How to Bring Your Child to the Driving Range
Anyone who has played golf for even just a short period knows that getting better at the game is impossible without practicing.
Many people avoid practice for various reasons such as lack of instruction, weather, not enough time in the day, and so forth. Having children can certainly put a damper on practice as finding time for it becomes that much more difficult. Rare is the partner or spouse who is willing to give up their plans on a Saturday afternoon so that you can spend 3 hours alone hitting balls on a driving range.
Children change every aspect of your life. Often this is for the best; I find that I budget my time better and eat healthier foods now that someone else’s schedule and nutrition is my responsibility.
The flip side of parenthood and golf is that you can’t just waltz off to the range with a bunch of clubs ready to hit balls until your arms fall off or until you find something; whichever comes last. You could ask a friend or family member to pinch hit for you here and there but unless you can reciprocate, that gets old too. Therefore, the best solution is often to bring your children to the driving range with you.
(I find this to be immensely satisfying sometimes; when I show up at the range, with my kid in tow, and me, this short young woman, proceeds to crush it farther than many of the men who happen to not also be managing children at the same time.)
Since bringing your children to the range with you may be the best solution to squeeze in practice once in a while BE PREPARED so that everyone has a pretty good time and the endeavor doesn’t go south. The goal is for you to be able to focus on the task at hand while keeping the children entertained and occupied.
Here’s what I do:
Don’t plan to stay on the range for much more than an hour or so. Children have short attention spans and become bored easily. This makes a luxurious 3-4 hour range session simply impossible. However, with a bit of pre-planning you can get in just as much practice, and better quality, in half the time.
Be specific and plan your practice in advance. Choose what shots you are going to practice before you get there and set goals. For example, planning to spend 45 minutes working on your Driver and then 15 minutes of pitching and chipping with one club will give you purpose and limit your time spent to specific objectives. This makes it more likely for you to get there, start working on something productive right away, and then stay there for your hour. You don’t want to push it to the point where everyone is unhappy. In fact, this is good advice even when you don’t have children with you because practice should always end on a good note.
Bring only a few clubs. Rather than bringing your whole bag, which might tempt you to try to overdo things, just bring the two or three clubs you planned to work on. This will stop you from pushing it too far and ending up with a cranky child who keeps interrupting you. It also reduces what you will need to carry and keep track of. Keep it simple!
Bring children’s clubs. Have a set of clubs for the kids to practice with. Don’t get caught up in over-instructing them (unless that’s what you intended), kids often do best when left to their own devices and simply trying to watch or mimic you. That’s how Phil Mickelson learned; he is a left-handed golfer who is right-handed naturally, because he spent so much time mirroring his father.
Have a golf cart. When they can sit somewhere and play or draw or just get out of the sun once in a while they are better able to entertain themselves rather than running wild all over the practice range. The golf cart serves as “home base” while you work.
Bring toys and games. Give them their own stuff to play with which will give you a better opportunity to focus on what you are doing. Snacks are good too.
Be sure they are well-rested and well-fed. A child who is tired or hungry is simply not going to cooperate with an activity that is solely for you. Try to catch them at their best time of day, such as when they first wake up, and don’t stack too many other activities beforehand. A Sunday afternoon on a long weekend after a birthday party where they loaded up on cake and sugar and have run themselves ragged with the other children is NOT a good time to bring them to the range with you. Playing golf with children is all about compromise and they are willing to give more when they feel good, so don’t stack the deck against yourself.
Make a habit of it. Once your child gets into the routine of going with Mommy to the practice range on Saturday mornings, or whenever, he or she will get used to it and settle in. Don’t overdo it though, in order for this solution to work over the long haul it should be used somewhat sparingly. I recommend no more than 3 days per week for an hour or two each session. A good way to support the routine is to have a habit, like a nice breakfast out beforehand, or special toy they can have while on the course, and it could become something they look forward too.
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