Here is one of my favorite games and the multiple skills we can teach while having fun – TIC, TAC, TOE!
A simple game of Tic, Tac, Toe on the putting green is one of the best teaching settings I have ever used. Every young athlete absolutely loves playing this simple game and we can use this to teach a variety of different skills at the same time.
When one team hits a putt in a square they take control of that square. Like you would expect three squares in a row wins the game. The one caveat is that if they make a putt in the hole of the middle square that team can take control of any square they want.
One of the challenges with our younger golfers is simply, making putts. A 5 or 6 year old can have challenges making a 10 foot putt and can become frustrated very quickly. My younger athletes love this game because it’s something they can accomplish because we change the size of the target. Instead of a 4 1/4 inch hole they now have a 18″x18″ target or larger. They can decide which square they putt to instead of always having to putt to a specific hole or target.
We can also bring multiple ages of athletes together, the younger athletes (4-7 yrs old) can team up with older athletes (8-13 yrs old).
The younger athletes love partnering up with the older athletes while the older athletes can take give a bit of guidance and show off their skills. Golf is an individual sport and encouraging interaction between athletes can be challenging. The strategy and excitement that a team game creates makes golf much more enjoyable and the kids love it!
Here are some of the concepts that we teach while playing Tic, Tac, Toe:
- Golf skills – we stick to one specific skill each week. During December we focused on Posture and ensuring each FUNdamental athlete (4-7 yrs old) was able to hang their arms down and hinge from the hips. As our athletes progress and learn new skills the goals of each theme become more refined and catered to each athlete.
- Etiquette – to me this is the most important overall concept I can impart on any of our young athletes. We discuss the concept of sportsmanship and what golf “manners” really mean. When a 5 yr old competes, he/she wants to win, but they don’t generally grasp the difference between personal success and the opponents failure. Young athletes cheer when they or their teammates make a putt and/or when the other team misses a putt. It is not acceptable to cheer when someone else misses a putt and I only stop class for 2 situations; injury / injury prevention and to discuss etiquette opportunities.
- Strategy – the negotiation and discussion involved in deciding where to putt the ball is priceless. I’ve really enjoyed listening to the back and forth while trying to be aggressive and take a square or be more defensive and block the other team. 4 and 5 year olds have few opportunities to justify their position and convince their teammates.
- Pressure – one shot to block the other team and win the game. How often does a 5 year old have multiple people counting on them to perform? To create a pressure situation for a young athlete in a comfortable atmosphere is unique and something I love to see. It is awesome to see them succeed and have their entire team cheer for them.
All of this from a simple game of Tic, Tac, Toe!
Playing fun and challenging games is something every young athlete enjoys. I am constantly striving to develop new games which allow our young athletes to exhibit new golf skills, learn more about themselves and put themselves in new situations. GAMES RULE!
Next time you go for a practice session with your young athlete play a game. You don’t need the tape or anything elaborate, unless you want to of course!
What games do you like that are easy and fun for your young athlete?
The other day Christopher and I had a group of 6th and 7th graders and we spent a very quick hour and a half on chipping skills. Most of the kids have played a bit but are all still learning the basics of the game. I’m working on structuring my instruction a bit differently and was very happy with the results and response from the kids.
In my opinion it takes three basic skills to chip the ball well:
- Controlling trajectory
- Landing near your intended spot
- Controlling distance
Within each of those skills there are a variety of options and variations that will affect the final outcome. Instead of spending 15+ minutes go over stance, ball position, swing motion and club selection we set up 5 stations that focused on one of the three skills. We introduced each station, paired the kids up and let them “discover”. While they worked the stations, competing along the way of course, Christopher and I introduced stance, ball position and swing motion.
Our 5 stations consisted of:
- String 18 inches above the ground and had to hit chip shots over the string
- String 18 inches above the ground and had to hit chip shots below the string
- 25 inch diameter circle and had to land chip shots inside the circle
- Two parallel strings approximately 3 feet apart from each other and 18 feet from the starting point. Had to keep as many balls between the circles
- 2 holes at different distances which they hit 2 shots at each hole
It was great to see the kids all engaged and focused on the various stations. We discussed each of the skills as they moved between stations and were able to address individual golfer’s strengths and weaknesses. All of the kids showed improvement and were able to keep a ball low, hit a ball high, understood distance control and the importance of landing in the intended spot.
Breaking down the chip shot and making it fun really made the session beneficial for the golfers. They changed clubs during the stations and grasped the concept of controlling trajectory with the strings. The easiest station was hitting shots under the string, the hardest was landing shots in the circle. To make it better they had to discover and figure out how to accomplish each of the skills. It was great to see all of the realize the importance of getting the ball on the ground as quickly as possible. As the man Peter Scott once said “Putt it if you can, chip it if you can’t, wedge it if you must.”