IT CAN BE SO HARD TO WATCH……
Is there any junior sport that is harder to watch than golf? Basketball, Soccer, Football all move much faster and you have a team. If you make a mistake, you don’t have time to think about it and your teammates are there to help pick you up.
Baseball might be close. You are alone at the plate and can make an error in the field, but again you have a team that can help you and cover up for any mistakes.
Golf can feel soul-crushing. Your junior golfer plays great for 16 holes (3+ hours) and a couple bad swings or bad breaks can ruin the round. It can happen so quick. A tee shot out of bounds or a bad bounce off a tree.
We know it is hard on the kids, but you can often see the frustration in the parents. Everyone wants their junior golfer to play well and it can be hard to not get disappointed with bad shots. Personally, I have to fight this feeling when it seems my sons aren’t playing up to their potential. I have heard other golf parents say things like “how is it possible to miss a putt that short” or “that OB shouldn’t even be in play on that hole”.
I think one way to help golf parents understand – they should put themselves “in the fire”.
Flip the script. Golf parents should find a tournament for themselves to play. Maybe a club championship or a local amateur event. If possible, let your junior golfer watch you play. This can help on a couple different levels.
First, the golf parent is reminded how hard tournament golf can be……personally, I am a still a pretty good player (around a scratch handicap), but after I stand over a few 3 foot sliders in a tournament round, I will never say “you can’t miss a putt that short”. Regardless of your ability, when you compete in a tournament it feels different and this may give you some ideas of different ways to communicate to your junior golfer when they are feeling the pressure. At the very least, it will remind you to have empathy when they are struggling.
Second, it allows your junior golfer to see you differently. They will probably see you struggle a little on the course and will see that it can be hard to watch someone you love have a tough day on the links. I will never forget, when my older son was 10 he caddied for me in a club championship and I was playing well until a missed a few short putts on the back nine. After my third miss he looked at me and said “Dada, can I just putt the next one for you?”.
This is the point – when I watch my boys struggle in a tournament I often wish I could hit the next drive or the next putt for them. Not because I would do it better, but because I would like to take the pressure off of them. I would like to shoulder the burden of frustration if the shot doesn’t turn out. You can feel very alone on the course during a bad tournament round.
By playing tournament golf, you are showing them that you don’t ask them to do anything you wouldn’t do yourself. It can be a lot of fun for them to see you succeed, but also to allow them to tease you a bit.
My younger son loves to bring up the time he watched me 4-putt in a tournament from ~10 feet from the hole. In fact, he brought up this weekend. I was caddying for him in a tourney and he 3-putted from 20-feet. I made some sort of dumb comment like “well that wasn’t good” and he quickly responded with “well, it was better than that 4-putt on #2 in the club championship”……we both laughed and I said…”well played, well played”.
About the author
Mike Harris is a former college golfer and dedicated father of two talented junior golfers. With a passion for the sport that began in his own childhood, Mike now focuses on helping his children, Avery and Olivia, navigate the world of junior golf. He’s eager to share tips, advice, and insights with other families on their own golf journeys. Join Mike as he tees off into the exciting realm of junior golf, providing guidance to parents and kids alike.