Great Game: Five life lessons kids learn through golf
By Jordan Fuller
Sport should be an integral part of every kid’s childhood. Not only does it keep them fit, healthy, and having fun, but it teaches them a bunch of essential life lessons that can be hard (and much less fun) to learn in other ways.
Golf may not be the first sport you think of when it comes to finding something for your kids to learn. But it’s an excellent choice for a variety of reasons. One, it can be enjoyed as a family. Two, they can start with mini golf and graduate up to the practice ranges and finally the big courses!
But more than that, there are lessons in the sport that kids will learn and never forget. Here are five of them that your kids will forever use.
RESPECT FOR OTHERS
Golf is a gentleman's (or gentlewoman’s) game, and it’s generally frowned upon more than other sports to display unsportsmanlike conduct.
Your kid will learn very quickly that respect is an important thing in golf. That goes both for opponents and for equipment.
While kids can get away with a frustrated kick of the ball or racket toss in other sports, nobody tolerates a flying club or a temper tantrum on the golf course!
At the same time, displaying good sportsmanship is highly encouraged on the course. If a golfer’s opponent hits a great shot, it’s not unusual for them to congratulate them or give them a handshake.
Part of golf’s appeal is the tranquil nature of the sport. Dignity, respect, and appreciation for others playing the game go a long way on the course, as well as in life.
It’s almost impossible to be respectful in one area of life and not in others. If your kid learns respect on the golf course, it will have a ripple effect into other areas of their life.
CRITICAL THINKING & PROBLEM SOLVING
Of all the sports kids could choose to play, golf is one of the hardest. That doesn’t mean it won’t be fun, but it does mean that if they want to progress with it and move into the bigger leagues, they’ll have no choice but to sharpen their critical thinking skills.
Golf is a thoughtful game. The nature of the game means that in order to be successful, you need to be precise, accurate, and strategic.
When your kid is little and they’re knocking about on the mini golf course, it’s all about fun and games (and those lucky hole-in-ones!). But just a little older, and they’re already considering how to bounce the ball off that angled block to get it closer to the hole.
Critical thinking is a natural part of the sport. On the golf course, you need to factor in hazards, weather conditions, wind, and the course’s contours. Then, you choose your action (shot) based on those.
This is an invaluable life lesson. Critical thinking and problem solving are in every aspect of life, whether work, relationships, or hobbies. The sooner your kid begins to learn it, the better!
Nobody improves at golf without practice. And not just one practice a week - consistent, focused, disciplined practice.
If your kid wants the satisfaction of getting the ball in the hole or watching thier drive soar down the fairway exactly where they planeed for it to go, they absolutely need to put in the hard work.
The same is true in everyday life. Whether work, family, or hobbies, discipline is necessary to achieve excellent results. Encourage your kid to keep their eye on the prize if they start to struggle with this!
In the beginning, when kids are learning mini golf, there’s not a lot of attention paid to the score or who’s doing better than who. But as kids get older and start competing, it starts to become more important.
Every kid will have a chance to score themselves better than they truly did. Ultimately, being honest is something your kid will have to learn for themself on the course, but in the end, dishonesty never pays. And nobody wants to be known as a cheat on the course… Or in the office, or in a relationship!
This is a more unusual one, but visualization is a skill that's highly valuable in just about any situation. Research has shown that visualization has a multitude of benefits, including inducing better sleep and relaxation, reduced pain, and increased creativity.
In golf, ask your child to visualize each shot before they hit it. Where they want it to go, how they want it to spin, and so on. Then, they should hit the shot as if that were the outcome. If they’re at the stage where they’re playing competitions, visualizing the entire course as a play-through the night or morning before can reduce nerves and instill confidence.
Your Role In Teaching Your Kid Golf’s Life Lessons
Although the sport itself will do a lot towards teaching your kid these life lessons, to a large extent it also depends on the golfing mentors they have in their life.
If you’re the first golfing teacher your child has, it’s important that you instill these lessons in them when the opportunity arises on the course.
You don’t need to lecture them. But do your best to gently guide them into learning how to play the game, handling disappointments or losses, dealing with opponents respectfully, being a good sport, and taking life lessons from it as they progress.
Kids are never too young to learn how to play golf! Start on the mini golf course and work your way up (the short game is the most important part of golf anyway!).
Of course, make sure your kid actually enjoys playing the game. If they don’t like it, don’t force them to play it just for the life lessons! They can be learned in other sports too.
But if your kid does show an interest in golf, encourage them to go for it. It’s the perfect way to get them outdoors, appreciating nature, having fun, and learning some life lessons that golf teaches kids and adults alike.
Jordan Fuller is a retired golfer who spends a lot of his time mentoring young golfers and sharing his passion for the game with them. When he’s not on the course with youngsters, he writes for his website, Golf Influence.
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