What I have learnt from developing young golfers to elite level

By Anthony Barkley
NZPGA Professional

We all know there are not as many junior golfers coming through the ranks these days. There are many reasons and one being called juniors may be off putting to the current generation but that’s another conversation. 

When I first meet a golfer I get a very good impression of their intent with golf. When you meet a young golfer and their desire to play golf is obvious you know you may be able develop this player. In Group classes there was often one who signalled keenness. 

 I learnt from a young age that to be an elite golfer you had to have the three D’s. Desire, Dedication and Determination. I have added two others over the years, Sacrifice and Data. DDDDS.

A young golfer must want to get good at golf from within. A parent cannot make their child have this desire. You know it when you see it and when you do embrace it and encourage it as a parent. Don’t push too much just support.

Dedication and Determination go hand in hand. You see this in their willingness to practice, to play and to learn. You see it in how they talk to you, listen and react. Some will be better than others at certain things and you need to guide them to be better at the parts they are not good at. Some may be disorganised in how they plan their practice for example where a coach can teach them this or even a parent of the child if willing to listen.

Data is a new area that is needed to help progress of a golfer. Data means statistics and its very important to gauge how you are doing. If a golfer that wants to get down in handicap and does not keep even the simplest of statistics it is a red flag for me. It shows they are not dedicated to improvement. Sounds harsh but it’s true. Many would rather play games on their iPad or phone which is a generational thing but it should be a priority to get these done first. How else can you see patterns other than guessing?

Sacrifice is another new one and is related to dedication. A young golfer has to be willing to sacrifice their play time for golf tournaments and practice. A teenager will need to miss a few social functions and to be honest family gatherings. Some summer holidays should be spent on the range and course. A balance needs to be established but if you want to shine, you need to put in the time.

As a golf coach we want to see these attributes if you are putting your time into a young athlete. The work ethic is so important as once a golfer gets to elite level a coach puts much more unpaid time. It’s not about the money but the time for a NZPGA coach. We want to see that athlete grow and there is nothing more rewarding than seeing the look on a young person’s face when they succeed or their goal is achieved. 

That’s my rant about growing elite junior golfers. Some may disagree but it’s a pattern I have seen time and time again. It’s just getting them which is the issue.

Here are a couple of sayings that stuck with me (authors unknown):

• There is always someone else out there practicing harder and better than you.

• Practice makes permanent, as you can never be perfect.

• Practice with a purpose otherwise it’s a waste of time.

• Filter in, filter out. Listen to only those that matter but be polite to those trying to help.

• Dress like a pro and act like a pro to play like a pro. 

Sarah HeadComment