kids that golf is difficult and frustrating…or we can teach them it’s joyful and creative.
It’s down to us.
What’s it to be?