Michelle Holmes’ Advice for Junior Golf Parents

Growing up, people would ask if I wanted to play on the Tour one day. But my answer was always, no. I wanted to do what Charlie did. Really, I wanted to do for others what Charlie did for me.

Charlie McGoldrick was the golf professional at Enniscrone Golf Club in Sligo, on the western shores of Ireland. Joining Enniscrone Golf Club at 11 years old, I had no idea the impact Charlie and the club would have on my life. Charlie was a fantastic teacher and gifted communicator. He taught through stories and his soft spoken, calm manner, made him the perfect coach for me. While my dad taught me to grind and how to win, Charlie’s calming influence gave me the balance I needed. He had a magical way of helping me understand that I was more than whatever numbers appeared on my scorecard at the end of the day. Golf was just something I happened to be good at, a game I could continue to enjoy no matter how my day on the course went.

That bond and the experiences he brought me inspired my dream of passing golf forward in the same way to as many kids and families as possible. So, after earning my teaching certification from the LPGA, I stepped out on my own to open Michelle Holmes Golf School in 2011. I started with just six students in the first month, but as the word grew so did my client base. Today my team and I welcome more than 600 children through our doors every year with students ranging as young as 3 years old to my 18-year-old competitive players.

My experiences coaching and running junior tournaments have shown me what a roller coaster ride golf can be for kids and their parents. Even well-intentioned moms and dads can fall into the trap of putting unnecessary pressure on their children and, in the process, losing sight of the bigger picture. The fact is, your child’s shot at playing college golf isn’t over if they’re not competing on the big stage by age 8. As a matter of fact, there’s a long way to go until things like that even matter.

What I share with every parent who walks through the door of my golf school is that no matter what age or skill level, we’re creating as many opportunities for your child to fall in love with the game as possible. And it starts early. For so many kids, what sparks their interest in golf has little to do with golf at all. For me it was the chocolate bar and Coca-Cola my dad would treat my sister and me to after spending time on the course with him. For other kids it could be riding in the golf cart or playing in the sand. It doesn’t take serious interest early on to create a lifelong golfer. All it takes is planting the seed.

Once the spark is lit, that curiosity will evolve into genuine interest and it will be time to find a “Coach Charlie” of your own. Thankfully they’re not as rare as they used to be. There are loads of instructors out there who know that the lesson plan and communication style for their 3-year-old student has to change for their 5-year-old student. Their approach to instruction will likely include familiar elements from other sports or even the classroom. At my golf school we know kids learn best through play, and we’ve gotten really good at creating rich and colorful experiences that blend progressive skill-building with games. It’s that fun learning atmosphere that keeps our students wanting coming back for more.

This is something that I’ve also discovered through the LPGA*USGA Girls Golf program. Girls Golf is about more than just teaching stance and swing; it’s about learning valuable life skills like confidence and perseverance while also making the game of golf fun. From hitting marshmallows out of a bunker to hosting superhero-themed golf competitions, thinking outside of the box sets students up for a lifetime of enjoyment of the game while also inspiring them to feel confident, build positive self-esteem, and live active and healthy lives. When kids are in a fun, comfortable environment, they are able to find their voice and dream big.

In your own search for a golf coach, I recommend trying out at least three professionals whose expertise and personality fit the needs of your young golfer. But be sure your child has the final say. Their bond with their coach will ultimately determine how much they enjoy learning the sport.

And while finding the right coach is an important factor in helping your child fall in love with golf, there’s no better teammate than you. Most kids only meet with their golf coach once a week for a 30-minute or 60-minute lesson, leaving the door open for mom or dad to help or hinder their growth. I spend lots of time talking with my students’ parents, so they feel confident in knowing how to practice effectively with their kids, how to handle the breakdowns that are bound to happen, and how to encourage and challenge without pushing too hard.

The best prescription for avoiding the traps is by keeping the aspirations you have in mind for your child in check so that your young golfer isn’t along for the ride but is sitting in the driver’s seat. Whether they want to use golf as an extracurricular activity or dream of being a world champion one day, the parents’ job is to be their advocate. Consistently check in with them, their coach, and yourself to ensure that everyone is on the same page with how to get there.

And remember that failure is a part of the equation. If you flip out and can’t handle the pressure when your child has a bad hole or a bad shot, then your 8-year-old will turn into a 13-year old who will follow in those footsteps. Instead of looking at those hiccups as a negative, see them as an opportunity to teach your child patience and composure. These are life skills your child will carry with them off the golf course too.

The values and lessons are what make golf such a special sport for kids. They’re the reasons why I chose to teach. Charlie’s influence helped golf become my passion and I’m honored to do the same for children to honor his memory. The key to doing the same for your child is to remember that at the end of the day, once the flame is lit for your young golfer, it’s simply your job to keep it burning. Your child’s love for golf is the key to keeping them motivated to get better and work towards reaching their goals, whatever they may be. That love for the game will run deep and the bond you’ll build with one another throughout the journey will too.

Girls Golf - Take Me With You

This new Girls Golf commercial features videos Michelle Holmes made of her students. LPGA did the editing;  the kids did the rest.  Watch for it during the USWO and upcoming LPGA broadcasts.