Rory McIlroy was hitting 40-yard drives at age two. Michelle Wie learned to play golf at age 4. At age 3, Phil Mickelson told people he was running away from home to the golf course. Lydia Ko started golfing with her mom when she was 5. And Jordan Spieth started playing with “Little Tikes” plastic golf clubs at just 18 months old.
When it comes to learning golf, physical ability, interest, and comfort tend to be more relevant benchmarks than age. Even the best professional golfers started at various ages and in a variety of ways. So, if you're asking yourself what age your child should start playing, the answer varies.
As Soon As They're Comfortable
“The truth is, they can start as soon as they're comfortable swinging a club,” says Grant Shafranski, PGA director of instruction for juniors at North Oaks Golf Club.
Shafranski says kids can start "golfing" at any age. They can even tag along to the course as soon as they're interested and have the required motor skills, which can be as young as 3–4.
"It is never too young to encourage juniors to play this great game," he says. "Plastic clubs and wiffle balls around the house or little tiny light-weight golf clubs help a youngster with performance. But, there is no harm in having them swing any club at a golf ball.”
That doesn’t mean every potential young golfer is the same. Kids have different skills, abilities, and interest levels in the game so it’s important to know the threshold of your child in those areas.
“In terms of starting age, every child is different,” Shafranski says. “At age 3–5, my boys had great hand-eye coordination but didn't have very good focus. They learned a lot about our great sport at home by hitting plastic balls in the backyard. It was a little too dangerous and oftentimes stressful for me to introduce them to the game at the golf course. So, they had to wait a while for the green grass experience.”
On the other hand, some kids take to the game like a duck (hook) to water. You may never know if your child is ready until you put a club in their hand.
“As an instructor, I have seen 3 and 4-year-olds that can take instruction better than some 30-year-olds!” Shafranski says. “Their experience and transition to real clubs and the golf course will move along much more quickly.”
Despite the answer being open-ended in terms of starting your child out at home, some golf courses and clubs may have a minimum age requirement for their programs.
At North Oaks, we recommend children should be 6 years old to join our junior camps and leagues. “The reason is that 6-year-olds can generally process instructions, will be able to stay safe in a group setting, and are physically mature enough to have some success," Shafranski says.
Similar to anything you teach your children at a young age, the more fun they have doing it, the more likely they are to stick with it. So when the time comes, find proper equipment that is not too heavy for your little one. Making it fun and encouraging early on could make it fun for a lifetime.
Creative Ways to Get Your Kids Started Early
Your kids aren't training for the Masters just yet, so remember to keep the learning experience lighthearted and fun. While golf isn't exactly the easiest pastime to pick up at any age,here are 4 creative ways to get your kids started early.
- Foster hand-eye coordination by introducing other sports. Sports like baseball, basketball, tennis, and volleyball are great places to start when looking for other sports to help improve hand-eye coordination for your kids.
- Introduce plastic clubs and balls at a young age. Whether they're playing in the house or backyard, plastic clubs and balls is a way to familiarize your child with golf equipment. This can be soon after they learn to walk.
- Go mini golfing. Kids of all ages enjoy playing mini golf. It's a low stakes (and low cost!) environment that is not only fun, but helps teach kids some great golf fundamentals, too.
- Bring them along to the range or practice green if they show curiosity. There are many fun family games that you can play on the course to get them started! Remember, this experience is for them, not you. Practice your game at a separate time so you can focus all your energy on your youngster.
- Play golf video games or watch golf on TV. It may seem backwards to step away from the green and head to the couch, but half of the journey to getting your children into the sport is monitoring their interest and increasing exposure without overdoing it.
Let Your Kids Blaze the Trail
Knowing how to get your children started with golf is helpful but knowing what won’t work in the process is just as important. Getting overly technical or obsessive over the sport could be detrimental to their growth as a golfer. It’s all about the experience for them when they’re young so be sure to guide with a gentle hand rather than push.
Figuring out what age to get your children into golf can vary, so take it one step at a time, keep it fun, and let your little one lead the way!