Dylan Mastro, 7, at the PGA Sports Academy for kids.
How early is too early for children to start exercising? "It's never too early," says David Donatucci, director of fitness and performance for the PGA of America and co-creator of the PGA Sports Academy for kids. Swinging a golf club correctly requires strength, flexibility and body control. Without these things, a child can ingrain poor movement patterns. Donatucci believes children who lack physical strength often get overpowered by the weight and force of a swing. "If kids are physically unable to rotate, to stabilize themselves, to stay in posture, they're going to have trouble with their swings," he says.
Donatucci recommends getting kids involved in a fitness program that helps them master "fundamental movements," not just for golf, but for any athletic activity. Simple tasks such as running, jumping and throwing are a good start. But make sure to keep it fun.
Tossing a beanbag to a target improves distance control and depth perception, for example, and playing soccer or running relay races with friends improves coordination under duress. Although it depends on the child's maturity and physical development, Donatucci suggests that kids, ages 9 to 12, begin a structured strength-training program. Spending 20 minutes in the gym doing simple exercises, such as planks (strengthens the abdomen) and squats (strengthens the hips and glutes) will help establish a strong base for a good golf swing. For kids younger than 9, a light introduction to strength training with simple athletic activities can improve their golf swings. Doing push-ups on their knees and jumping over short hurdles are two options.
Says Donatucci: "The longer you wait to get a child into exercising, the harder it becomes to teach that child how to make a good golf swing."