Teach Your Children Well
Asst. Golf Pro Bryan Sienkiewicz weighs in on how and when to start your junior golfer
My Name is Bryan Sienkiewicz. I am the 1st assistant golf professional here at Jacaranda Golf Club, as well as the Assistant Golf Coach at NSU University School Boys Varsity Team. I am a Level 3 Associate for the PGA PGM program, and level 1 certified for US Kids Golf, but what I am most proud of is being a dad to my two wonderful children. My oldest, Braxton, is 4 and my daughter Magnolia will be 2 in December.
Everyone assumed I would push my kids to pick up a golf club at a young age, but I didn’t. I let the game come to them. That’s where I would like to start my story, as a father and a golf instructor. Braxton was about 2-year-old when one day he saw me watching golf on TV and said he wanted to give it a try. I looked at my wife with both shock and elation. Then I realized, “wow, I need to get him a club” Since Braxton is left-handed, I couldn’t just run to the department store, but I went to Amazon and found a plastic iron that can be used for righties and lefties. I also bought some foam balls for the yard.
While we waited for our club, we watched golf together. It still amazes me how someone so young can absorb so much by just WATCHING the game. For the next couple months, I put aside 10 to 20 minutes every day to focus on golf, but, as I always tell parents, if they don’t want to, don’t force them. I have given too many lessons to juniors who don’t want to be there and it’s never good. That brings me to my first point: don’t push your junior into golf, it such a mental strain for them, that if they are not in the mood, nothing will be accomplished other than possibly alienating them from the game for good.
So, how do you know the right age to start? That’s easy. Let the game come to them. You can definitely expose them; take trips to the local mini golf course, or the driving range to watch you hit, to see if they show interest. The truth is, there is no perfect age for getting your future junior golfer started. Start them with just plastic clubs, in an open field with foam balls. Or if they are older and stronger buy the “yard club” from US Kids Golf. It’s a perfect step up from a plastic club. It has a slightly bigger club head and lighter shaft for the junior to develop.
Now the big question is what equipment do you need and where can you get it? Being US Kids certified, I suggest going through them. They have a great outlook on development, the equipment varies in size and you will never have to worry about you little golfer getting hurt. When you do buy, don’t have the mind set “they will grow into the clubs”. You actually want them to grow OUT of them. That’s because of the length of the clubs, the width of the grip and the weight.
Now that your junior golfer has his or her own clubs along with a growing interest in golf, you may be asking yourself should I invest in lessons? You really can’t go wrong, again, depending on their age. For instance, at 3, I worked with Braxton to make sure his hands were in the right place, his feet were shoulder width a part and the ball wasn’t too close or far away from him. At this stage, we are just building hand- eye coordination. If you know the golf basics you can do the same thing.
In my opinion, 5 is the right age to start lessons. At that point, a young golfer can comprehend what we are trying to teach them. But every youngster is different. As a parent, you know if your junior can handle the mental focus/ physical aspect of a 30 minute to 1 hour lesson.
What is the impact of having a junior golfer? Well, that will be different from every family. I know for me it has created a huge change in Braxton’s behavior, not just at home but at school as well. I have noticed over the last year and a half or so, he is better at handling failure, he doesn’t take his aggression out on the task at hand, he knows it won’t help the outcome. It has given him great body awareness along with improved hand -eye coordination. Best of all, it has created another generation of great memories, just as it did with my dad and my grandfather.
Parents, don’t forget this game is a game that they can enjoy for a very long time. This game is a family business in my house I am very lucky that Braxton found interest at a young age. He has exceeded my expectations not just as his instructor but also as his dad. My little Maggie will be getting her first yard club on here birthday, since she has now shown some interest watching her “Bubba” play golf.
Thanks for taking time to read this. My junior golf story is a personal one. I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have, and will, for years to come.