The modern golf game has ranked among the most popular individual sports since at least 1457 in Scotland, and perhaps much longer. Through the centuries, it’s offered people exercise and a way to challenge themselves. Teaching golf to K-14 students gives them a chance to develop their physical skills while also building their mental toughness and focus.
Golf is certainly challenging. But for millions who enjoy playing, the game can build discipline and character while teaching important lessons in etiquette, patience and concentration.
Teaching golf to students offers an opportunity to instill these traits into young people. Traits that will serve them well for a lifetime if they continue to practice and play.
A Short History of One of the World's Oldest Sports
While golf has been around for centuries, the end goal has remained the same. A golfer uses various clubs to hit a ball from a starting position (called the tee), trying to get the ball into a 4 1/2-inch cup on a distant putting green in as few shots as possible. Most courses have 18 holes, although some smaller courses have nine.
The modern game emerged from Scotland in the 15th century. According to the National Library of Scotland, the first written record of golf dates to 1457, when King James II banned the game because it distracted people from learning archery. All males over 12 were supposed to practice archery for military training, but they apparently preferred playing golf.
The ban didn’t last or even work all that well at the time, and golf has endured and grown in popularity. Almost 37 million Americans played some form of golf in 2020.
How Teaching Golf Helps Students
Golf is an individual sport that teaches students to depend on themselves, something all solo sports have in common. Without a team to support a player—or hold them accountable for their play—golfers must find a way to motivate themselves to constantly improve and develop consistency in their game.
Some of the benefits golf offers students include:
- Spending time outdoors, getting good exercise and a healthy dose of vitamin D
- Increasing powers of concentration and focus
- Building character as the golfer learns to trust herself in difficult situations
- Challenging themselves to get better
- Increasing their patience with themselves and others, something essential in golf
- Relaxing outdoors (if the golfer doesn’t take the game too seriously)
- Networking with other players
Golf 101: Rules for Beginners
While the rules of golf can intimidate newcomers, teachers do well to focus on the 10 most important rules to know for beginners. Consider it a kind of Golf 101.
- Clubs. Golfers can carry up to 14 clubs.
- The tee box. Players must start every hole by teeing up the ball within the parameters of the tee box.
- Know your ball. A common error involves playing another person’s ball. Keep track of where your ball is throughout the game by marking them.
- Know the green rules. Once you reach the green and switch to putting, know the rules involved, such as how you can mark your ball and what obstacles you can clear out of the way.
- Play the ball as it lies. One of the main rules of golf is that you must play your ball from wherever it landed on the previous shot. There is no moving it, not even a little.
- Unplayable lies. Golfers can move balls from some positions that are considered unplayable, as defined in the rules of each course.
- Out of bounds. If a ball is hit out of bounds, players must replay from the original position. Players also are assessed a penalty stroke.
- On your own. It’s against the rules to ask for advice other than from a teammate or caddie.
- Strokes. Beginners should understand what constitutes an acceptable stroke and what doesn’t (no spooning or flicking the ball, for example).
- Understand scoring. Know how to score correctly and calculate scores after each hole.
Knowing these basic rules provides beginners a great place to start in learning how to play the game.
How to Swing a Club for Beginners
Teaching the golf swing is one of the important aspects of teaching golf, especially to young students. Beginners typically have all kinds of ideas about swinging a golf club, many of them wrong. Golfweek offers a few tips for teaching a golf swing.
They recommend physically showing the new golfer how to swing, as it is easier to learn from emulating a correct swing rather than just hearing step-by-step directions. Teachers should start by teaching new golfers the proper grip on the club, guiding them through a correct swing. Players should first practice with short swings before moving to longer shots.
For those whose job includes teaching golf to students, Fresno Pacific University offers Teaching Golf. The course prepares educators to teach the game to new players properly. The university also offers courses on teaching individual sports and teaching outdoor team sports.
Fresno Pacific University designed the Teaching Golf course for K-14 teachers who want a foundation in the game. The course, which allows teachers to earn professional development credits, teaches about golf safety, golf strategies to teach in the classroom, how to implement a golf unit into a physical education program and how to instruct golf's fundamental skills and strategies. Another fun way to bring golf into the classroom is through disc golf.