Give the gift of golf to your children

Naturally, those of us who have been at it for a while realize golf is a lifelong game. We know that because we’ve been playing for a lifetime. Sometimes just a single hole can feel like a lifetime, but that’s a different story.

But when did we start playing? Who encouraged us? If we were lucky, it was our parents.

I started when I was a kid, accompanying my dad to a soccer field behind our house so he could warm up his nine-iron. (Not to worry, he practiced only when the field was vacant. He wasn’t target shooting.) He’d let me hit a few balls, giving me gentle instructions. Later, he set aside a few old clubs I could use when he wasn’t around.

However, it was years before he took me to play at a course. Wise man that he is, he waited until I had played a few rounds with friends before I was invited to play with him. He doesn’t abide slow play, but he’s casual. “Oh, pull that ball away from the tree, Lisa. We’re just playing for fun.” He always makes it relaxing and enjoyable. It’s still an honor to play with my 86-year-old father. See? Lifetime game.

Perhaps a vacation to Hilton Head Island is the ideal time to play together as a family. So, how do you get children interested in golf?

Here’s some sage advice from Ed Brill, head instructor at The PGA Tour Academy Hilton Head at Port Royal Golf Club, home of the Barony, Planter‘s Row and Robber’s Row golf courses. But that’s not what makes him an expert — he’s the father of three.

“The best way to get your kids interested in the game of golf is through simple introduction, rather than trying to push it on them,” he said.

“Bring a friend with them to the range or the putting green and turn it into a game that is fun for them — maybe chipping balls into a bucket for 10 minutes then head to the putting green and play nine holes of ‘putt putt’ keeping score,” Brill said.

“You want to build their confidence with golf and have them feel a sense of success so they stay interested in the game. Start them off hitting a tennis ball rather than a golf ball so they feel that success.

“If you accept that kids have short attention spans and think of creative ways to introduce them confidently to the game of golf – you could have yourself a golf partner for future vacations.”

More reinforcement of how much fun golf can be are the exhibitions Doug Weaver has each Monday at Palmetto Dunes. Weaver is head of instruction at the resort and a former PGA Tour pro. He hits some balls on the range, then invites people from the crowd to participate.

It also helps that all three Dunes courses — Robert Trent Jones Jr., George Fazio and Arthur Hills — have junior tees and encourage families to play together. Each child under 10 accompanied by an adult plays for free.

“We have families play in the late afternoon so they feel most comfortable,” said Brad Marra, director of golf, whose dad taught him the game.

It’s nice that Hilton Head Island courses understand the importance of getting the next generation intrigued with this compelling game.

So tell me, who encouraged you to take up golf?