What’s the Best Age to Start Golf? Start Kids Young but Keep it Fun!

Now that my daughter is coming up to 2½ years old I have begun to wonder what is the best time to get her to start playing golf.

I hit my own first golf shots in my Grandma’s backyard at the age of 4 and have not stopped since.

So what is the best age to start playing golf?

Kids can be exposed to the game of golf as early as 2 years old. Research shows those starting early are more likely to play golf as adults. Formal instruction is generally better from school age (5-6) when longer attention spans enable kids to better learn the rules and risks associated with golf.

Children, of course, all progress and develop at different rates and what is right for one is not necessarily right for another.

But golf is a game for a lifetime and can be taken up at any stage of life.

And the key is how you teach someone to play golf, and by making learning the game fun you will give a beginner the best chance to get to a lifelong enjoyment of this great game.

Top tip: Golf club weight and length are absolutely vital when it comes to choosing golf clubs and is even more important for children starting out to learn golf. To help ensure your kids get off to the best possible start check out our recommended top picks for kids golf clubs here.]

It’s Great to Start Golf Young But You Are Never Too Old

As with any other sport, it is best to start playing golf early, especially if you want to become very good.

Many people will have seen the video of the 2-year-old Tiger Woods on the Mike Douglas Show displaying his ability to already hit a driver.

Rory McIlroy, the youngest winner of the US Open in 2011 at aged 22 for 88 years, was also hitting the ball 40 yards by age 2.

That is not to say it is impossible to start at a much later age and become a great player.

Greg Norman, winner of 2 Open Championships and ranked number one in the world for six years, took up the game at the comparatively late age of 15.

But by 17 he was a scratch golfer and turned professional at age 21.

But it must be remembered these exceptional players are the exceptions.

Golf is a lifetime sport and people have a lifetime to enjoy it.

There is also no requirement to become one of the best players in the world.

Golf is a unique game where players can be as old as 92 as well as 2 years old and generations of families can play together all at the same time.

As long as you have a basic level of fitness and flexibility you can play golf.

That is not to dismiss the advantages of starting to play golf early however.

“Kids who start young are much more likely to play golf as adults.”

US Kids Golf Foundation

There is no problem at all exposing a child to golf as early as 2 and there is a school of thought that like skiing, where kids who are barely able to walk are already skiing, that a 1-year-old is old enough.

There are indeed manufacturers who make golf clubs for toddlers aged only 18 months.

There’s a difference though between ‘playing’ golf and learning the game.

And while kids can obviously ‘learn’ the game – whether through watching it on TV or putting on the carpet at home – it is felt that kids need to be a bit older, 5-6 years old, before they are ready to start ‘playing’ golf.

Due to the equipment involved, there are opportunities for kids to hurt themselves and others.

Overexcited or frustrated youngsters getting hit or hitting someone with a golf club or golf ball are real possibilities in the early stages of learning the game.

So a certain level of maturity is required to know the etiquette and rules required to stay safe.

Golf also has a long list of often complex rules – Albert Einstein is reported to have given up golf after one try because he thought it was too complicated! – which children need to be a certain learning ability to pick up and understand.

So, the simple answer to the question of what is the right age to start playing golf depends on your child.

If you think they are mature to understand the rules at age 3 then great, get them playing.

If not you there is no harm in waiting for a couple of more years and just continuing to expose them to aspects of the game in the meantime.

A lot of it will come down to how much interest an individual boy or girl has in the game.

If they are enjoying themselves chances are they will want to keep learning.

What is the Best Age to Start Golf Lessons?

What age to start formal structured lessons is another question that comes up when kids are learning to play golf.

Golf instruction, particularly in a group setting, is fantastic for youngsters.

Formal lessons are generally organised in a step-by-step format which greatly helps young players build their swing and associated routine.

Taking part in activities similar to their peers is great for friendships and the discipline required while young players follow the oral instructions given in a lesson will enhance their listening and learning skills.

The listening skills and ability to follow oral instructions are therefore key skills kids need to be able to participate in lessons so typically parents will enter their children into golf lessons when they are of school age, which is around 5 to 6 years old.

There is no hard and fast rule of course and if you are unsure if a child is ready for lessons you can simply sign them up for one or two and see how they get on.

If they are enjoying it, making progress and want to go back you can keep up the lessons.

If they find it difficult and stressful let them experience the game in other ways until they are ready to have another go at lessons.

And how many lessons are too many?

Again when the young player no longer wants to play is probably a good sign it is too much.

5 Tips on How to Teach Kids to Start Playing Golf

1. Make it fun

This is the first by far the most important tip when it comes to teaching kids to play golf.

If it is fun, the kids want to be there and parents are not constantly pushing and following their every move all will be fine.

Some golf events even introduce great rules to help avoid the over-competitive parent trap by requiring adults to be at least 70 yards from juniors in competitions.

Exposure is the key, and giving children the freedom to explore and enjoy the game, particularly, at very early ages, is paramount.

2. Involve them in lots of different activities

There is a myriad of ways now to introduce kids to golf in a variety of different settings and here are just a few ideas:

  • TV and Internet – put a sports channel on when there’s a golfing tournament. You do not have to pick up any clubs to make them aware of the game and spark their interest in it.
  • Video games – these are another great way from the comfort of your own home to help kids learn the basic concepts and rules of the game, and also get to see what a swing looks like. Kids typically love video game given they are very visual and this can help them want to play the real thing sometime.
  • Miniature golf – putting is 40% of the game of golf and the miniature golf course is an ideal and fun setting to give them a starting point in golf and learning a putting stroke.
  • The back garden/backyard – at a moment’s notice you can get kids playing and practising golf in a very familiar setting. Most back gardens or backyards can easily become a make-shift golf course with a bit of imagination and the help of a few hula-hoops, buckets, paddling pools and garden hoses. Just make sure you use plastic or foam balls to avoid injury or broken windows!
  • Driving range – before you need to head to the course the driving range is a perfect and safe venue to continue introducing kids to all the key basics of the game. Try and make days at the driving range short (no more than one hour) and action-packed.
  • On the course – children interested in the hame will eventually want to get onto a course but there are plenty of ways to gradually get them used to it and to keep their interest. To start with they can just accompany you to the course (riding around on a golf buggy is always great fun) and play a few putts or even chips when the opportunity arrives. Progress then to playing three holes or so, playing forward tees or letting them tee off very close to the green – no further than 100 yards out. Once they show an interest in keeping score establish an appropriate par for them remembering that pars and birdies are always better than bogeys!

