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This is a perfect time of year to start the game especially for youngsters. Golf clinics at your local club are the best starting point for most. From here you can move on to golf schools, camps, personal instruction and maybe even tournaments.


Getting started

The River Course at Alisal offers a weekly introduction for juniors each Saturday at 11 a.m. taught by their staff. These sessions offer beginners a low-pressure chance to start and get the basics. For the occasional player, this might be all you need. Those in search of playing in junior events will want to progress perhaps to personal lessons. This is where it gets tricky, but here is a good tip: Golf pros seem to fall into two major categories. Technical and Feel oriented. Both can be successful, but I would match them up with your child’s personality. Some teachers rely entirely on video analysis. Others may relate the golf swing to some other athletic move. Less athletically inclined kids can make great golfers with a more technical approach and just the opposite with athletes from other sports.


Camps and schools

Those more serious may want to look into College Golf camp. USC and UCLA both have several each summer. Stanford might well have the best in California, partly because they have their own golf course. Stanford also has its own 12-acre state-of-the-art practice center for the golf team and camp attendees get to use this facility.

Grown-ups in search of a similar experience should check out the offerings at Extraordinary Golf. Fred Shoemaker and his team of instructors have made their way into the top 25 golf schools in the U.S. without any advertising. This is quite remarkable, and their approach is unlike any other. Extraordinary Golf runs most of its schools at Carmel Valley Ranch in the summer and then The Golf Club at Tierra Lago in the winter.


Junior Golf tournaments

There are countless junior events to play in running from U.S. Kids Golf, all the way up to the AJGA. It would be best to go slow and wait until your player is ready for each step. The competition at the top is amazing, with a huge advantage to those who mature early. I was recently at the Future Masters event in Dothan, Ala., and was in awe of what I saw. There were several 12-year-olds approaching 6-feet tall and hitting 270-yard drives. By the time they reach 16-17 years old, they all hit it long and the playing field is much more level.

The Future Masters is a great event and the town really supports the event. Many past winners went on to successful pro careers such as Stewart Cink, who won first in Dothan and later the British Open. The better players here are really focused. Most have parents who are all consumed with their golf career and tournament officials are challenged every year to keep them in line. The event is played over three consecutive rounds and they have multiple age groups.

Junior Golf events often take you to towns with limited hotel options. Try to find the newest properties if possible. Hilton Garden Inn and Hyatt Place are two chains with a lot of new locations and you will be happy at either. Make sure you have realistic expectations and allow the youngster several chances before evaluating his performance. If the results are not what you want, you may want to shake up the instruction plan.


Equipment

Cleveland Golf has come up with a new line of drivers and fairway woods that are ideal for juniors, seniors and women. Their new Launcher Ultra-Lite Technology has made a profound change in the golf world. Most advances in golf technology have been aimed at tour players or those with similar swing speeds.

The rest of the golfers have been left further and further behind those who can swing a club at 115 MPH or more. Finally Cleveland Golf came up with a 39-gram shaft for its woods which has a regular shaft flex. The result is a lot more distance for the slower swing speeds without any loss of accuracy. The junior golfers in my family picked up 20 yards each off the tee and just as much of an increase with the fairway woods. Check out ClevelandGolf.com for further details.