Golf and Kids

Loving the Links

Getting kids interested in golf to promote a healthy lifestyle By Bill Phillips

Peter comes home from school, grabs his bike, and races his friends down the quiet streets. Other days they toss a football in his backyard, climb trees at the park, or pound together a secret fort. When street lights illuminate the neighborhood, they signal the time for Peter to run home, with flushed face and scuffed shoes, for dinner and homework.

Unfortunately, Peter and his friends are mostly a thing of the past. For the majority of kids, there are more video games, online entertainment, and television shows in their lives than running, pickup sports, and outdoor adventure. In a post 9-11 world with rising crime rates, many parents fear danger might arise from their children being unsupervised in public. And techno gadgets' flashing lights and fast action encourage kids to stay inside.

Kids are missing out. Among the lifelong benefits of this passť play are positive friendships, an appreciation for the outdoors, and exercise that promotes a healthy weight and lifestyle.

Fitness benefits have ramifications beyond kids' physical health. James Pivarnik, a professor of kinesiology at Michigan State University in East Lansing, participated in research about children's fitness and grades. He says, "It's not only Johnny's getting fat, and heart disease down the road-all that's true. But it's also that he might not do as well in school." The study of 317 junior high students showed that the fittest kids scored 13 to 20 percent higher in four core classes than the least fit kids.

What's a twenty-first century parent to do? Taking the time to get kids interested in a supervised outdoor activity that involves exercise can motivate youth to move away from their video games yet remain in a safe environment. Among many good recreational options, golf has several advantages for children and teens.

  • Playing 18 holes means walking at least four miles, even on a short course. Some experts call walking the perfect exercise because of its numerous health benefits..
  • Golf teaches integrity and sportsmanship. It's one of the only games where players are expected to call penalties on themselves, and to keep their own scores.
  • Kids spend time in a peaceful, natural environment, where parents can opt for supervised lessons.
  • Kids learn to be responsible as a good citizen who respects others' property, since everyone must learn to treat the course with respect to maintain the quality of the grass.
  • Friendships are often a byproduct of golf lessons and/or frequent play as kids encourage each other, or work together to win a tournament. Parents and children who play together may deepen their relationships as they spend time playing and talking.

In today's tough economy, parents may believe that golf is a cost-prohibitive sport. However, moms and dads can get their children involved in the sport with a minimal investment. Because the golf industry wants to get youth interested in the game early to promote lifelong fans of the game, they often reduce their greens fees substantially for young people. Junior tournaments are a great way to play golf for a very low price. I remember playing in a local junior golf league at great courses-and each tournament cost only $3. A teen nearing high-school age might be interested in the school golf team; he or she would have the opportunity to play plenty of courses almost for free. Consider starting with used golf clubs in good condition to save on potentially expensive equipment.

I'm grateful I had the opportunity to play golf when I was a kid, occupying most of my free time during high school at the golf course with my friends. Without realizing it, I was getting a great deal of healthy exercise. And the lasting friendships and memories from my teen years on the course tell me that it was indeed time well-spent.

Bill Phillips of Golf Clubs Consultant has enjoyed playing golf since he was a young teenager. His site offers a wealth of information and advice about selecting and using golf clubs, including women's golf clubs, used golf clubs, hybrid golf clubs, and more.