Remember a month ago, as your child was gazing out the window, watching the snow fall and temperatures plunge in what seemed like a never-ending winter? You weren’t the only parent wishing for sunny skies and warmer weather! But now – fingers crossed – the forecast has finally turned for the better and the golf season has officially arrived!
That means it’s time to help your child tune-up their game for the exciting months to come as they venture back onto the course for an upcoming PGA Junior Golf Camp, school tournament or a casual round with friends. However, they’ve likely been cooped-up inside or focused on other sports in the off-season, which means getting back into the game might require a slight transition.
That’s why we’ve asked PGA Junior Golf Camps Co-Director, Ryan Smith, PGA to help us get ready for the upcoming golf season. Ryan has been recognized by U.S. Kids Golf as a Top 50 Kids Teacher for the past two years, so he knows how to help junior golfers get back into the game.
Here are three of Ryan’s top tips that your child can utilize to shake-off the rust from a long layoff and have their best season yet!
Focus on the FUNdamentals
Even though your child may have gripped a golf club thousands of times, a refresher on one of the swing’s most important components is always important.
“A good grip is the first step to controlling the clubface,” says Smith. “If we learn to control the clubface, we learn to control the ball… and we have more FUN!”
So, what should your child think about when they grip the club for the first time in a few months?
“Place the heel pad of your lead hand (left hand for righties and right hand for lefties) on the top of your grip, and wrap the last three fingers of your lead hand around the club, with the thumb on top,” says Smith. “That will help lock the club into place and control it. Finally, use your trail hand to cover up that lead hand thumb and keep both hands close together. Make sure to keep an eye on this grip every day!”
Movin’ on up
It’s easy for your child to over-swing when they’re getting back on course for the first time in a while – they’re excited and want to swing faster, hit the ball farther and see results quickly! But doing too much, too soon can wear your child out before summer arrives and their PGA Junior Golf Camp begins.
“Although it may seem like playing a lot will be the best way to build on improvements made last year, it can really actually hinder your confidence,” adds Smith. “You focus on too many things at once, overthink, overplay and eventually burn out.”
Instead, encourage your child to experiment with other formats than a full 18-hole round. Consider just playing 9-holes at a time or starting each hole from 25 to 50 yards away with a focus on the short game and recapturing their feel.
“Once you can shoot low scores or feel your swing returning, move back to 100-150 yards,” says Smith. “Then 200 yards, and, finally, the actual tee box. By building on the little things each week, you’ll avoid the early season burnout. Why? Because by the time you’ve reached the tee box, you’ll have covered all aspects of improvement and still be mentally fresh to play your best golf.”
Leave the Driver in the Bag
It may be tempting to take out the “big dog” and rip a few drivers on the range, but Smith says to instead focus on two other aspects of your game: feel and touch.
“Concentrate your first few practice sessions on and around the greens, and work on the touch and feel shots for better distance control with your putter and chipping clubs,” he adds. “Those types of shots are often overlooked after a long layoff and require some extra polishing before the season starts. Not to worry… your driver will still be there and a summer full of fairways await!”
Ryan Smith, PGA, is a Teaching Professional at the Marc LaPointe Golf Academy and a Camp Co-Director for PGA Junior Golf Camps in Fort Mill, South Carolina. You can learn more about PGA Junior Golf Camps, held at more than 120 facilities nationwide throughout the summer, by visiting PGAJuniorGolfCamps.com or calling (888) PGA-PLAY.