This article provides resources to help you find the best kids golf lessons near you. It also provides guidance on the right age for kids to start golf lessons, if you should consider individual kids golf lessons vs. kids group golf lessons (e.g. junior golf academies and golf camps). Finally, we also provide guidance on how to choose the right golf instructor for your junior.
The most important goal for parents introducing their kids to junior golf is to instill a love of the game that will last through their adult lives. Research has shown that most kids in a competitive sport leave it by the age of 13. This is primarily due to taking the sport too seriously early on, over-specializing and getting too technical too soon. It is critical to keep it simple and fun when first starting out.
If kids ultimately want to play increasingly competitive tournaments and perhaps even college golf, they have plenty of time into their teens to take the sport more seriously. This article is focused on the young junior golfer just starting out and not the teenager trying to place in national tournaments and getting ready for college golf.
How to find a kids golf instructor near you
The following are excellent ways to find a good junior golf instructor near you:
- U.S.Kids - find a kids golf coach near you
- PGA - find a PGA professional golf instructor near you
- Research junior golf programs near you through the PGA Junior League site
- Use The First Tee golf chapter finder tool
- Asking for recommendations for a good junior golf coach near you - e.g. word of mouth, from other golf parents, in local community boards, at junior golf tournaments, on Facebook etc.
See more details for each below.
U.S. Kids has an excellent tool to find a USKids certified junior golf coach near you. This is our favorite resource for someone trying to find a kids golf instructor for the first time.
U.S. Kids has conducted training for over 4,200 junior golf coaches since 2012. These professional junior golf instructors are located across the US as well as in Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, England, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Panama, Scotland, and South Africa. U.S. Kids has certified over 3,100 junior golf instructors and there is likely to be a certified junior golf coach near you.
The PGA (Professional Golfers Association) also has a tool to find a certified PGA golf coach near you. While it is not immediately apparent if coaches are trained specifically to teach juniors, most golf instructors do teach junior golfers and many are also on the U.S. Kids certified list.
A good starting point is to find a golf coach near you, research them online (e.g. look at their website for certifications and specialties) and visit them in person. A good connection between golf coach and junior golfer is the most critical factor for successful coaching. For more on how to choose a junior golf coach see below.
PGA Junior League
The PGA Junior League is also a good place to look when trying to find a kids golf coach. You can use the "find a junior league" tool to identify golf clubs that have an active junior league. If the Junior League page does not have contact information you can easily find the name of the head golf instructor on the club's website. Golf clubs that participate in the PGA Junior League invariably have a good junior program.
The First Tee
The First Tee is an organization that uses the game of golf to provide learning opportunities and personal development for kids from the age of 7 to 18 who might not otherwise have the opportunity or place to play golf. Coaches are specifically trained in positive youth development. The First Tee has programs at golf courses, elementary schools and youth centers in all 50 states as well as six international locations. Their only requirement is that kids "come with an open mind and positive attitude".
Ask for recommendations
There are many similarities in the nuances of finding a good tutor, doctor and a good golf coach. In the same way as you would ask for recommendations if you were looking for a tutor or a new doctor, so should you ask around for recommendations on a good golf instructor. Ask other golf parents at the local golf club or at junior golf tournaments. Asking for recommendations on Facebook or local community boards can also serve as good resources.
Fellow parents will be able to provide you with detailed feedback on how their junior enjoys the lessons and how much their child has improved under the guidance of the instructor or junior program. If you have the parent’s permission, talk to the child and pay attention to their feedback as well. Children are often surprisingly more honest than adults and will thus provide valuable insight of how experienced the instructor is and how they relate to kids.
At what age should kids start golf lessons?
The decision when to start kids golf lessons and what format of golf lesson (i.e. individual vs. group) depends largely on the age, skill level and, most importantly, the level of interest of the junior golfer.
A general guideline for kids golf lessons at various ages is as follows:
For kids ~1 to 5 years old:
For a child younger than approx. 5 or 6 years old you should focus on making golf fun as opposed to providing too much technical instruction.
A great way to introduce very young kids to golf is to let them hit foam or plastic balls in the back yard (the garage, basement or even in the house works in colder climates - but use foam balls!) - or take them to a local putting green and chipping area. Most golf clubs or driving ranges will have appropriate facilities. Most young kids also love playing mini golf, riding in the golf cart, whacking a ball around without necessarily keeping score, taking 10 shots out the bunker, and yes, even buying a snack and a drink.
In general, very young kids do not need formal instruction other than being taught how to grip the club correctly, where to stand and how to finish in balance. Kids should have appropriate size clubs (plastic clubs for toddlers or light weight metal clubs for young kids) - or even just a small kids putter to start. For more on choosing the best toddler and young kids clubs refer to this article: Best Toddler Golf Clubs.
See also our article: Can My 3 Year Old Start Golf?
For kids ~5 through 10 years old:
Kids in this age range can begin to benefit from golf instruction, either in the form or group lessons (e.g. in a golf academy) or individual lessons. It is highly dependent on the junior's level of interest and we recommend individual lessons if the junior has keen interest in playing and potentially starting to play tournaments.
