With summer vacation just around the corner the golf industry is preparing for a sizeable increase in the number of juniors taking up the game of golf. A major reason for this increase can be attributed to the success and exposure of Tiger Woods, the new young sensation.
Commonly asked questions about starting a youngster in golf are concerned with age, what type of instructional programs are available and where can they be found, and what equipment is necessary.
Normally, a good age for starting children is around 7 or 8. Youngsters this age have a longer attention span and have enough strength to swing the golf club.
There are a number of avenues to go through when searching for the right junior golf program or junior golf instructor. Start by checking the city parks and recreation programs. Call your local driving range or practice facility and ask if there are any teaching professionals who enjoy working with juniors. Contact the head professionals at golf courses in your area and ask about their programs. There are a number of programs available in the DFW area such as the LPGA Jr. Girls Golf Club, the PGA First Swing Program, Dr. Nathan Jones’ First Par Program, the NTPGA Westcott Jr. Tour, and the Gladiator Jr. Tour.
For the beginning golfer, equipment needs are few. One iron like a 5, 6 or 7 and possibly a putter are all that it takes to get started. The club(s) should be sized for the child. The grip should be as small as possible and the length can be measured by a professional. Also consider the weight of the club. There are specially made clubs with juniors in mind.
As the junior golfer becomes more proficient and shows a desire to learn and play it is then time to look for a starter set of junior clubs, which usually consists of 3 or 4 irons, two woods and a putter. Approximate cost is $140.
Many juniors are bitten by the golf bug and dedicate themselves to playing and competing to find out just how good they can be. By high school age many boys and girls have aspirations of competing on a college team.
Today the competition is very intense for college scholarships. For a Division I school, it is important to have the right tournament competition and exposure. College coaches are looking for consistent scoring or someone who has the potential to shoot a really low score. Initially, junior golfers should compete in high school competition. Then they should begin playing in city events and state championships. Texas has a wonderful junior program where juniors can play in an event almost every day of the summer.
Finally, juniors should consider competing at the national level. The American Junior Golf Association is the most noted association that conducts competitions around the United States. It has been in business since 1970 and this year there are 40 different tournaments planned with 22 qualifying events. Currently there are 4,000 junior members. Amazingly 75% of the kids who participate in the AJGA events go on to college and out of these kids, 90% receive some type of college scholarship assistance.
Past participants include Tiger Woods, Emilee Klein, Michelle McGann, Davis Love III and Phil Mickelson to name a few. At present, the AJGA appears to be the training ground for future college standouts as well as future LPGA and PGA stars.
There are other junior tours as well. The PGA has begun a series of small regional events and the International Golf Tour has been in business for two years with 10 to 12 events. The United States Golf Association conducts the national championship for juniors every summer.
As you can see there are more opportunities for juniors than ever before. Enjoy your summer vacation and good luck learning the great game of golf!