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 five. And Jordan Spieth started playing with Little Tikes plastic golf clubs at 18 months old.
When it comes to learning golf, age is much less of a factor than physical ability, interest, and comfort. 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 Chris Bailey, PGA director of instruction for juniors at North Oaks Golf Club.
Bailey 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 three to four.
"It is never too young to encourage juniors to play this great game," he says. "Plastic clubs and whiffle 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.
“In terms of starting age, every child is different,” Bailey 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 often times 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!” Bailey 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, golf courses and clubs may actually have a minimum age requirement for their programs.
At North Oaks, we recommend six years of age for our junior camps and league. “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," Bailey 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.
Creative Ways to Get Your Kids Started Early
Your kids aren't training for the Masters, yet. So, remember to keep the learning experience light-hearted and fun. Golf isn't exactly the easiest past time to pick up. But you knew that already. Here are 4 creative ways to get your kids started early.
- Foster hand-eye coordination by introducing other sports.
- 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 not only fun but it helps teach kids some great golf fundamentals.
- Bring them along to the range or practice green if they show curiosity. 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.
Then, when the time comes, find proper equipment that is not too heavy for your little one. Remember, making it fun early could make it fun for a lifetime.