Raising The Next Tiger Woods

Parents ask me all the time, how to get their children interested in golf. And then once interested, how to make sure their child improves. And then once there’s improvement, how to make sure they reach their full potential. Seems every parent I meet wants their child to be the next Tiger Woods and are looking for the magic formula. If it were only that easy.

Still, it is a valid question – and one that I take quite seriously. So, how do you — with a child who wants to play golf — turn him or her into the next Tiger Woods? Here are my top four tips.

1. Make it all about the short game. As much as your young child wants to be on the driving range hitting drivers, they will see much quicker improvement with practice around the greens. And the touch and feel they develop from ages 5-10, will stay with them forever. Long before your child steps foot on a golf course, they should spend countless hours around the putting and chipping green. Teach them 4 things; A basic chipping technique, a basic pitching technique, a basic bunker technique and a simple putting stroke. There is no need to get into trick shots (kids are wonderful about finding them on their own) – just the basic technique. For now, have them use just one club around the green — a sand wedge. There will be plenty of time later on to show them how to change clubs on “pitch and runs.” The reason I want them to learn first with the wedge is simple. You can always go with the high shot around the green – but can’t always go with the low option. There may be rough or a bunker between them and the hole, when a 7-iron will just not work. Teach them first how to control the trajectory of their sand wedge, and your child will become a better golfer for it. As for putting, teach them to keep their heads still. This valuable lesson, which is better learned early, will hold them in good stead through out their lives. The only thing I would “make” them do is — hole 20 three footers in a row every time they practice. Get them used to seeing the ball go in at an early age. But other than that, let them enjoy their hour or two having fun around the green. As long as they are sticking the fundamental technique, don’t say too much. Kids are amazing at teaching themselves all the things we want them to know.

2. Get them a teacher. This is one thing I would highly recommend early on in your child’s development. It doesn’t need to be Butch Harmon – just someone who is qualified and understands fundamentals. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had to correct things that parents taught their kids as gospel. Kids don’t have to take lessons every week — but just enough to make sure their technique is getting better. That’s all! Too much instruction for a kid is just that — too much. Even if you’re a good player and know the basic technique, get a teacher! Your child will take a professional more seriously and understand that the time spent with the instructor is all about golf — and not about getting grounded the night before.

3. Don’t let them fail. I know this somewhat defies conventional wisdom, in that we want to teach our children to overcome obstacles. But in golf, there’s just way too much scar tissue to get through for most people to reach their true potential. Think about it — when we are first learning the game – what type of scores are we making? Mostly, lots of double, triple and quadruple bogeys. And that’s usually with mulligans. We see the ball go in the water. We see the ball go in the trap. We have lakes we cannot carry. This is a lot of negative input that will always be with us. Now, we may get better and stop making those high numbers – but we still remember. I say don’t ever let your child have those memories. The smartest thing Earl Woods did in raising Tiger: he never letting him make a double bogey. How did he do this you ask? He didn’t make the simple mistake of putting Tiger at the red tees at 5 years old, just because they were the closest to the green. Instead, he would have Tiger tee off from a point in the fairway where he could easily reach the green in regulation; such as the 100 yard marker. If it were a par 4, he wanted Tiger to hit the green in two shots. If it were a par 5, he wanted him to hit the green in three shots. As a result, Tiger has been putting for birdie since he starting playing golf. During some rounds, he was shooting under par at age 4. Now, it wasn’t a regulation score, as it was not from a set of tees. But do you think that mattered to Tiger? All he knew was — I shot 35 today mom! This type of approach basically guaranteed Tiger would not be afraid of “going low.” Unlike other golfers who become afraid when out of their comfort zone, Tiger learned how to just make birdies. This was brilliant and should be copied. All the kids I teach learn how to shoot par golf at an early age and only move back when — they get longer. That’s it! They just progressively move back until they reach the correct tees.

