There is a multitude of reasons for the wide diversity of sports that kids like and play: accessibility, affordability, skill level, professional ambitions, and family dynamics.
Most kids like action sports, and most parents prefer the same because of the physical exercise they provide. So where does golf stack up against all other sports? Not very well if you take the most simplistic view. But look a little harder and golf might start making a lot more sense; especially for the gifted, ambitious, or high-achieving kids towards whom this blog is geared.
Golf, in its avatar as a competitive sport for juniors, is not a slouch. It provides varied exercise opportunities whether one wants to become a professional golfer or a recreational one. A round of golf entails approx. 5 miles of walking with a 15-20 lb. golf bag on shoulder i.e. if you decide to play on foot; jr. tournaments do not allow carts. That’s why most competitive juniors include strength & endurance training in their regimen.
For academically focused kids, golf is especially a smarter choice because it provides adequate amount of exercise without leaving them half-dead by the end of a practice session. I still remember my struggles training for important track meets while trying to keep up with the course load at a competitive engineering college. I wish I had known at that time what golf was. I would not have needed to pump weights or do circuit training 6 days a week to be competitive. Also, I would have slept through a lot fewer lectures; not sure whether I could have avoided it completely. Golf needs a balanced mix of finesse and power.
If an academically gifted student happens to be blessed with a naturally flowing swing or an intuitive touch for the game, it is quite feasible to keep option of a college sports scholarship, even an Ivy League recruitment, open until well into high school, and without sacrificing academic performance.
For the not-so-gifted swingers of the club, the game is still going to pay off handsomely as a networking tool later in life. The better a student does academically, the higher s/he is likely to climb up the corporate ladder. And generally, the higher one climbs, the more ‘schmoozing’ one needs to get to the next level. Golf provides a golden pass to a disproportionately large number of corporate events.
Golf, in general, is expensive, but a lot of parents are not aware that most golf courses, at least in the US, have a junior membership plan that is quite affordable. US Kids Golf conducts junior tournaments that are very reasonably priced.
Lastly, golf is one sport which can be enjoyed as a family outdoor activity. Different sets of tees (length of a particular hole) and the handicapping system (an equitable skill equalizer) make it a fair competition between members of the family with different skill levels. My 11 yr. and 14 yr. olds started besting me a couple years ago. The 14 yr. old now does it from the men’s tees.
I enjoyed running track through school, college, and beyond - eventually running 400 meters hurdles for India, but I’m glad I picked up golf and introduced it to both my kids at an early age. This is a lifelong hobby that I hope to enjoy for a long long time with them and maybe with their kids.
No matter where you live, I’m sure you have noticed that golf is becoming more and more accessible and affordable. All parents need to do is arrange the family dynamics to fit golf in their schedule and budget. Your child might not like it at first, but give it some time. The game is challenging and frustrates a lot of kids. But if introduced in the right way, it has the potential to reward your child for a long time. If possible, try to learn the game yourself. Don’t worry about your skill level; 99% of the golfers never break 100 for a round of 18 holes. If you come across one, s/he is either a very good golfer or a great braggart.
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