Whatever you try just remember the main goal is always to fun and always playing games both in practice and on the course will hopefully mean they never get bored and catch the golfing bug.

3. Choose the right equipment

Choosing the right equipment will give kids a solid foundation, help them with their progress and prevent them from being needlessly put off.

Club weight and club height are the most important things to focus on to help kids learn the fundamentals and develop a good swing.

A lighter clubhead will allow more clubhead speed and distance and help with balance.

The height of the club meanwhile should roughly come up from the ground to reach an area between the waist and below the chest.

From the age of 2 kids grow an average of 2.5 inches per year so it is worth checking every now and then that their clubs are a proper fit for their size.

Non-slips shoes are also important to help make sure they avoid losing their footing during a swing.

It is almost impossible to develop a consistent sing rhythm if your feet are slipping all the time.

Another equipment tip is to look at some junior golf clothing.

This can help kids take more interest in the game and also start to learn more about its’ etiquette rules.

Also when was the last time you did not like getting some new clothes?

4. Never worry about accuracy to start with

At a young age, kids are never going to hit the ball consistently straight.

So golf teachers advise never to focus on that aspect of the game.

Simply start with the basics and keep remembering always to keep it fun.

Teach them how to hold the golf club, where they should stand to hit the shot and how they should finish the swing.

Show them a golf swing and just get to try and copy and mimic it.

Encouraging words are also much more important than swing instruction.

As a rule of thumb aim for to use ten words of encouragement for every word of correction.

And keep things short and sharp and end your day with something special like a drink or snack.

This will let you all spend some more quality time together and introduce them to the great 19th hole where you review and talk endlessly about all the great shots you just played!

5. It does not have to be golf, golf, golf

The golf swing utilizes a diverse and wide-ranging set of muscle groups – at least 17 different ones.

Flexible and strong, upper and lower body, muscles are needed and must be merged with hand-eye coordination to keep a consistent swing.

So there are lots of other sports and activities you can do with your kids which will help prepare their bodies for golf.

Swimming, for example, is a great complementary activity to golf.

Not only does it increase flexibility but also contributes to core conditioning while strengthening the small muscles around the major joints used in golf – the shoulders, knees and wrists.

Athletics or track and field also helps train those upper and lower body muscles.

Football or soccer, basketball and tennis meanwhile let them further develop the hand-eye coordination so heavily relied upon in golf.

Why Should Kids Start Playing Golf?

It is all very well talking about what age kids should start to golf but there is an inevitable question which comes before that of why should you bother teaching them.

Beyond golf being a great fun game to play there are a number of other benefits to playing to golf and here are just a few:

  1. It is an outdoor activity which provides a safe and often beautiful environment for kids to play in
  2. Golf enables children to develop their social skills as they constantly interact with different boys and girls of varying ages as well as instructors and other playing adults. Lifelong friendships are often fostered and developed on the golf course.
  3. The game rewards perseverance, a positive attitude and teaches the benefits of never giving up. One of the game’s greats famously coined the phrase – ‘The more I practise the luckier I get’ – and kids can quickly learn they are rarely one great shot away from rescuing a bad hole so it pays to try to never to give up and focus on the next shot.
  4. Golf is renowned for being one of the only sports where it is expected that players will call a foul on themselves. Golfers are often on their own when rules are broken and are responsible for counting their own score. As a result, honesty is a key pillar of the game and expected of it all its participants.
  5. Without getting too dramatic golf can also help teach some great life lessons. Like life, golf can be frustrating and again like life is not always fair. To get better the game demands you accept the ups and downs and as such, it can provide kids with multiple opportunities to learn how to control their emotions as they handle the inevitable successes and failures golf provides.

I will never forget the time my father walked in from the farthest point of the golf course after I had behaved appallingly.

After throwing numerous tantrums (and clubs!) he decided he had had enough and we did not then speak for the whole long walk back to the clubhouse or on the way home afterwards.

We also did not play together for a couple of weeks afterwards.

I quickly learned that if I wanted to enjoy golf with my Dad I needed to wise up and although my brothers frequently tell me my behaviour never improved I’m pretty sure it did.

My father never had to stop playing with me again from that point.

Final Thought

Much of this post has been about teaching kids to start playing golf and we have noted how the earlier kids start the game the more likely it is from them to play as adults.

It is however never too late to learn this great game.

It is truly a game for a lifetime where all generations of a family can play and enjoy it all together at the same time.

In our late 20’s a friend of mine and I traded skills – he taught me how to ski while I taught him how to play golf.

Thankfully we did not put each other off and are still friends and we both now are still enjoying both the golf course and the slopes.

So long as you focus on making it fun there is never a ‘right’ age to start playing golf and it is never too late to pick it up.

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Graeme Hay

Graeme Hay is the owner of GolfingFocus.com. Graeme started playing golf when he was only 4 years old and has loved the game ever since. A single figure golfer all of his adult life and a member of Royal Troon Golf Club he lives in London and still enjoys playing whenever he can with friends and family.

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