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A Hall of Famer's valuable advice for teaching your kids golf


David Cannon

This article first appeared in Low Net, a weekly newsletter written for the average golfer, by an average golfer. To get Low Net each week, sign up for Golf Digest+.

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For many of us, the U.S. Open finish on Father’s Day provides the excuse for an ideal golf-centric day: playing in the morning, neglecting household responsibilities in the afternoon, then binging on someone else’s sideways chips and nervy par putts into the evening.

Inevitably, this week is also when we reflect on how the game we love is shared between generations. I am still fortunate to watch and talk golf with my dad, and I’ve been playing with my own boys since they were swinging clubs the size of spatulas.

That both boys are still avid golfers as teenagers is its own gift. My older son plays in college, and his younger brother can already outdrive me with his 4-iron. When people ask what I’ve done right with my kids in golf, I usually mumble something vague and not terribly helpful. It’s because I still believe my best advice is captured in this story I wrote last year about all the things I’ve done wrong.

In fairness, golf parenting can be divided into different sections, and I fared reasonably well when the first goal was to just make the game fun. It was more when my oldest started getting serious that I was usually out of my depth—and where I can still get it wrong. This all came to mind recently when seeing this interview with one of the best quotes on any golf topic, Padraig Harrington. When he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame by his son, Paddy, this week, it was apparent Harrington’s success extended beyond three major championships, but in how he has raised his kids. And when it came to golf, the elder Harrington practiced restraint on purpose.

“I generally bring them home before they get tired,” Harrington said of his early rounds with his kids. “So, the best thing you can do with a kid early on in golf is say, ‘Hey, we have to go home.’ Don't wait until they’re tired and hazy. Wait until they’re actually enjoying themselves and go home.”

There are so many opportunities now for young golfers to get better in a hurry, but as Harrington noted, a kids’ golf ability can always develop. But it won’t happen if they don’t want to be there in the first place.

“If your kid gets good at the game, that doesn't mean necessarily make them love the game,” he said. “If your kid loves the game, it's likely that they'll become good. It's the love that should be first.”