Conversation with a golfing parent

A few weeks ago I got to spend the day caddying and coaching at a junior golf tournament. And I was surprised at how serious some of the parents get. The kids have a great time – laughing, joking and hitting the golf ball. They are fun to watch – there are plenty of lessons for all adults on how they approach the game. The parents not so much.

One dad was all over his son…

“Keep your head still”
“Get your alignment right”
“Don’t forget to follow-through!”
“Swing slowly. Finish your backswing”

Of all the kids I saw that day, this boy was the one that lacked the most flair. He was too stiff and just couldn’t seem to get comfortable over the ball. It was actually hard to watch because on every shot his Dad was giving him too many instructions.

At the end of the round, this dad was keen to hear my thoughts about his son…

Me: Can I be perfectly honest with you?

Dad#1: Yes, please tell me what you think.

Me: I can see your son has talent and loves golf. But unfortunately, you’re trying too hard. You’re giving him way too many instructions and little Johnny can’t take them in. As a result he will rarely play his best. And worse, he’s not really learning so he’s not improving. Do this for long enough and he’ll quit golf.

Dad#1: But he keeps forgetting to do so much.

Me: I disagree. I can see he can play. You need to say less. By all means encourage him but stop with all the instructions when he’s out playing. It’s killing his passion for the game.

Dad#1: So how can I help with his drives? They were terrible today.

Me: Did you notice what was happening with his drive shots?

Dad#1: Yes, he was drop kicking them all … hitting behind the ball on almost all of them.

Me: And how do you fix this?

Dad#1: That’s why I tell him to swing slow, keep his head down and make sure he transfers his weight…

Me: No no no. That’s not helping. Would you like to know a super special drill that can help him right away?

Dad#1 almost was drooling with excitement by now. I grabbed a tee from his golf bag and placed it into the ground. I then asked the boy to clip the top of the tee with his driver.

Me: All you have to do is practise this a few nights a week in the backyard. Don’t worry about anything else but just nicking the tee with your driver. If you miss the tee it will be obvious. If you hit too much of the tee it will fly out of the ground. If you get it just right you’ll hear the clicking noise and the tee will still be in the ground.

Young Mate then took a few swipes at the tee and honed in on his objective. He’ll be fine. I know in a week or so his driving won’t be a problem if his dad can leave him alone.

As a parent I know it’s tempting to give your kids technical instructions, but really, it just doesn’t help. They are learning machines and they’ll do way better if we let them learn and not get too carried away with HOW they are playing. Their golfing techniques will develop quite naturally anyway.

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