Golf Psychology: Giving our youngladies the edge.

By Mark Fairbank – BSI’s Mental Coach and Head of Golf Performance

I am not only writing this as a Mental Coach who is working with the best female professionals and amateurs in South Africa and Africa, but also as a dad to two young girls. The development of women’s golf in South Africa is, at this point in time, up to all the dads out there.

Historically, dads tend to be the parent who pushes their children towards sport, takes them to events and buys them their first set of clubs.

South African dads are great at getting their children into sport at a really young age and boasting about how far their three year old can hit the ball. With the majority of the successful women and girls that I am working with, their father is the one who is behind them pushing, caddying and taking them to events. Moms tend to be more concerned that they have sun-cream on, water bottles full and with lots of food packed, with little emphasis on their child’s actual performance.

Dads are always more competitive and focus heavier on end result, however we tend to introduce our young boys into sport early, push them to be competitive and drive them to make it their profession more than we do with our girls.

Developing our young ladies to take golf to the next level.

South African women are extremely talented and there is currently an abundance of amateur girls coming through the ranks that can follow in the footsteps of Ashleigh Buhai, however results on the big stages is far less impressive than the men.

One key factor that I have picked up working in the industry, is that girls are pushed towards multiple sports and sports in general much less or much later than boys. Golf is a multi-faceted sport that requires ball striking, athleticism, feel, touch, visualization, decision making and excellent hand eye co-ordination, these are all skills that are learned through playing multiple sports.

Sports like soccer, hockey, tennis and cricket are massive contributors to success in Golf. Players who have grown up playing all of these sports, among others of the abundance of sports offered at South African schools, are able to learn golf much quicker and have more of the feel, skill and imagination to get the ball around an unpredictable golf course.

The current crop of professional ladies that are doing well around the world from South Africa, the likes of Lejan Lewthwaite who is a multiple Sunshine Ladies Tour winner and won on the Ladies European Tour Access Series last year as well as Casandra Alexander who has also won several times on the Sunshine Ladies Tour and two team events on the Ladies European tour, are both exceptional at multiple sporting codes and represented their province or country in other sports during their youth.

The current South African Women’s Amateur Match Play Champion, Gia Raad, has had to recently make a decision between Hockey and Golf, both of which she was playing at a high level. It is significantly easier to make changes and improvements to these ladies games during sessions due to their good hand eye co-ordination and physical literacy they’ve developed by playing multiple sports at a young age.

As moms and dads, we must get our girls into sport at a really young age, whatever the sport is, as long as they are kicking, hitting, throwing, catching, running and jumping they will develop the skills needed to become a high level golfer.

It is not traditionally our daughters that we take out and push into these sports when they are toddlers, but we need to start doing it much more if we want to grow the women’s game and over-take the men with regards to major winners and top ranked players.
For some girls, taking up the game at five or six years old is the first time they’ve been pushed into a sport or really taken it seriously, while dad’s will often put a ball or golf club in a new born baby boy’s hands, as parents let’s get our girls active, let’s get them playing every sport imaginable and, with the immense talent that our South African women have, we will produce multiple Major Champions.