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Athletic development specialists dedicated to the art and science of excellence in movement

Junior Golf Development at its Finest

CNN recently did a profile of the junior development program at the Butch Harmon School of Golf in Dubai.  With summer fast approaching, it is important that parents and golf instructors recognize the change in paradigm that is taking place in junior golf development. Thanks to the proliferation of research into neurodevelopment principles and the application of these principles into the athletic world, many junior programs around the world at both private and state-run academies have incorporated these principles that have been championed domestically by the Titleist Performance Institute and that are applied at TPI’s Junior Performance Center in San Diego.

Junior development must focus on fundamental movement skills and general athletic development. Golf skills are important and become even more important as the player matures, but you literally get only one chance to maximize a few specific windows of opportunity during which kids are most adaptive to certain movement skills. There’s a wide range of HOW you can teach these skills, but if you want optimal results in the long term you must abide by the rules that nature sets for nearly every human child. Honoring these rules becomes even more important as the lifestyle of the American youth deprives kids of sensorimotor development that was once a part of being a kid. Quite simply, kids in this country move less than they used to and are suffering athletically as a result.

Training kids as athletes and not simply as golfers is like a farmer painstakingly preparing his soil to plant his crops. All the investment into seeds, irrigation, and harvesting techniques mean little if the soil is bad. You can’t expect a good harvest if you plant your seeds on concrete! Likewise, we can spend all the time and money in the world on tournaments, lessons, and equipment, but we often overlook the most important aspect, which is the body. If a kid wants to perform at his or her absolute best, it all matters. Other countries are closing the gap in the golf world on the United States (and some might argue we have already been passed) in part because they have embraced these athletic development models for cultivating young golfers.

Above all, American golf must do a better job of retaining the talented young kids that sample the game but move onto other sports (only to return many years later when their bodies are worn out from injuries). We could spend an entire post discussing the cultural factors behind why juniors might choose other sports, but poor access to regular playing opportunities, a sense of not feeling welcome by adults, and plain ol’ boredom are among the reasons that many potentially fine golfers gravitate toward soccer, baseball, or other sports. Kids can and should play multiple sports during their formative years, but junior development programs must give them a reason to choose golf when the time comes to specialize.

Resources:

Titleist Performance Institute Junior Performance Center

Changing the Paradigm: Titleist Performance Institute Junior Development Presentation

Royal Canadian Golf Association: Long Term Player Development Guide

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