I gave my six month old daughter a golf club and a ball to play with, but all she would use it for was to try and stuff it in her mouth. I would say that generally the best age for a child to begin playing golf would be the time when he/she can stand securely on the feet while swinging a stick (don’t even think about your one-iron yet!). That would be around 2 1/2 years of age or thereabouts. That would also be the age when you can get the child’s attention as kids will try out everything the parents do.
How to get them started
To try and teach a three-year old the difference between a “slice” and a “hook” would almost be like Einstein trying to teach you the relativity theory. The main focus is for the kid to have fun. If you are too strict you will most likely spoil their interest.
For starters, get a toy golf set from your neighborhood toy store, they go for less than $15.00. For older kids, invest not more than $50.00 for a used kids set of usually three pieces: small (7-) iron, small (7-) wood and putter. Buy them according to the size of your kid, and don’t buy them if they don’t fit.
Take your kid(s) to a grassy area (park, playground etc.) and bring a large empty tin (or something like this). The tin will be the hole – don’t dig a hole, you may get into serious trouble with the authorities! Just put the tin onto the grass and explain to your kids that the goal will be to ‘bang’ the tin with the ball. If you use an object too small kids will have it too difficult to hit it and loose interest. Also, don’t use golf balls yet. Screaming “FORE” on a playground will not save you from any law suits if your kids hit somebody unconscious.
Now take to your kids some distance away from the tin. For a three-year old not more than 25 m, for a seven-year old not more than 120m. If too far they need too many shots and again loose interest. To your older kid you can probably explain some basics of hitting. A small kid will probably just hit the ball, run after it, hit it again, run after it and so on, until the ball bangs the tin (sounds a bit like my own game, too). Slowly explain some of the basic rules, in particular course etiquette. Tell the kids they cannot run amok at the club house (although I’ve seen plenty of that). Make the whole thing a family outing, but don’t start any competition yet.
Take them to the course
Once the kids get a hang of it and still like it, take them to your golf course (check with your course first, some may not allow kids. If so, write a nasty letter to the management!). Under close supervision, let them play on the putting green and take them to the range. There you can teach them the basics like proper stand and so on, you know the drills. One day when there’s not much crowd, take the kids for a nine hole game. Put up their own T-box close enough to the green so they don’t get frustrated. Even a nine year old will give up on a 560m par five. Let them T- off at 100 to 150 m from the green. They can at this point also learn on how to keep a score card.
The most important thing is: Keep it fun, and don’t ask your kid to wager his/her pocket money on a game.