Going from Recreational to Competitive

Count ’em all- post a score- no mulligans- sign your card

So, your junior golfer enjoys going to the range and playing with you/their friends. They watched Tiger win the Masters or caught the final putt of the Solheim Cup, going from recreational to competitive and want to start playing in tournaments. There are tons of junior golf options available, but what is right for your child? Competitive golf can be cruel — you don’t want them to get frustrated with the game and no longer enjoy it. let your child go from recreational to competitive.

PGA JR. League is perfect start

If your junior golfer is between the ages of 7-12, I strongly recommend giving PGA Jr. League a try — it is an awesome program that allows your player to get the thrill of competition in a fun/team environment. Tons of detail on their website and leagues exist all over the country. https://www.pgajrleague.com/

  • The format is perfect for a beginner — you always have a partner (2-person teams) and you play scramble (captain’s choice) — less pressure
  • Younger/New players can learn from playing with older/more advanced players
  • The scoring is all based on your team — your individual score isn’t displayed — hit a couple good shots or make a couple putts and you have helped your squad

Younger players can learn so much from partnering with older kids on the team!

The first tournament requires preparation

My boys started playing tournaments when they were 6-8 years old and have played in hundreds of events over the years. When considering tournaments, consider your juniors experience level, stamina, and overall interest in the game.

If they typically play 9 holes, I wouldn’t sign them up for an 18 hole tournament. Do they need you as a caddy? If so, I would make sure the event allows caddies (also – make sure they allow parents to caddy, if that is your plan.) Playing in their first golf tournament can be a challenging experience — don’t make it harder by having them do something they haven’t done in the past (ie walk 18 holes for the first time).

I would recommend you practice the situation. Play 9 holes – keep score – no mulligans. Talk about expectations – most players won’t win their first tournament, but you can discuss goals or maybe talk about going for ice cream after the event.

Discuss potential rule situations. The rules of golf can be confusing, but make sure your child understands the basics and understands they can ask for help during the event.

It may not be possible, but if they have friends that already play in tournaments — you could take them to watch a few holes. See what it is like.

We are ready!!! which tournaments?

Depending on where you live, there might be local options that are provided by your state golf association. For example, the VSGA (Virginia State Golf Association) has many 9 hole events throughout the year that are perfect for beginners.

My favorite have been US Kids Local Tours — they exist all over the country (and world). From my experience, they are very well run and have a nice mix of golfers just starting and players who are more advanced.

US Kids events allow parents to caddy and have a 10-stroke maximum rule — if you player really struggled on a hole, they can simply pickup for a 10 and move on.

US Kids tours are setup as 6-8 tournament seasons — as your child gets more competitive, they can collect points in each event and try to win the season long trophy. Ultimately, they can qualify for Regional events around the country and the World Championship in Pinehurst.

We have enjoyed playing in US Kids Local Tours — As you player become more advanced, the Regionals & World Championships are awesome!

My kid is dominating- they might be the next tiger

First let me say, your child probably isn’t the next Tiger :). That being said, once your player is older and more advanced, you won’t have any problem finding events. There are many tours and options — AJGA is probably where you will end up once your player is 13+ years old and an advanced player. They offer very competitive events all over the country and you will get to hear your kids constantly talk about “stars” (how many stars do you have? how many stars can I win in this event? I missed 4 stars by 1 stroke, etc……)

Enjoy watching your child play! support them! cheer them!

I have loved watching my boys compete in golf. There will be highs and lows, but make sure they have fun. As I have written in the past, use competitive golf as a way to build family memories!

mike - Going from Recreational to Competitive

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.

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