This is a great age to start learning and developing golf etiquette. One beauty of the game of golf is that it is a game of honor, integrity, responsibility, sportsmanship and respect for the course and others - all core values that permeate through everyday life and are great values for a junior to learn at a young age.
Juniors can start to compete in tournaments at this age. For a list of tournaments that might be appropriate for your junior read this article: Top Junior Golf Tournaments You Need To Know About. While not all of these will be suitable for younger kids there are many that will be suitable including nationwide organizations such as State PGA organizations and U.S. Kids Golf.
Kids this age should also be playing other sports and having fun on the playground etc. with their friends. We highly discourage single sport specialization until much later in a junior's development. Read more here: Say No to Single Sports Specialization.
Make sure to get kids golf clubs that are the appropriate size and weight for your junior. Clubs that are too long or too heavy can result in a junior learning poor swing mechanics. Read this article for advice and reviews of kids golf clubs: Best kids golf clubs.
For kids ~10 to 14 years old:
A good junior golf program / academy is great for kids in this age group. In addition, this is an excellent age to consider individual lessons from a qualified PGA instructor. See below for more information on how to choose a junior golf instructor.
Kids in this age group will start transitioning from kids clubs to adult clubs. Read this article for more on what to consider when transitioning to adult clubs and some recommendations for various levels of playing ability ranging from beginner to advanced: Golf Clubs for Teens and Advanced Juniors.
For kids ~14 and over:
Teenage golfers can benefit significantly from individual lessons as their attention span is longer than younger juniors and in general, if a teenager is playing golf they have made the decision to play themselves and are thus fully vested in the lessons and in improving.
In addition to individual lessons, there are numerous golf camps and golf academies available to teenage golfers that play competitively. Many colleges hold a variety of single and multiple day golf camps, some even include boarding at the College campus.
There are also a number of elite junior golf academies where students live on-site and even some boarding schools that focus on junior golf development. These facilities are highly specialized and usually come with a big price tag.
Examples of such golf academies include:
- IJGA (International Junior Golf Academy)
- IMG Academy
- LJGA (David Leadbetter Junior Golf Academy
- JPGA (Junior Players Golf Academy)
- GGGA (Gary Gilcrest Golf Academy)
- Mike Bender Elite Golf Academy
- TBGA (Tom Burnette Golf Academy)
Examples of boarding schools that focus on golf development include:
What to look for in a kids golf instructor
Once you have identified a potential golf instructor or program for your child we recommend visiting the facility and possibly even getting an introductory lesson to get feedback on the following:
The basic things to look for are:
- Good interpersonal skills with juniors. Do they coach other juniors who respect them and have fun learning? Observe the instructor's interaction with juniors. Have your junior meet the potential coach to see if they "click".
- Communication. The ability to communicate with juniors and also parents is critical. Does the instructor talk to juniors on the same "level" - in the way they explain concepts, the use of easily understandable terms vs. overly technical terms, even getting down to the same physical level (e.g. kneeling down on the putting green) as young juniors. What are their preferred methods, tools and frequency of communication with parents?
- Technical knowledge and tools. Is the instructor a qualified PGA professional, do they have club fitting knowledge, do they have and use trackman, video or other tools, do they have knowledge of junior equipment, junior tournaments, how do they measure skills progression, do they use tournament results and statistics like "strokes gained" etc.?
Additional tips in choosing a kids golf instructor are outlined below.
Observe the Learning Environment
Take some time to observe the instructor's methods and techniques to get an idea of the quality of their teaching. Note, if your junior is not having an introductory lesson ask for permission to observe a lesson. Observing how the instructor behaves around children is especially important if your child is very young, as some golf instructors do not deal with younger children on a day to day basis whereas some are excellent at relating to kids.
Young children are influenced easily, so it's best you choose someone who will be a good role model for your child. The instructor needs to be able to engage with young children who typically have shorter attention spans, or else your child is likely to become bored very quickly. If the golf instructor habitually cheers on the tiniest of milestones achieved by his or her students, this is a good indicator of being able to relate to young kids.
Pay Attention To Chemistry
The coach/student chemistry often proves to be more important than the instructor's technical skills. If your child fails to enjoy his or her golf lessons, you will be wasting your time and money. It is critical that the instructor be able to relate to your junior and can communicate and inspire them.
Communication is Key To Success
How do you explain arithmetic sums to your kid? You break the equation into small parts so that your kid can comprehend the ‘big numbers.' Like math, golf is full of difficult terms and technicalities in which your kid probably isn't that interested. Choose an instructor that is capable of communicating with your child on their level with easily understandable terminology and is comfortable around kids.
It's the instructor's job to get creative and explain what ‘swing plane’ or ‘balanced finish’ are. Bombarding a young child with too many technical terms will bore them quickly and may cause them to lose interest. An instructor who likes kids and can relate to them is essential.
Pay attention to areas that your child needs improvement in. If you're a golfer and regularly take your child out for practice and watch or caddie for them in tournaments, you will be in the best position to determine what parts of the game they need to improve on. Provide feedback from tournaments to your child's coach but try not to interfere with what and how they are teaching the junior. After all, they are the professional!