Contact is king when it comes to golf. The biggest challenge is getting the ball from point A to point B. Developing speed and free flowing movement is one of the building blocks for learning the game. The second key is actually making contact.
Better contact will help all players improve their scores, but the best opportunity to learn how to properly hit the ball is when we are kids learning the game.
Take a golf ball and place it on a flat surface. Now take a 7 iron and place it behind the ball as if you were preparing a stroke. You will quickly notice; the ball and the grooved surface of the clubface do not really match. The clubface is pointing slightly up and does not seem ready to hit the ball directly. Now begin to angle the club shaft towards the target. Continue to lean the shaft forward until the clubface hits the back of the golf ball directly.
This simple demonstration teaches us a valuable lesson. A golfer cannot hit the ball properly unless the club shaft is slightly in front of the ball at the moment of impact. This applies to all shots on the ground. Keep doing this demonstration until you get a very solid sense of how far forward this shaft should be. Once you have a better understanding of this shot position, you can show it to your junior golfer.
Children learn very quickly. It is best to do this demonstration on the practice area. Once they get a feel for the lesson, some punches should follow soon. Get on one knee across from your son or daughter and create the feeling of leaning the shaft forward and bringing the club face to the ball. Describe what you are doing as you demonstrate. This step is extremely important as it covers all three types of learning: audio, visual, and kinesthetic (movement).
After a few rehearsals, let your golfer loose on the ball. Make sure you give positive feedback on every swing. Stay away from the terms wrong, no, bad, or wrong. Use positive reinforcement to encourage them. If they didn’t do the right move, point out an aspect they did right. Keep training them to understand where the grip goes when they hit the ball.
This is where Part 1 of this series comes in. PGA coaches know the easiest way to bring that grip forward enough is to swing freely and get to a full finish. Both lessons work together, which creates a crisp contact and less fear of the ball. Ball fear comes from not only worrying about where the ball is going, but even more terrifying can be the fear of hitting it!
When junior golfers feel an impact with their hands behind the ball, they will be on a very successful path in golf. One that you can always come back to. The basics of swimming or balance on a bike are very similar. If a child can balance on a bike, they can always ride. The same applies to contacting golf. As soon as your junior golfer feels a good, solid shot, he will be able to retrieve this feeling again and again even after long breaks in the game.
Continue to monitor their progress with each practice session or with the course experience with them. Always affirm your work with positive messages. Make practice time fun. Create different games, set different goals. Challenge your son or daughter to hit him higher or lower, left and right. The more you look at their shape and focus on function, the faster they learn the game and, above all, love it.
Keith Stewart is a 5-time award-winning PGA Professional with 25 years of experience in the golf industry. His network of players, coaches and insiders gives him a unique perspective on the game. He is a writer on PGA.com and hosts the ProShow on ESPN 920 AM Friday afternoon at 3:00 PM EDT. Check out his PGA coaching articles archived here or his conversations on the air using this link on his website, The ProShow.
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