4. Avoid clinics and schools. I know this sounds like crazy advice — but if you really want to raise the next Tiger Woods — teach them to be like Tiger. Independent!! There has been an influx of academies for kids, and parents are paying top dollar to reap the benefits. But sadly, what ends up happening on most occasions is — your child is taught the same exact thing as every other child. They are in groups of 6-8 and all taught the same thing. But here’s the thing – not all golfers should grip it the same way. Or aim the same way. Or do a lot of things the same way. But the only way to make a clinic format work is to teach systems. The main pro will show his assistants an easy to follow system to teach the kids — and that system is followed to a tee. Can you imagine what would have become of Lee Trevino if he were taught a system? Or Jack Nicklaus with his flying elbow? The best thing to do for your child is — find one good intructor. Have them go less if money is an issue – but get a good solid fundamental teacher. That’s it! Bobby Jones had Stuart Maiden. Jack Nicklaus had Jack Grout. Tiger Woods had Butch Harmon. This is a good formula to copy.

I do hope you introduce your child to this great game — even if they don’t become the next Tiger Woods. Good Luck!!!

8 Responses to “Raising The Next Tiger Woods”

  1. Peter says:

    Hi Andy,
    I think all us adult Golfers whished we had a teacher like Earl Woods,
    shows we all just need that someone to give us confidence not only in golf but in our daily lives as Earl gave to his son.

    Thanks Andy
    Peter from NZ

  2. Dan Kinney says:

    I loved the article and agree with all of it. The only thing that I would add is the need to have properly fitted equipment. I have a 12 yr old that can now beat most of the adults at our club and can site many of the rules that you set forth. My son spends about 2-4 hours around the green every day and yes he has developed some impressive trick shots in the process. Too often I see parents get in the way and do more damege than good. I am guilty of this as well and have had to bite my lip and leave it to the pro to work with him. Instead of spending money on golf camps I spend money on equipment fitted by the pro and lessons. This is not cheap but is money well spent to make sure he developes his game properly. As he grows out of his equipment we donate the used clubs to the First Tee Program and take the deduction. The US Kids sets are great as they offer so many different sizes. We live in Iowa and are lucky to have a very strong PGA Jr Golf program. I would encourage parents to check with their state PGA and see what Tournaments are available.

  3. Ellen says:

    Bill is right. I am 70 years old so perhaps I qualify for “second childhood” status but I am just now learning to play the game and I intend to use the sand wedge suggestion myself. (I wish I could also tee off from the fairway but I guess that would be pushing it!!!)

  4. Bill says:

    The article and the posts focus on one thing–repeatable successes–and minimize the religious insistence on a someone else’s “ideal” repeatable swing. I’ve raised four kids and am helping with (currently) four grandkids, two of whom could be golfers. I’ll take this counsel to heart!

    Of course, the kids come second. My next visit to the course or the practice green will be all sand wedge and three-foot puts. Why shouldn’t we put this philosophy to work for ourselves–we all still have an inner kid who can really benefit from repeated success and purely positive golfing experience. No more beating ourselves up!

  5. Lawrence says:

    The essence of this philosophy is dead in the middle of the fairway. Learning Theory dictates that failure is learned behavior – so is winning. You cannot offer kids enough opportunities to be successful and when they are, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy in whatever they do. That’s Tiger!
    School Counselor/Teacher
    Assistant Organizer
    San Diego Social Golf

  6. Chopper says:

    Hi Andy – Pretty good advice although I think your child should want to play golf -not be ‘encouraged’ by parents who have visions of the next Tiger. My daughter loves the game and is always wanting to have a hit. It has re-kindled my love for the game and I get great pleasure watching her hit and improve. Re point 3, once she started hitting the ball reasonably she always hit off the red markers but we doubled the par of the hole for her ‘par’. So as par 3 became a 6 for her and so on. She had the same reaction as a young Tiger and was always proud to state how many ‘pars’ or ‘birdies’ she had. This was adjusted as she got better and an official handicap obtained. Clinics are ok for getting the basics providing they are not too large or stacked with kids who really don’t want to be there. Love your articles. Nicer if there were also available for the ‘lefty’. 😉

  7. Hassan says:

    Hi Andy
    Lots of information for me to be busy this summer for my grand children.They love golf.

  8. Jerry says:

    What a great E-MAIL ,loaded with information.



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