'They Don't Want To Watch, They Want To Whack!' How To Get Your Children Hooked On Golf... And Keep Them Interested

Norman Marshall, who runs the Tommy Fleetwood Academy at Formby Hall, offers some helpful advice to get your kids interested in, and excited about, golf...

Getting kids into golf
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Lots of parents, especially those who have fallen in love with the game, long for their children to discover the simple joy of hitting a little white ball around.

However, just because you love the game, it doesn’t mean that your children are going to be joining you on the course as soon as they’re old enough to walk or swing a golf club.

There’s a skill to getting kids into golf. Here, Norman Marshall, who runs the Tommy Fleetwood Academy at Formby Hall in the UK, offers his top tips on how you can encourage your kids to take up the game.

How to get kids into golf

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Here’s a club and ball. Go and hit it. Why doesn’t that work?
What did you like doing as a child? What did you say when your Mum or Dad asked what would you like to do? It was probably something like, ‘Will you play with me?’ Kids want to play. This is what adults lose sight of.

Golf is a game, and that’s the key: make golf into a game. Learning through play is a well-known strategy. Make a game out of the learning process. If you’re struggling, just think back to what you liked doing as a child. Think like a child and you can make some exciting games.   

How about dropping them off at a junior golfing session, like one of yours?
I’d like to think that’s going to be a good start! However, even before this stage, I recommend kids doing some sort of play in the garden – so take it back a stage. This is where you can help, even if you’re not a golf coach.

Get some plastic clubs and airflow golf balls. You don’t need to start teaching them the golf swing – just let them start whacking balls! I’ve got loads of videos of my son whacking balls one-handed. It’s a start!

How to get kids into golf

(Image credit: Getty Images)

When do you start teaching correct technique?
The key is to start with putting. Imagine a putting stroke. You’re forming an upside down triangle between your shoulders and your arms. Rarely does anyone miss the ball with putting because they perceive the technique to be so simple – and that’s how to get kids going at golf.

I’ll then extend that to a chip off a little tee, and slowly add the momentum in with the body and the shoulders. It’s all about simplicity and repeatability. Learn the skill by playing the game.

So, the focus is on having fun?
I make the comparison to computer games. Most kids like playing on gaming consoles. Why? Because they are so compelling.

They don’t sit down with a manual, which explains how to move the controller. By playing it, they begin to develop the skills; they learn how to move the controller this way and that by playing.

Golf target

(Image credit: Norman Marshall)

Does it help to get them watching live golf, or taking them along to a professional tournament?
I go back to what I’ve said: it’s more about playing. Say I said to a group of kids, ‘Do you want to see Rory McIlroy hit a 340-yard drive? I’d get a lot of blank faces.

What about this? Who wants to have a go at hitting someone’s head off? Suddenly they all want a go! I’ve got all sorts of targets made up. I won’t name names in case I can get into trouble, but we’re based near Liverpool so you can probably guess!

It’s amazing how much fun little Everton and Liverpool supporters can have with such a game. I’ve got lots of Fortnite and Star Wars targets, too, and they have great fun with it. It’s all about learning through play.

You mention football. There’s a lot of other sports competing for attention…
Yes, but there’s room for golf, isn’t there? Let’s say your child is soccer mad. Make a goal in the garden and have them trying to score a goal with those airballs. That simple action of whacking a ball might be all it takes for them to get hooked.

How important is the role of the parent?
In my opinion, the parent has to be just that. When you start to get the role of coach and parent mixed up, that’s what can lead to an early exit from the game.

Let’s say you’ve just failed your driving test for the fourth time. Do we want our parents meeting us afterwards criticising our driving performance? Do we want a load of technical driving information? Or do we want them to put their arms around us and say, ‘Oh, never mind, keep trying.’

Kids, when their golf isn’t going well, they want a cuddle off mum or dad. They don’t want a critic – that’s often the most off-putting thing.

How to get kids into golf

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How do you stop kids walking away from the game?
Sociability is key. If you want your kids to stick at it, playing golf or having lessons can’t feel like a couple of hours where they are just getting nagged. Take them into the clubhouse, get them a coke, and make the whole experience fun for everyone.

What about when they start playing on the course?
When you start to take them on the course, make the holes very short. You can even make a little course out of the short game area. If you’re taking them out, have them teeing off 10 yards from the edge of the green. Set them a scoring challenge, such as getting the ball in the hole in five shots. Strip the game back, add a challenge and just make it fun. 

Michael Weston
Contributing editor

Michael has been with Golf Monthly since 2008. As a multimedia journalist, he has also worked for The Football Association, where he created content to support the men's European Championships, The FA Cup, London 2012, and FA Women's Super League. As content editor at Foremost Golf, Michael worked closely with golf's biggest equipment manufacturers, and has developed an in-depth knowledge of this side of the industry. He's now a regular contributor, covering instruction, equipment and feature content. Michael has interviewed many of the game's biggest stars, including six world number ones, and has attended and reported on many Major Championships and Ryder Cups. He's a member of Formby Golf Club.