Junior Golf is one of those things that I love to think about. How can I improve on it? How can I learn more about it? What fields do I need to research? Who should I talk with to learn more? As 2011 quickly approaches, like many of you, I look back on 2010 and look ahead to 2011.
I recently have been in contact with Neil Plimmer. Neil is a Coach from England and has a passion for junior golf that I have never seen the likes of before. I used to think that I had a passion for working with juniors. I can tell you this. The juniors that have access to Mr Plimmer will have an experience like no other when learning the game of golf.
About a week or so ago, Neil sent me a chart for how to correctly set-up a golf course for a junior golfer depending on the length of the Driver strike. I thought I would share it with all of you because it is just brilliant.(click on the image to view larger)
1) I think it is so important that juniors get an appreciation for par right away. The lengths presented by Neil are designed to allow for pars just like for the adults. It helps show juniors at a young age that this is a game of score and that score is based around achievable distances to holes.
2) It helps with the understanding that golf should be played at a particular pace. When juniors are playing the correct tee, they should be able to play the course in the same amount of time or less than the adults. It’s amazing how more supportive the members and paying public are of junior golf when they play at a reasonable pace.
3) It also get’s them used to birdies and the mental preparation of playing golf while under par. How many of us get to 3 or 4 under in a round and just freeze up as we try to get it in the house. The more I can get juniors to be comfortable with the self imposed mental pressure that score puts on them, the better they’ll be able to handle it later on. Also, when was the last time you saw a 10 year old at 4 under say let me just get in. No way. They are going for 6 under. That’s the behavior I want to encourage.
4) Lastly, I think the correct tee shows junior golfers that the majority of shots in golf are short shots. If they are using the correct tee length, they will hit many short game shots and putts. I think this is critical. Nothing bothers me more than watching a good junior hit 5 long shots to get to the hole then hit fewer chips and putts than it took to get there. That is not how golf should be learned in my opinion. Junior’s are smart. They will quickly see the benefit of practicing their short game and putting when playing the correct tee. I think this understanding is the most important reason why junior’s should play the correct tee length. It is also the reason why I recommend that they play the same tee until they can shoot under par from it regularly. Then I know, they have skills in all the area’s and then we add length to see where the weaknesses are.
The big question for me is, when should the junior change tee lengths? Should the junior change based on distance hit or skill level presented at tee he is playing? Once again, I think it should be skill level. For years, I’ve told my juniors that they should play the most forward tee until they are able to shoot under par for that tee. Hopefully, the course has been thoughtful enough to place additional tee markers in the fairway for the junior players. Many times, the kids will resist because they want to play the ‘real’ hole like mom or dad. Surely, I think this is ok at times but for the majority of time, I strongly encourage them to play the correct tee for their length and skill level.
I don’t have enough data or history with my juniors to support my assumption but I think that shooting under par as an early junior will contribute to comfort needed to do it as an advanced junior, college player and beyond. It will show them the importance of the short game and generate support in their growth by learning to play quickly. I will keep you posted as the data comes in and remember to have your juniors play from the correct length. Thanks again to Neil Plimmer for all his help and please leave your thoughts about when juniors should switch tees.
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