3 Tips If You Are Caddying For Your Junior Golfer

What Every Parent Needs to Know to Caddy for Junior Golfers

As a parent, the happiest times of our day, week or year is when we get to spend quality time with our children. The problem is that when life gets in the way, it gets harder and harder to find time to do this. Fortunately, the game of golf provides a perfect opportunity for us to spend one-on-one time with our child on the golf course as a caddy.  

For those new to golf and not familiar with the term caddy, it is a person who assists a player during a round of golf. In junior golf events around the world, most of the time it is the parents who caddy for their children.  

In caddying for my own kids over the years, it has been an experience much different than other youth sports and activities that they participated in such as baseball, basketball, soccer, karate, swimming, gymnastics, dance or playing an instrument.  

As a caddy, you are on the playing field (golf course) with your child. It would be a bit odd to see a Dad dancing next to his daughter while she was performing a dance routine, or a Mom running the base paths with her 10-year-old in a baseball game or swimming in the pool lane with your child while they are competing at the swim meet.  

But in golf, if you are caddying, you’re walking side by side with your child the entire time. You have an up-close ticket to the event. Being that close to the action means you have greater influence during the event, which makes it very important that you say and do things that help your player and not to accidentally discourage your child.  

Granted, I’ve made plenty of mistakes myself when caddying over the years! I’ve said the wrong thing at the wrong time when caddying for my son that made the situation worse rather than better. I’ve watched other parents say and do things that have caused kids to quit the game of golf. I don’t want you to make the same mistakes and go through that experience!

After seeing and doing the wrong things as a caddy, I’ve learned some great lessons. As a parent, I am going to ask you to take your PARENT hat off when you caddy and put your CADDY hat on. If you need to, create a physical trigger to help you make the mindset switch. I’ve seen some parents literally do this by wearing a specific blue hat to caddy. They have told me that when they put the blue hat on, that signals to them that they are a Caddy for the round, not the Parent.

We could probably write an entire book on this subject! But here are 3 tips to get you started:

1 - Leave YOUR expectations at home 

Nothing will ruin an experience for a junior golfer faster than a parent taking ownership of the activity and imposing their expectations on the child. Please don’t live vicariously through your child, let them own their experience!

For some of our players, they are still learning how to write legibly. Yes, they are still learning how to write! To expect them to consistently perform a skill such as putting at a level of a professional golfer on TV or an adult is unrealistic.

They don’t have the fine motor skills yet. Instead of expecting them to 2 or 3-putt (YOUR EXPECTATION), know that they will most likely 3-putt and sometimes take more putts (4, 5 or 6+ putts) to get it in the hole. Remember, they are using the same size golf ball as the adults/professionals and the same size golf hole. With that in mind, it may help you to be more encouraging and supportive when they do have a tough hole or round.  It’s normal and part of the improvement process.

If you learn only ONE thing from this article:

YOUR REACTION AFTER EACH SHOT, HOLE, AND ROUND HAS A MASSIVE IMPACT ON THE LEVEL OF ENJOYMENT YOU AND YOUR CHILD WILL EXPERIENCE.

Please know that all of us as parents need to constantly be working on how we are going to react. It’s not easy, but just like actors in a movie or play, we need to plan out how we are going to react. If we don’t, our instincts as PARENTS will take over and sometimes that doesn’t lead to the healthiest experience during a sporting event.  

With that in mind…

2 - Don’t say anything 

If they hit a good shot or hit a poor shot, make it a priority for you to have a similar reaction. That reaction should be very minimal both verbally and physically. If you have a huge celebration for a good shot, what will the player think when they hit a poor shot?  

They will think they have let you down. Letting down your parents is one of the strongest negative emotions a child can feel. They want to avoid this at all costs.  If they think they let you down, this starts a spiral of emotions that usually ends up with a player getting nervous, anxious and not being able to recover emotionally.  

PRO TIP: I make it a game when I am caddying for my son to see if I can react the same way on all shots.  Whether he hits a great drive that sails down the middle of the fairway or hits one that clanks around in the trees, I react the same way. I pick up the bag, start walking to the next shot and if he wants to talk about the shot he is going to be the one to bring it up, not me. Is it easy to say nothing and have minimal physical reactions to shots? No, if it was easy everyone would do it. You never get too high and you never get too low.  

3 - “I love to watch you play”

I highly recommend you say this prior to and after each round with your child. Here is how my conversation with my son goes when we are walking to the 1st tee now, “I want you to know that no matter what happens today, both good and bad, I am still going to support you and love you. I love being here with you and watching you play.”

Once you say that to your child, you can see the shoulders relax and a burden lifted from them. In their minds, they think they have to be perfect to get our approval as parents. However, when you frame it to them that no matter what happens today, I will still love and support you, they can relax and enjoy the day more.  

They put enough pressure on themselves to perform well in front of the other players, parents, and coaches that they don’t need added pressure from their own parents.  

Pro Tip:  You don’t have to play golf or even know how to play golf to be a successful caddy. Some of the best caddies we have observed over the years, don’t play golf at all. Since they don’t play golf, they focus solely on encouraging and supporting their child and that ends up being much more effective than a caddy telling the child what club to hit and what shots they didn’t hit well. More on that later...

