I met up with a golfing pal, Billy Main from Murcar Links, when I was out doing some YOUTUBE GOLF VIDEOS yesterday at Newmachar Golf Course and Driving Range near Aberdeen Airport.
It was great shooting the breeze with my buddy, putting the world to right and listening as to how Billy’s 9-year old son, Ethan’s golf game, was progressing.
IF YOUR GOOD ENOUGH, YOUR OLD ENOUGH
From what I’d seen on Facebook Golf related posts, Billy’s son appeared to making really good progress, and he felt that he should have perhaps been included in more developed junior golf development groups. When my father was involved in district junior golf development, the criteria was golf ability, work ethic willingness to learn and potential, as to whether a boy golfer should be involved and remained involved in North-East District of the SGU District Coaching, not age. If your good enough, you were old enough. In support of that I’ve watched videos of a 9 year-old at the Jim McLean Golf Academy in Florida, who recently qualified as an 11 year-old for the 2014 US Women’s Open.
I do not know the full in’s and outs, but there is a balance between involving junior golfers far too soon if they are out of their depth as this has can damage confidence, but I advocate that by involving the junior at the earliest possible opportunity enables them to have the right fair play values, work ethic, willingness to learn and to their game to develop faster by learning from slightly more advanced players. In today’s modern world, age should not be a preventative barrier and if a golf coach is perhaps hiding behind this, he should not be.
TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE
When I was discussing some of the golf development challenges Billy’s son faced, I reflected on my own junior golf development. I advised Billy that contrary to what you hear, beating balls is not the ‘B’ and end all, albeit to improve you need a good work ethic and willingness to learn.
My golf advice to Billy was: get your son sound fundamentals such as the grip, stance and posture and get him out on that course experimenting and having fun.Golf is walked and played on a golf course – it is not under tin roof coaching or at the speed of running on a treadmill in the gym conditions. I said to Billy to get his son to learn all the required shots – the only way you can play plugged golf balls to perfection is by standing on balls in a bunker and practicing this type of shot. The same goes for shaping shots and moving the ball in both directions; playing from rough and awkward lies, for example.
QUALITY NOT QUANTITY
When I was 12 years of age, I was playing in the Scottish Boys Golf Championship and representing the North-East of Scotland Boys Golf Team, and was therefore very advanced. I was coached by former European Tour player, David Thomson from the King’s Links Golf Centre, now of Skibo Castle, who played a major role in my earlier golf development. I used to hit approximately 5,000 golf balls per day. I changed to be coached by former PGA Captain and R&A Honorary Professional, Jim Farmer of St Andrews. My focus then changed to quality as opposed to quantity, and not hitting more than 50 golf balls without a break and hitting a maximum of 200 balls. There was more focus on the other elements which make a good golfer – such as pre-shot routines being timed, shot making, course management, on course work, short game, importance of keeping golf stats and working on weaknesses; and practice routines, for example. It was Jim’s view if I continued at the rate I was going at I would perhaps suffer burn-out and injuries when older. When looking back, this was very sound advice as I am now dogged with injuries which has hampered my development.
There is far too much pressure put on youngsters nowadays and there have been three high profile examples of Scottish golfers cheating. The starting point for any golfer is to play fair and in accordance with the rules. Feel youngsters should be taught you can be a champion on and off the golf course. Youngsters should be encouraged to have fun and enjoy themselves in a competitive setting; to be humble in victory and to lose gracefully. Life is a learning process and golf is no different – youngsters will learn from their mistakes, in the same way major champions have perhaps had to ‘choke’ a few before winning became second nature. Parents should not relive their own lives through their children and over analysis of mistakes can be damaging to a youngster’s golf development.
Golf has gave me a great opportunity to travel the world and befriend many people, whom I would never have met if it was not for playing this great game. Great exercise in the fresh air, the chance to unwind, relax and have fun is what I feel it’s all about. At times we can all be too hard on ourselves in the 19th hole. Feel it is best to approach the game in such a positive way – my pint is half full and not half empty, free from any postmortems after the round.
PARALYSIS BY ANALYSIS
I discussed with Billy getting mixed signals from a variety of coaches which can put the young golfers head in a bin. It is great to have a very good idea of how many fairways hit, greens in regulation, putting golf stats and up and down rates. To be honest, I do not need some super duper golf database to work out my weaknesses after a round – 38 putts would immediately spring to mind, as would continually driving it into the trees. I recommend keeping it simple and manageable. Nowadays things can become so intense and technical, when there is no need. I am a firm believer in golf drills as opposed to also getting too technical and also any swing changes to be done over the winter so that youngsters can enjoy their golf in the summer.
The above are just my own personal experiences and there is perhaps mileage in ‘different strokes for different folks’, but I hope this is helpful to Billy, his son and all young golfers out there. Glad Billy enjoyed his game I organized at Trump International, Scotland, and look forward playing with him once I shake off this tennis elbow, which is preventing me from playing.
Have a nice weekend and here’s hoping it stays dry for round three of the 2014 BMW PGA Championship at The Wentworth Club.
Graham J Gordon, The Editor and Owner, GolfblogspotUK