Giving juniors the best chance to be great golfers

  • Mike Carbray of Butterfield Country Club on Oak Brook says a young athlete playing various sports will almost always adapt quicker once they start playing golf.

    Mike Carbray of Butterfield Country Club on Oak Brook says a young athlete playing various sports will almost always adapt quicker once they start playing golf. Courtesy of Illinois PGA

 
By Mike Carbray
Butterfield Country Club
Updated 9/10/2019 7:02 PM

I cannot count the number of juniors I have had the pleasure of working with the last 20 years. The number is in the thousands. Almost all are brought to me by a parent or grandparent. They want their child to learn how to swing a golf club. Many have dreams of the 8- to 10-year-old playing college golf or making it on the PGA Tour someday.

If this sounds like you or someone you know, I have a few simple thoughts that will help your child get better quicker. It does not involve hitting thousands of balls on the range all summer. That simply won't do it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

If you look at professional golf today what do you see? I see athletes. People like Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Gary Woodland come to mind. All these men played other sports in their childhood -- they were all very good at these sports. They did not specialize in golf until very late. The movements they learned sampling these other sports as kids are a big reason why they are holding the trophies on Sunday now.

The golf swing is a hard movement to make. You need to move your body in 3 different planes of motion to create speed and accuracy. I often get parents bringing their 6-year-old to me for lessons and the first thing I ask is to show me how they skip, run and throw. If they don't have any idea on how to do these movements, it is very hard for me to teach them a golf swing. If your child doesn't know how to move his or her body in the different planes of motion, it will be difficult for them to produce an efficient swing. They may make dysfunctional movements that may work short term, but their body will eventually break down or get injured.

It is important that kids and adults have movement daily. iPhones, video games and TV are stealing the time they should be moving or playing sports. I strongly encourage you to get your kids into as many sports as possible at an early age. There are recreational leagues for all sports for all ages in your town. It's never too late to start.

In all my years of teaching, my best golfers have also been kids that played many sports growing up. Also, the kids that have just started golf excelled quickest if they have had a background in other sports. They have a distinct advantage over non sport kids learning golf.

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The movements most beneficial to kids are things like balance, coordination, throwing, skipping, running, sprinting, jumping, kicking, changing direction and hitting. These actions will help the child learn or feel the different planes of motion and develop speed from the ground.

Basketball, baseball, football, hockey and track and field teach kids power and how to generate it. Soccer, martial arts and volleyball teach striking and accuracy. Dance and gymnastics are two of the best at teaching balance and coordination. Tennis, table tennis, racket sports and Frisbee teach kids how to use their wrists for speed and clubface control. All these sports will help your junior golfer tremendously.

The last piece that all these sports train golfers for is they put them into pressure situations depending on the level of play. The more pressure situations the child is in the better they will be able to handle when they have to make a putt on the 18th hole to win a golf tournament or break 80 for the first time.

If you want your child to be a great golfer, expose them to as many sports as you can at an early age. It doesn't have to be on an organized team, any playground or field will work. While you are having fun, you will also be improving your ability to move, and it might help your golf swing, too.

• Mike Carbray is director of instruction at Butterfield Country Club in Oak Brook, and owner of Journey 2 Better Golf, an indoor golf training facility. Contact the 2018 Illinois PGA Teacher of the Year at mikecarbraygolf@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @mikecarbraygolf.

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