Farleigh Golf Club is adding extra energy to its junior golf as it underlines its commitment to developing the next generation.
Under the supervision of PGA professional, Shain Johnson, regular weekend classes are attracting growing numbers, thanks in no small part to the recent initiative to include junior membership for free with all seven-day adult memberships at the popular Surrey club.
And at Farleigh, they certainly start them young with children from the tender age of four and five years old upwards invited to attend the sessions with the emphasis on athleticism and movement, before the more technical aspects of golf are addressed.
Johnson, a former competitor on the Sunshine Tour in his native Zimbabwe, is now a Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) certified coach and holds Golf Level Two and Junior Level Two advanced status with the organisation dedicated to the study of how the human body functions in relation to the golf swing.
He explained: “Junior coaching has changed a lot over the past 10 years or so. It’s gone from just hitting golf balls on the range to performing other exercises and for the kids to grow as an athlete first while learning basic sport skills, although we’re still getting them to swing the club.
“As a coach working with younger kids, you are looking to encourage that explosive power and to enhance speed. Of course, with that approach, you can’t be too worried about where the ball is going – you are just looking to create speed. But you get on to the coordination, sequencing of the swing and the technique a little more as you progress.
“Using TPI, I have a whole programme where I can start teaching kids every week from the age of four up to the age of 17, so it’s quite in-depth. Body development, movement and using those powerful muscles is so vital.”
As a graduate and former player at the University of Pretoria in South Africa, Johnson earned a degree in sport science and has also used that knowledge in a previous role as a gym manager so understands the effects of fitness, strength and conditioning on golf.
But he also knows that some youngsters simply have a natural talent.
He said: “You do get those naturally-talented individuals, who just instantly understand it. I’m working with one young girl who just makes the golf swing look effortless.
“But you also need to learn those skills and motor functions too. It’s like swimming – if they haven’t learnt early, they struggle more when they are older.
“Even as an adult, try throwing a ball with your other hand and see how bad you are at it. It’s not that we can’t do it, it’s just because we have never learnt how to do it properly.”
Aside from expert tuition, the 27-hole venue in Warlingham has everything required to learn those skills with driving range, putting green and short game area to work on all aspects of the game.
Johnson said: “We have everything they need to learn the game. It’s just about getting them to enjoy it and to get them hooked on golf from an early age.”