When it comes to sports for kids, golf is not the first thing one would think of.
Contrary to popular belief golf is not purely a game for adults.
In fact, and like any other sport, golf teaches dedication, hard work, team work and is a good form of outdoor exercise.
This is the objective of HSBC Future Falcons – the junior golf programme aimed to inspire youngsters to take up and excel in the sport.
Leading the charge is Tom Wraight, the ex-pro turned coach who’s now imparting his knowledge of the game to budding golfers here in the UAE.
We chat with coach Tom to find out more about the programme and the challenges of teaching kids the game…
Can you tell us more about HSBC Future Falcons?
HSBC Future Falcons initiative is the youth golf programme under the umbrella of the annual Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA and the Abu Dhabi Sports Council to promote junior golf and unearth future stars within Abu Dhabi.
Since 2017 the programme has introduced golf to over 10,000 to the nations capital.
The inspiring programme focuses on the fundamental components of golf – the swing, chip and putt – to provide a fun and competitive introduction to the sport.
The programme makes the sport more accessible and affordable to its residents with all events being free of cost whilst having a relaxed playing attire to help combat the common stereotype of golf in general.
What’s the objective behind this initiative?
To increase entry level points for juniors to experience golf in a positive and enjoyable environment; allowing them to continue playing by providing them with greater opportunities and pathways for development and lifelong involvement.
Getting children active is important because it is an integral component of a healthy lifestyle.
Golf provides an opportunity to develop physical, social and emotional abilities and therefore we strive to make this both accessible and affordable to all.
A wide variety of skills and abilities developed in golf provides positive social aspects such as community pride, identity, and leisure, it is therefore important that juniors are provided with a simple and fun introduction to the game.
Can you please give us a bit of background about yourself?
I took up the game relatively late at the age of 17 but I soon caught the golfing bug and managed to turn pro by the time I was 20.
In 2012 I moved to the UAE to take up the position of Teaching Professional at Abu Dhabi City Golf Club.
It was here I was able to develop my passion for junior golf by running their junior programme, which consisted of over 200 students.
In 2017 I joined the HSBC Future Falcons team and absolutely love every minute of it.
What attracted you to golf?
My grandad had a huge influence on me taking up the game, he was the club secretary at my local golf club and a very good golfer himself.
As a teacher, how do you make golf interesting to children?
We have to try and make it fun, I like to integrate the skills learnt and put them in to fun games such as golf rounders and battleships.
What are the common challenges of teaching kids golf fundamentals?
The golf swing can be very technical to teach so we have to try and simplify it for the kids to learn.
A simple method used is for them to associate different type of swing to different letter of the alphabet.
Once they have learnt the L and Y swing they would be able to complete a golf hole.
Is it easier for kids to learn the sport than adults? Why?
It’s certainly easier for kids to learn the sport as they will have less muscle memory ingrained than adults.
Whether that’s from years of playing the game with a bad technique or from time playing others sports, which may have an impact on their golf swing.
The key however is to have lessons early on to help reduce bad habits which may form and are difficult to overcome later on in life.
How do you usually conduct the classes?
The majority of lessons we conduct are with a large group of around 25/30 kids.
To avoid kids standing around waiting getting bored we set up various stations for them to practice different skills as well as adding lots of team games to provide a fun competitive side to the sessions.
Is golf popular among the young people here?
Golf is indeed growing among the young here in Abu Dhabi and is evident from the programmes numbers over the last couple of years.
Since September, the programme has seen a 30 per cent increase in participation with a huge increase of golfers under the age of six beginning to learn the game.
Do you envision one of your students becoming a top golfer someday?
We have some extremely talented golfers within the programme who have the potential to make the professional circuit one day but a lot will come down to the drive and determination of the individual to make it that far.
What does it takes to be a good golfer?
They say golf is 90 percent mental and 10 percent technical and I’d certainly have to agree with that.
Advise to kids who are want to play the sport?
Come along to one of our sessions and you will soon realise golf isn’t boring and just for old men but actually extremely fun and dare I say it ‘pretty cool’. Visit: www.facebook.com/futurefalconsAD