You’ve got to start somewhere. Our first junior received a set of plastic toddler golf clubs when he started walking on his first birthday. Given he was one years old they may not have been the best toddler golf clubs but they worked. He's a Christmas baby and winters are often cold and icy in Portland, OR. For a couple of months he wandered around indoors whacking his entire ball collection around the house on a continuous basis - rugby balls, bouncy balls, plastic balls of all sizes, tennis balls, you name it he hit it. When the weather warmed up he took the plastic clubs outside and started hitting plastic practice golf balls.
An elderly neighbor witnessed the enthusiasm and it was not long before a perfectly cut down 9 iron appeared and the plastic toddler golf clubs were forgotten about all together. By age 2 the child was lining balls up and chipping them over the back fence. Back in those days there was no US Kids "First Club" or "Yard Club" - but the boy had a golf club and seemed to know exactly what to do with it. Parents often want to know at what age to start their kids playing golf. With the appropriate size and weight equipment it's never too early. The only word of warning is not to take it too seriously and let kids have fun and learn to enjoy the game.
Kids that have natural hand eye ball co-ordination have good, what is termed , ‘gaze control’. This is simply the normal movement of the two eyes simultaneously in the same direction to bring something into view. A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience titled, Eye-Hand Co-ordination in Object Manipulation, supports a theory that gaze control is a major contributing factor in developing good hand-eye coordination - in putting a golf ball for example, subjects appear to control gaze shifts and fixations proactively to gather visual information for guiding movements. There are various things that can be done to encourage hand eye coordination and vision therapy is a starting point. For young kids early eye checks are essential.
Even though golfers hit a stationary ball and muscle memory is arguably more of a key factor in addressing the ball than hand eye co-ordination, the ball still needs to be seen to be hit and seen to be hit in the correct place to be hit at the correct time in the swing sequence. Good gaze control allows the young golfer to almost intuitively finely shift their fingers within their grip and shuffle their feet in minute variations to guide the movement of the ball to where it needs to be hit.
With toddlers, the most important thing is to expose the child to many bats and balls and have fun with all of them. Hand eye ball co-ordination is largely genetic and a natural aspect of most top athletes but it can be encouraged and nurtured in the tender toddler years. Give your child a toddler plastic golf club and let him/her walk around the house or yard whacking a variety of balls - soft plush balls, large plastic beach balls, tennis balls, ping pong balls, practice golf balls.
A word of advice from parents in the 'know' - even the best toddler golf clubs don't last long if you hit things like walls, trees and rocks! Throwing a ball to the child and teaching him/her to catch is invaluable to athletic development and co-ordination. In solitary play let the child throw or kick a ball against a wall and catch or stop it when it bounces back. Try set a record to add to the fun.
USKids Golf, the leader in golf clubs for young to pre-teen junior golfers, has brought out the U.S.Kids First Club, a small golf club designed for toddlers as well as the USKids Yard Club for the youngest beginner golfers starting at age 3. The First Club is marketed as the perfect gift for new parents and it comes in blue or pink in an attractive gift box. The First Club is a putter with a colored, rubber grip and a steel shaft. Its height is 18 inches and makes a great gift for the budding, baby golfer under 39 inches tall. This may be the best toddler golf club for the golf enthusiasts.
The USKids Yard Club RS39 (Right Start, 39 inch height) is the lightest and most flexible club that U.S.Kids Golf offers. It will help first time golfers, age 3 to 5, learn to hit balls, have fun and see quick success. There are also other Yard Club sizes for older children. The super light-weight, oversize head makes good golf shots easier with a larger hitting area.
The molded grip promotes the proper hand position and a natural swing. The Yard Club comes packaged with 3 soft limited-flight Yard balls to use in your yard or at the park, but it is designed to hit real golf balls too. It comes in blue or pink and features a light-weight Y-flex composite shaft. The finished club length is 23 inches and the club head weighs only 150 grams.
For the really young golfer (e.g. starting as soon as your toddler can walk) or before your toddler reaches the level of interest to warrant the expense of metal clubs, here are some great options for outdoor or indoor fun.
Little Tikes Totsports Easy Hit Golf Set for Toddlers reviews are overwhelmingly positive. They are durable and strong enough to handle the fact that kids this age really want to hit any ball in their way. They can enjoy imitating "dad or mom playing golf" and these clubs can be swung regardless of whether the child is right or left handed. They also come with a little cart which adds to the fun of carrying clubs around, 3 plastic golf balls and an 'all-surface' putting hole for fun structured play.
The Deluxe Happy Kids/Toddlers Golf Clubs Set Grow-To-Pro Deluxe Happy Kids/Toddler Golf Clubs Set Grow-To-Pro is the perfect set to introduce golf to children 3 to 5 years old. The golf club heads and balls are made of plastic and can be swung without damage indoors and outdoors (the shaft of the club is metal but heads are plastic). The set comes with 3 different style of clubs (driver, iron and putter) and a colorful carry bag. To add structure and competition, the set includes 5 white balls, 2 golf tees with different heights, and 2 different color 'all-surface' practice holes with flags. For the price, this set gives a young child a good introduction to the game. Parents will be able to gauge if the child has an interest in golf. Remember, at this age it is all about trying things and seeing what he or she enjoys.
An enthusiastic toddler golferer will probably go though a lot of balls. Plastic baseball type balls are a good size to hit around initially for small toddlers to start developing hand eye co-ordination as they are easier and are less likely to become lodged under furniture, in shrubbery etc. We suggest keeping a stash of these on hand.
The bouncy option below will also add a different fun dynamic. Although more fun, these are more susceptible to getting lost.
If your toddler golfer really wants to play with golf balls like daddy or mommy plays with, we recommend plastic or foam practice golf balls for indoor and outdoor use and foam balls for indoor fun. The yellow bucket of golf balls will make sure you always have a few around and they are easy to see.
Warning, if your toddler likes to put everything in their mouths then do not get foam, solid plastic golf balls or bouncy balls as they can be choking hazards. Start with the larger baseballs referenced above or perforated plastic golf balls. As with anything, always watch you toddler around plastics and small objects.
In the end, (or rather in the beginning) you can't make the decision for your toddler (or teenager for that matter) that they are going to become a golfer - but you can certainly provide the tools and opportunity for your child to explore the possibilities on his or her own.
As the great Bobby Jones once said : You swing your best when you have the fewest things to think about. The toddler years are probably the best time to start swinging, in this case!