Working with Juniors: Promote Fun & A Lifelong Love for the Game of Golf

As golf enthusiasts, it’s only natural we want our children to get involved in the game we love.

While there are many ways to promote kids’ passion for and enjoyment of golf, there are even more ways to push them away from it. Coach Paul Mindel of the Wisconsin Golf Academy has seen it all during his decades of teaching and coaching the game, and hopefully, some of what he’s learned can help you avoid the pitfalls that so many well-intentioned parents fall into.

Publisher’s note:

by Paul Seifert

I started playing golf around the age of 10 when my dad, who was the town optometrist in Hartland, bartered for a couple lessons for my brother and me with Arrowhead High School’s old varsity golf coach, Roger Kuckkan.

My interest in the game was piqued and I loved playing junior leagues as a kid at Wanaki. Getting out on the course with my buddies was one of my favorite things but I didn’t play organized golf past my freshman year in high school.

My love (okay, addiction) for the game took root in my 20s. I’ve never had what I’d consider to be a good swing and see myself as a “feel player” who uses natural athleticism to “figure things out as I go.” I wish I would have been in a junior program as a kid and learned proper technique to have the tools to lean on during those rounds when my driver’s off, for example.

I got my son, Charlie, started in Junior Golf in 2020 at North Hills Country Club as an almost-four-year-old. He had little to no attention span at first, but always looked forward to Tuesdays at the Club.

Led by Coach Paul Mindel, the weekly program features four stations including warm-ups and calisthenics, a putting segment and two separate hitting stations on the range. Juniors graduate from being one-holers (they play one hole on the course, starting ~ 100-150 yards out) to three-holers, and more as they grow. Paul teaches young kids “AFF” (Always Fun First) while urging them to hit the ball as far as they can. Develop their love for the game first and they’ll want to learn all about proper technique down the road.

When we first started Charlie in junior golf, I’d say things like “Charlie, pay attention,” “Charlie, you’re moving your feet too much,” “Keep your head down” and so on. Coach Mindel was quick to set me straight on all of that. It’s their job to teach him how to play golf and ours to keep him from hating it.

It’s my belief that if parents want kids to play and enjoy the game, we need to give them opportunities to learn it, to actually play on the course and to have the breathing room they need to figure it out in their own time. Associate golf days with fun, get them playing with friends and peers and play with them… Most importantly, be their top supporter and not their critic.

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3 thoughts on “Working with Juniors: Promote Fun & A Lifelong Love for the Game of Golf

  1. I started my son Peter very young and he loved the game. One thing that I found helped him enjoy golf more was playing each hole at age-appropriate yardages. This is expanded the courses we could play together far beyond little par 3 executive courses (some of which I think can be too challenging for beginners). The US Kids course setup guide works great. Just tee up your junior from the appropriate distance in the fairways on par 4s and par 5s and watch the let it rip!

    1. We do that, too! Charlie usually tees off from the 150 markers (or on the other side of hazards if there’s water). It keeps him from competing against par or others but having a shot at a good score from time to time. Last month we went out to Songbird Hills with our neighbor friends and he wanted to tee off from the yellows on the 1st hole with his buddy, Will (who’s 12). Blind opening shot on the back 9, didn’t look at the scorecard first and it was > 550 and took him 8 or 9 3-woods to get near the green. Thankfully he kept a good attitude and everyone was patient with him but that was a recipe for a great day of golf gone wrong. We went back to the fairways on the next hole and had an awesome day.

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