How to Introduce your Kids to Golf in a Healthy Way



Hey, golf dads. You might need to chill out. Your antics might make you a resident of golf’s version of “Crazy Town.”

That’s what Brendan Ryan said in his article at

Ryan has seen it all during the last quarter century—as a player, junior golf coach, college golf coach and currently as a mentor to some of the world’s top junior golfers. That means the longtime coach has witnessed the entire spectrum of golf dads and parents, from “healthy and loving” to what he called “Crazy Town.”

“Crazy Town is a land of delusion, frustration and slow, painful failure,” Ryan wrote. “It’s a place where the whole point of the process is missed.

“For me, golf is not about where a kid places in a tournament or shoots; it’s about teaching young people the habits and skills they need to succeed at everything, not just golf. Nowadays, too many parents and coaches create zero-sum evaluations during a child’s most fragile and important stages of maturation and development. The result is not only athletic failure, but also the erosion of faith in family, coaching and the process of success.”

Even though I’m a dad and have spent most of my life connected to the game, golf-dad craziness never afflicted me. I never had the temptation. My daughters stayed away from golf (and I didn’t push). They sang in choir, joined drama club and played soccer.

What about you? Have you visited the land of delusion? Are you living there?

Ryan offered three considerations for golf dads.

First, he said “know where you end and your child begins.” If you’re using “we”—as in “we played,” “we shot,” “we won”—there’s a problem. There needs to be separation and a healthy distance. Allow your child to experience, and own, his or her golf game without your interference.

This is a perfect segue to a second consideration. The interest and motivation need to come from the kid. The kid is the one who must put in the time and hard work to improve and excel, and the one who must embrace the journey. It’s up to her or him.“[Y]our child is either going to have ignition and work at their game or not,” Ryan wrote. “If they don’t, then I recommend you help your child find another endeavor that does create a spark in them.”

Lastly, Ryan highlighted the work of Dr. Richard Learner, a researcher at Tufts University and the chair of the Institute of Applied Research in Youth Development. Learner is a proponent of the 5 C’s for child development: competence, confidence, connection, character and caring. Jean Cote, another researcher, has identified another C specifically for sports: competition. The idea is that when young people are focused on these six C’s, they will be more fully human and successful no matter what they do in life.

The implication seems clear. Our job as dads (and parents) is to encourage this type of healthy development in our kids. For their sake. Not for our glory. OK, maybe just a teeny bit of glory.

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Neil Sagebiel

Neil Sagebiel is a golf writer and author of two golf books published by St. Martin's Press, THE LONGEST SHOT and DRAW IN THE DUNES. He lives in Floyd, Virginia.

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