We recently attended the PGA trade show in Orlando, Florida, and learned that one of the fastest growing categories of golfers is the Junior Golfers, age 8-18. I was pleased to learn this, since today’s Junior Golfers will keep the game alive, with all the challenges, mystique and tradition this simple but complex game offers.
Like many of my friends, I taught myself how to play golf, starting at age 13. I borrowed $30 from my grandmother to buy a set of clubs from Sears. The set included a driver, a three wood, odd number irons, a putter, and bag.
How was that for a bargain! It was early spring, so a late snow storm in New Jersey gave me the opportunity to shovel snow and earn money to repay my grandmother. Interesting how some memories bring smiles to our faces.
I remember enjoying my first set of clubs, while, she enjoyed telling the story of her 13-year-old grandson repaying a loan, that he didn’t have to and which she didn’t expect. My friends and I hit balls in vacant lots, and in the summer we played courses every two weeks or so after we mowed enough lawns to have green fees.
Unfortunately, when you teach yourself to play golf there is a good chance you will learn bad habits. I did, and I spent much of my golf career “fixing my problems.” I listened to my friends, and they listened to me, “open your stance, pull your shoulder over, try a stronger grip,” and many other “fixes” that only added to the swing problems.
If I had learned the move of starting my downswing with the lower body and getting to the left side before hitting down and through the ball, I know I would be a better player today. Other segments of the golf swing are built on those very basic, crucial first moves. As the Junior Golfer starts to play, helping him/her learn the basic moves correctly is paramount to a successful career in this wonderful game. The Pocket Pin High Pro is a portable swing aid that helps Junior golfers establish muscle memory in both starting the downswing and getting to the left side so he/she can learn to hit down and through the ball.
Getting to the left side
In her book for juniors, Golf in Action, Bobbie Kalman writes, ”As you swing your club down, turn your body to the left. Shift your weight from your right side to your left.” She adds, “when making your forward swing, you need to hit the ball solidly to send it into the air. Just before your clubhead reaches the ball, the leading edge, or bottom edge, of your club should brush along the grass. As your swing improves and you develop more power, your club will actually dig into the earth. The piece of ground you unearth is called a divot.”
Getting to the left side before impact is the only way you can hit down and through the ball, taking a divot. In their book, Beginning Golf, Bruce Curtis and Jay Morelli state on page 21,”At the top of the swing the player has created power by “winding up” the upper part of his body. The downswing is a natural unwinding of the power created and also includes the transfer of body weight from the back foot to the front foot.”
The authors add, “There are no tricks to solid contact. As you swing the club through the ball and toward the target, the ball merely gets in the way of a good swinging motion. The follow through is the grand finale of the previous steps. The “center” has moved toward the target, the club has been fully swung and is held relaxed over the left shoulder, and almost all the weight is on the forward foot.”
Stance for the Chip Shot
The chip is a short low shot that is made from an area very close to the green with the intention of rolling the ball toward the hole, leaving a short putt. The Junior Golf Book, by Larry Hayes and Rhonda Glenn, describes the stance of the Chip and Run.
They write, "Your stance should be much like your putting stance, but slightly open to allow you to see the line to the hole. An 'open' stance is when your right foot is a bit closer to the ball than your left foot (opposite for left-handed players). This means your feet are aligned slightly to the left of the target; your feet will be fairly close together, with your knees flexed and your weight on the front (or left) foot.”
In his book Golf from Tee to Green-The essential guide for young golfers, Clive Gifford states, ”The chip shot swing is short and is played with firm wrists throughout. Top players plan their shot just like they would a putt and pick a target point, usually just on the green, to aim the ball to land on with its first bounce. If they pick the right spot and execute the shot well, they expect the ball to roll up and down the contours of the green to get very close to the hole.”
He continues, ”Avoid leaning back as you chip to try to lift the ball. Keep your weight on your front side.”
I have been told by golf instructors that teaching students to keep most of their weight on the left foot, or front side, is difficult because the students feel as if the majority of their weight is on the left foot when in fact it is not.
The Pocket Pin High Pro can assist the golfer in learning this most important shot by constantly letting the golfer or instructor know the weight is on the front foot. Our golf swing aid gives you an affirmative "click" when you properly shift your weight onto your front left foot during your downswing.
Getting lined up
Mr. Gifford also addresses the basic move of getting lined up. He writes, ”With your club gripped, now is the time to line up your shot. Getting the club behind the ball with the clubface pointing toward the target, and your body in the right place for your swing, is known as the set-up, or address, position. Try to get into the habit of using the same routine each time you get into the address position. This will help you produce accurate shots. Always take time to set up carefully. Although golf shots are played over long distances, being out of line by a couple of inches can lead to your shot landing many yards wide of your target.”
In Beginning Golf, Julie Jensen describes the basic set-up stating, “To aim the club correctly, Nick first finds a target. Next, he thinks of a railroad track going to his target. He imagines that his ball is on the outside rail. He pretends that he is standing on the inside rail. His feet, knees, hips and shoulders are all the same distance from the outside rail.”
Lining up to the target is another one of those basic golf moves that need to be mastered by the Junior Golfer. We all silently recite different reminders to help us set up and lineup to the target.