By Richard Bisi and Keith Bach, JPGAIf you feel that your son is the next Tiger Woods or your daughter is the next Annika Sorenstam, take a deep breath. There’s only one Tiger and one Annika.
Tiger’s accomplishments rank him among the most successful golfers of all time and currently the World’s No. 1 Golfer. Before retiring from competitive golf at the end of the 2008 season, Annika won 90 International tournaments as a professional, making her the female golf player with the most wins to her name. Tiger and Annika have something else in common; both have been instrumental in spurring the growth in junior golf.
Now, it may be that your son or daughter has great potential and has the drive and determination to succeed in golf. It may be that your son or daughter got involved with golf because of Tiger or Annika. Then, the question becomes this: how best to support my child’s golfing skills?
If you’re searching the web for schools or academies for your child, here’s some of what you need to consider.
There are some academies that preach one swing fits all. However, no two swings are the same. Each player has his or her own way of hitting the ball…each player is an individual…so, the one-swing-fits-all theory could stifle your child’s progress.
An academy may have a big name on the door, but the question is this: who will be working with your child on a daily basis? What experience do the instructors have?
The student teacher ratio is extremely important. In fact, a student teacher ratio of more than 4:1 is counter-productive. Some academies will have student teacher ratios as high as 14:1, and it goes without saying that students cannot learn much in that setting.
And what about the golf facilities? Where is the academy located and do they provide the proper environment in which to learn?
Most junior golfers will not make it to the PGA or LPGA Tour. Thus, the academic partner affiliated with the golf academy is critical to your decision- making. Make sure that the academy you’re considering provides a quality education. Students who are good golfers but have mediocre grades will not be accepted at Division I colleges. The best students tend to be the best golfers. They are focused, disciplined and work hard…all ingredients for success in life and on the course.
This is very important since students need an environment to make them feel comfortable and at home. In addition, the house parents who provide supervision for the students are equally important. Are you comfortable with the background of the house parents? Are they equipped to do the job? And food is very important. What do the kids eat and where do they eat? Do they get the proper nutrition every day?
Where is the golf academy located? Is it a place that you would want to visit often? And for some parents who would prefer their child attend as a commuter student, the question becomes whether the golf academy is in a location where they would want to live?
Golf academies may not be inexpensive but the real question is this: what am I getting for the tuition? What’s the value? The cost at a few academies is all-inclusive where you know your costs going-in. Other academies have numerous additional costs that truly inflate your bottom line costs, and the real costs are unknown. Do your homework on this issue.
Most Frequently Asked Questions:
1. Is a full-time academy necessary to make my child a great player?
Not necessarily. However, a golf academy environment provides the structure of daily-supervised practice that is difficult to replicate at home. In addition, when all of your classmates share the same passion, that is a huge plus.
2. What is the appropriate age to send my child to a golf academy?
This depends more on maturity level than on age. There are many young people who are prepared emotionally to go to an academy and be successful at ages as young as 11 or 12. There are others who aren’t mature enough to handle the rigors of an academy and discipline required until 14 or 15. It depends on the child.
3. Does the academy environment create too much pressure on the students?
Any setting can create pressure on the student if they are there for the wrong reasons. The kids who struggle and feel pressure are typically the kids whose parents have their own agenda about them becoming golf superstars. Or they may be the students whose parents expect their kids to get full scholarships in order to justify the expense and time of the academy. While many students from academies go on to play college golf with scholarships and financial aid, the kids cannot feel as though they have to succeed in order to make the academy experience worthwhile. These kids can end up feeling tremendous pressure. And it typically is counter-productive.
4. Is a golf academy a good investment for me to make?
If by an ‘investment’ you mean a good place to spend money expecting a return on your money, the answer is no…simply because there is no guarantee that your son or daughter will become a professional and/or get a full scholarship to college to recover the money that has been spent. If by an ‘investment’ you mean the opportunity to give your child the best chance to achieve their potential at something they are passionate about, then it is an excellent ‘investment’.
5. How should I support my child?
Parents should resist the urge to help with the golf. Parents have two jobs, to encourage your son or daughter if they have a passion for golf and to stay out of the way. Seriously, do not try to correct their swing or grip. Seek out a qualified instructor and if your child is truly passionate about the game, consider sending them to an academy. Be realistic in your expectations.
6. How do I keep my child balanced?
Junior golfers should be encouraged to participate in numerous activities. They need to learn how to take breaks from the game to avoid burnout. Too many juniors are burned-out by the time they graduate from high school. They need to be active in school activities as well as on the golf course.
7. Would you recommend sending my child to a golf academy?
As long as your child is passionate about the game and if you can afford it without putting undue stress on your family, you should consider an academy. Being around like-minded young people and golf professionals, while they work on their physical, mental, mechanical, and course management growth can be an exciting time for a young person. Make sure the academy emphasizes quality education and social balance as well. These are elements that will sustain the young person throughout their life-with or without golf.
Above all else, remember that golf is just a game and should be treated as such. At the same time, it is a game that can teach your son or daughter valuable life skills.