This week’s Q&A features the man behind the Little Golfers Academy, Andy Little. Andy is a recognized US Kids Golf World Top 50 coach and currently number 1 in England for coaching children.
We spoke with Andy, based out of Surbiton Golf Studio, to discuss all things junior golf.
Tell us about yourself
So I’m Andy, known for my crazy trousers and enthusiastic style of coaching. I have been a professional now for 20 years. In that time I have ran teaching academies and for the last 12 years ran Little Golfers which is purely based on junior golf.
How did you first get into golf?
My brother and Dad played, so at a very young age of 2 I had a plastic golf club in my hand and the rest is history.
What’s your first golfing memory?
Always remember going to a driving range on our way to see my Nan. There was a ditch running across the range at about 50 yards and it was always my mission to clear the ditch! I must have only been 4 or 5, I guess.
You founded the Little Golfers Academy back in 2008. How has this developed and what are your plans?
Little Golfers first started out as school based coaching. Working in schools and delivering after school clubs etc. in the school environment. When I started, there was a lot of funding around before the London Olympic Games. This allowed me to get into schools and coach hundreds of children. When the funding ran out, Little Golfers moved into the golf course environment again. We spent 5 years at Sandown Park, building an academy up from nothing, to well over 100 per week.
The plan now, since moving to an indoor studio with outdoor facilities as well. Is to create the biggest junior academy in the county and to continue to grow the game and offer it to as many local children as possible!
“Keep it FUN! Plain and simple… Let the child come to golf rather than making them play.”
How has COVID-19 impacted coaching this year and how have you adapted?
Of course, it effected everyone. But, I haven’t let the situation beat me. And just managed it!
During the first lockdown, especially to keep myself busy and to keep the kids engaged with golf. I filmed a number of golf games from my lounge and put up on YouTube as well as offering my juniors free zoom call lessons. This was great to keep in contact with them and give them something positive to do whilst at home!
In between lockdowns, my coaching has never been busier. This has really helped that children weren’t at school. I was able to run junior groups during the day, a bit like their PE lesson for the day, getting them out in the fresh air, having some fun. One thing I would add, is how grateful I am to the parents. There has been such a wonderful community between everyone and everyone is just so happy to be able to play some golf.
What advice would you give to parents who whose children have just shown an interest in golf?
Keep it FUN plain and simple! If it’s not fun they won’t enjoy it and will likely give up the sport… Don’t force it. Let the child come to golf rather than making them play.
I have a 12 year old son and everyone tells me “he must play golf,” and my answer is, not really. We may play once in a while and then might not play for 6 months. I always let my son want to play, rather than me making him. Golf is always there for him, let your child dictate when they want it.
My other good point is the amount of golf they play. Children’s attention span is roughly one minute of their lives, so if you have a 5 year old, they will stay on task for about 5 minutes. It’s important then to remember, they may only want to hit 20 balls on the range, they may only want to play a couple of holes, that’s fine. Let them. Change what you’re doing and it will reset their attention. Go do some putting on the putting green for example, change it up.
Before a child sees a coach what tips would you give?
Is the coaching games based?
Do they have a friend who may want to join them? It is always great to play with friends.
Is the group based on age or abilities? Personally I prefer to have children in a group based on age, so they can mix with children their own age.
How would you recommend children hone their skills during the winter months?
Create putting games at home. Make the craziest putting course in your house. Can you go from your bedroom to a cup on the floor in the kitchen? How many shots will it take you? Things like that and always FUN!
How do you approach coaching children with different ages and ability levels?
I teach in age groups, because then I can manage the length of time on each game. My groups normally rotate around 5 to 6 different games per lesson. As a result I can tailor the game, depending on their ages. And even within the same group, I can change a game for different abilities. The younger they are, the quicker we move round the games. Older kids can focus longer on a game than young kids, like I’ve mentioned.
How would you assess the level of participation in junior golf at the moment? What can be done to encourage more involvement?
I think it’s good. If I go back to when I was in school, I was the only kid who played golf. Go to a school now and nearly everyone has played some form of golf, even if it’s just crazy golf. The best way to grow the game is to bring golf to kids, sessions in schools allows so many children to experience golf. Golf courses are a lot better these days but still have the stereotype, unwelcoming environment and that’s only because parents are unaware that golf is now a welcoming sport.
What’s the best thing about coaching juniors?
That my name is mentioned 100000000000 times an hour but it’s because every kid, has a story to tell me, every kid wants me to watch them play and every kid wants to tell me about the amazing shot they just played!
Where can we find you?
Little Golfers is based out of Surbiton Golf Studio just outside Kingston, Surrey.
Our social media is @LittleGolfers on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Visit www.littlegolfers.net for more info and if your child ever wants to try golf we always offer a first lesson free.
Andy, thanks so much. Some amazing advice here and it’s amazing to learn about your background, approach and provide so much advice for parents and junior golfers!