Visions of sugarplums and birdies

Golf Tips of the Week
By: Shawn Kelly
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The holidays are upon us once again. Wow, where has another year gone already? It’s that wonderful time of year to be with family and close friends and reminisce about the year. If you’re a golfer you might want to relive your better 2008 rounds or the many “impossible” golf shots that you pulled off. Possibly if the weather is good you can get out on the course or the range and demonstrate your new and improved golf game for your kinfolk. Whatever you do this holiday, just enjoy this special time but remember it’s mostly about the kids. And, if your youngster happens to be developing an interest in the game, Santa might just be packing a golf bag on that sleigh this year. Junior golf has never enjoyed a bigger awareness than now and in fact there are burgeoning programs all over the world that successfully sponsor junior golf. There are programs such as the PGA’s “First Tee” and other local programs for beginners through tournament interested kids like American Junior Golf Association or SAY Golf, for juniors who want to play competitively at their own level. Whatever a junior’s level there’s sure to be a program nearby to get them into. Here are some tips to help juniors get involved with golf: § Get your junior involved with a local youth golf program. Junior programs teach the basic fundamentals in a positive atmosphere alongside their peers. Most programs will supply loaner clubs to learn so you won’t need to buy clubs until their interest has blossomed. § When your junior does become serious, be sure to get clubs that fit properly. Adult clubs that have been cut down typically don’t work because they are usually too stiff and too heavy. Poorly fitted equipment will impair progress and ultimately discourage a promising junior. A dynamic club fitting with a competent PGA professional will work wonders for their technique as well as their self-esteem. § Local school programs are awesome right now. Keeping ones grades up and trying out for your school’s golf team is a great way to improve motivation and develop interest in tournament play. § Tournament golf is huge around the world and especially in Northern California. If your young player is interested in tournament golf there are three levels of competition. Beginners should participate in a club at a local course or in junior programs to learn the basics. Next they can test their skills in area golf leagues like Sacramento Area Youth Golf Association and, at the highest level, they may want to be competing in events at statewide or national levels, such as NCPGA or USGA events. § A special note to parents however, just let the kids play golf. A slight push to get them started is great, but too much pressure can tend to burn them out. Juniors will let you know when they become serious. For encouragement, lend a helping hand by transporting them to and from, but give them permission to succeed at their own pace. Junior golf is incredibly popular sport right now for young people. There are plenty of programs to get them involved. Here are some gift suggestions for active juniors on “Santa’s List.” § Golf shoes - They give the support they need for comfortable walking and many companies offer a complete range of sizes. § A new golf bag - A stand bag or new shoulder harness can make it more comfortable to walk when you play. § A pushcart if they can’t carry their bag. These make it easier to trek clubs around the course. § Head covers of animals or covers that support their favorite sports team. § A membership to a junior golf program is a gift that gives all year. I hope that ya’ll have a very happy holiday season and are able to share golf with someone you care for. I would also like to share a special prayer for our troops overseas, because their courage and sacrifice allows us the opportunity to enjoy our way of life and this great game of golf. Warmest Christmas wishes to each and every one of you! Shawn Kelly is a PGA professional at The Ridge Golf Club. He can be reached for questions or lessons at (530) 888-PUTT.