Now It Is Your Turn

Caddying is not easy. You will make mistakes and say or do things that you regret. We all do. You will notice other caddies doing some things that might not be the most productive for the child. Commit to always learning and improving and in no time you will create an environment that your child looks forward to every time you Caddy.  

If you enroll your child in an Operation 36 golf program you will have the opportunity to caddy for them in the local 9-hole matches that are run at your facility on a regular basis. Operation 36 is specifically designed to introduce and progress beginners in playing the game of golf. Your child will be encouraged to play right away and it would be great if you were ready to jump right in and help Caddy. Use the above tips to get you started and lean on your Operation 36 coach for additional tips and advice to enjoy this wonderful journey alongside your child.  

Additional articles to assist and equip parents:

http://www.thepostgame.com/blog/more-family-fun/201202/what-makes-nightmare-sports-parent

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/six-words-you-should-say-today_b_3863643

https://isport360.com/all-you-have-to-say-i-love-to-watch-you-play/

https://changingthegameproject.com/the-ride-home-after-the-game/

Parents - It’s Time For A Change

As parents, we want activities that our kids participate in, to be fun and challenging. Our hope is that the environment will motivate them to develop a strong work ethic to want to improve their skills.  

How exciting would it be for us as parents to come home after a long day of work and see our kids practicing an activity in the backyard?  Or what if they asked you to take them to the field to practice after dinner and on the weekends? You see the excitement in their eyes as they work diligently to improve.  If you're like most parents, you would do anything and everything to help support them in this activity.  

The PROBLEM is so many activities have kids standing in line, sitting on the bench and not having a clear plan of what they can do to improve. 

 They are so boring that our kids aren’t even motivated to reach for goals. 

They get in the car after the activity and ask us if they can quit and do something else.  We, as parents feel helpless as we bounce from one activity to another hoping that one sticks and it will be our ticket to keeping them off the TV and devices.  After a while, we give up and just let them stare at the devices for hours on end. Is it even worth the fight?

YES, it’s worth the fight!  It’s your kids!

You need a program that is specifically designed to be fun, challenging and in an environment that will motivate your child.  

How about a program that has a proven track record of helping kids that have never played golf before? A program that takes complete beginners and turns them into highly motivated golfers that are laser-focused on improving?

The solution is getting your kids involved in an Operation 36 golf program.  We have spent the last decade trying to create something that was fun, challenging and had an environment that would motivate and eventually engage kids to want to improve at playing the game of golf.  It took us 10 years of trial and error to get all the pieces in place to help parents, players and coaches deliver an awesome experience day in and day out.  

We hear stories every day of motivated players who are having fun and challenging themselves to improve using Operation 36.  Players who started out as complete beginners who have used the Operation 36 program to help guide them on the path to learning and improving at playing the game of golf.  

Some players who have improved by 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 and some by as many as 100 strokes in their Operation 36 journey.  Truly incredible stories of perseverance and hard work.  

It is easy to get your child involved in an Operation 36 program. Simply:

  1. Go to Operation36.golf
  2. Find a program near you
  3. Enroll in program

We highly recommend that you don’t purchase any equipment, clothing or gear until you meet with your Operation 36 Coach.  They can share with you what is needed, direct you to where the best place to purchase these items are and make you aware of any equipment sharing programs they have.

What does Success Look Like?

Imagine coming home after a hard day of work to see your child practicing golf in the backyard.  How satisfying would that feel? You get that warm feeling that they are engaged in something they enjoy doing and are working hard to improve.  

That decision you made a few months ago to enroll them in an Operation 36 program has been fantastic as they are now laser-focused on what they need to work on and improve to beat 36 on the golf course.  

As a parent, you have access to the curriculum in the Operation 36 mobile app so you can watch the lessons with your child to learn together.  On weekends you are caddying for your child in the Operation 36 match and it’s such a great environment for them to learn.  

Your child started out at 25 yards away and saw some immediate success in their first-round on the course.  They made a couple of pars and it has now motivated them to try to improve enough that they can shoot 36 or better for all 9 holes.  You're at peace knowing that the game will gradually get more challenging as they improve, it won’t be as frustrating and daunting as it was for you when you learned to play.

How much fun is this? 

In these Operation 36 matches, you meet new families and start to forge friendships with a common interest in the game of golf.  Since the 9-hole matches are played at your local golf course and are run quite often, you see the same parents and players each week and you find yourself cheering for the other players to try to beat 36.  Some matches end in success when they beat 36 or shoot a personal best, while others end with knowing they need to practice more to improve. What a great learning environment for the entire family!

We don’t want you to be frustrated as a parent anymore.  We don’t want you to have to keep trying a different activity or program every semester in hopes that your child will have fun, enjoy the challenge and be motivated to improve.  

We want you to be excited about your child's activities.  We want you to be involved in the process with them. We want you to know that they are enrolled in a program that gets them outside, interacting with others, experiencing success, experiencing failure and learning how to persevere.  

Enroll in an Operation 36 program today!

What Is Operation 36?