Golf: New ideas to develop top juniors

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A LOTHIANS golf club is using a junior programme that produced one of the players on the American side in the Walker Cup last weekend.

Peter Uihlein, last year’s US Amateur champion, was one of the first graduates of the Titleist Performance Institute, which is now being used at Swanston New.

“We believe we are providing something that is unique in Scotland,” said Oliver Morton, one of the PGA professionals at the Pentlands club.

“The programme incorporates child growth height velocity, fundamental movement and skill learning, multi-sport activity to aid the transfer of learning, golfing and physical categorisation, playing ability, loads of colour and, most importantly, tonnes of fun.

“In our opinion, shared by many of the world’s leading authorities on athletic development, sport specific skill (in our case, golf) should be built upon a well-developed base of fundamental movement skill and fundamental sport skill.

“This means that if you are going to effectively teach a child to play golf, they should be very good at things like running, hopping, jumping, skipping and landing.

“They should be well balanced, agile, co-ordinated, possess well-developed kicking, throwing, catching, and striking skills and have great spatial and body awareness – all before they try to learn to play golf.”

He added: “A good analogy is, if a child cannot add up (run, skip, jump, catch, throw etc) how can you effectively teach algebra (golf)?

“The games and activities exposed to the children at Swanston assist in the development of these fundamental skills.

“If any are missing, learning to play golf will be more difficult and they may never reach their potential in golf or in any sport they choose to play, it’s also a lot more fun for the kids than traditional golf coaching.

“The sports that we cross train the children with share their DNA with golf. For example, a baseball swing and tennis forehand both require a weight shift, trunk rotation, wrist hinge and strike, all found in their golf swing.

“Cross training allows us to teach the basic movements of the swing without having to talk about it as much. Our main goal is to build love for the game.

“We take most pride in all the smiling faces, laughter and enjoyment!”

The programme takes into consideration the fact some kids are early maturers, while others develop later.

“Maturity and development cannot be forced,” observed Morton.

“We have ‘Cyclone’ classes, which focus more on physical activities designed for the younger children.

“And, for the older children, we have the SMASH, which is much more skill based.

“It is vital that children do the right sorts of activities at certain biological ages in order for them to effectively develop physical attributes such as speed, strength, power and agility.”