The following guide for junior golfers has been penned down by 48-year old policeman turned coach Noah Montgomery, who coaches at The Ridge Golf Course, Ca., Auburn. He is known for being a long-time coach for Arjuna Awardee, a 9-time winner on the Asian Tour and past European Tour winner, Gaganjeet Bhullar. Mr Montgomery has experienced 14 professional wins across tours in just past-three years, with various talented students. He has been coaching for over 10-years now. We hope this helps every parent who is growing a golfer and juniors who are looking to turn professional.
Most parents want their child to engage with golf from a young age, but the question of “how” always confronts on them. When they hear the process is a lot less complex than they imagine, they don’t know what to think. As a golf coach, I’ve worked with students across all ages and based on my experience starting them off young is the most effective way to go about developing their game.
In my experience, junior golfers should take up the game between ages 8-10. At this stage in their life, they are old enough to comprehend instructions effectively and are still in the development phase where they learn quickly and process new information fast. The goal at this stage in their life is not to make them good golfers; it is to make them good athletes, and athleticism partly comes from playing a variety of sports. Specialisation in one sport at a young age can lead to more injuries in later stages of life and increases potential for “burnout”. If parents develop good athletes by introducing their child to a variety of sports simultaneously, the child will continuously develop motor and coordination skills. Additionally, this simply won’t allow them to get bored playing one sport.
It is important to invest your time in finding a coach. Starting on the right foot helps in the long run and makes the process a lot easier along the way. It is crucial for parents to find a coach who is a good fit for the student and not the parent. For a junior golfer, developing the correct fundamentals is of utmost importance and it is necessary to have a coach that believes in fundamentals, not fads. An outsider is objective and unbiased and makes it easier for the player to get information about their golf swing from a credible source. Junior golfers that make it to the highest level come from parents who encourage and support their child in their endeavours. It is important to understand the fine line between coaching and parenting and important to not let one affect the other. I have seen that junior golfers who focus on the positives and let go of the negatives from a young age are the ones that perform the best. It is the parents’ responsibility to create that environment for them.
To measure a junior golfer’s improvement, important things parents should focus on are their tournament statistics and current ability. The easiest way to identify an area of improvement is to see it in a quantitative form. Monitoring their improvement by focusing on statistics like fairways, greens in regulation or strokes per round will identify the areas of their game that need immediate improvement. It is also important to focus on the player’s current ability. Realistically looking at the golfer’s current ability and not their potential will not only help the player, but also the parent.
Finally, when it comes to practice, as a parent it is important to recognise the three phases of learning and know what stage your child is currently in. The first stage is the cognitive stage, where the player develops an understanding of skill using visual input and engaging in trial and error. The second is the associative stage, where they demonstrate refined movements; and the third is the autonomous stage, in which the skill is automatic. By identifying which stage of learning the player is in, one can adjust their approach accordingly.
Spending time with a junior golfer on the golf course should be made enjoyable and fun for the player. That means taking the monotony out of practice. While block practice is useful for learning a new skill, a random practice not only makes it fun but also teaches the player how to approach different situations and think outside the box. No shot can ever be replicated and continuously putting the golfer in abstract situations will ultimately prove to be the most effective in developing their game.