If you are a parent AND a golfer, chances are you have thought about just how best to introduce your child to the game. Whether it’s the PGA of America, cable television outlets, our major golf magazines, it seems just about everyone has some advice on how to teach kids golf.
All offer solid tips, no doubt. But one surefire way to get a child interested in golf is by making the game fun for them.
While many golfers’ reactions might be to think, “Well, golf IS fun,” remember how difficult the game can be for beginners. And remember that beginners often get discouraged and quit before ever truly giving themselves the chance to fall in love with golf.
For those of us who dream of one day playing in a parent-child tournament alongside our kid, this is the result all of us want to avoid.
“Encouragement is a key to getting a kids interested in golf,” said Jeff Fought, Black Butte Ranch’s director of golf. “One of the easiest ways to do that is by introducing fun games that help a child improve while at the same time keeping the game light and enjoyable.”
It is with this in mind that last season Black Butte Ranch started its Junior Putting Challenge. Every Thursday at 12:30 p.m. through the summer, Glaze Meadow’s 18,000-square-foot practice putting green turns into a light-hearted competition for kids.
Black Butte Ranch sets up an 18-hole putting course, and then separates kids into different age groups. The younger division plays nine holes, older kids play 18. Competing against one another, the juniors play a full round of golf.
Lowest score wins, of course.
Judging by the growth in participation since its inception, it must be working. The event has grown steadily, often hosting at least two dozen kids.
“It is one of my favorite things now, heading out to Glaze Meadow and seeing all those kids out there on the putting green,” Fought said. “It’s almost as fun for us at Black Butte Ranch as it is for the kids, I think.”
There is a method to the madness, so to speak. Improving your putting is often the best way for a beginner to improve. And let’s face it, the better we play the more fun we have out on the golf course.
By playing in the Junior Putting Challenge, children are actually practicing their putting. They just might not always realize it.
It’s sort of like hiding broccoli inside a slice of pepperoni pizza.
“People don’t realize putting is where you can really improve your game,” says Bill Mitchell, a lifetime PGA of America member and teacher at Black Butte Ranch who runs the Junior Putting Challenge. “You can go over to the driving range and hit balls for a month. But if you would just spend your time figuring out a way to two-putt every green, that’s the best way for a beginner to improve.”
The cost to enter the Junior Putting Challenge is $5 per child, and that includes a Black Butte Ranch logo golf ball and an ice cream sandwich after play. The winner is awarded an entire sleeve of logo golf balls.
And new this year, immediately after that Putting Challenge at 4:30 p.m., the staff at Black Butte Ranch sets up SNAG (Starting New at Golf) at Glaze Meadow.
For the uninitiated, SNAG utilizes modified equipment — each club is designed with an extremely oversized head and “golf balls” that are more like tennis balls — designed to make the game simpler. The idea is to make golf a bit more user friendly, especially for young kids. No tiny white golf balls. No expensive equipment. Just a fun game that anyone would enjoy.
SNAG is designed to develop the fundamentals of the whole range of strokes and swings, including putting, chipping, pitching and full swing. It is why the The First Tee’s National School Program.
SNAG very well may be the most enjoyable way to introduce kids to the game.
To enter a child or for more information, call 541-595-1270 or stop by the golf shop.