Jack Nicklaus to Youth: Don’t Just Play Golf

Jack Nicklaus to Youth: Don’t Just Play Golf 1
Sergio Garcia and Greg Norman watch Jack Nicklaus tee off.
(Gunnsteinn Jónsson/Flickr)

In a story published yesterday at Golf.com, Jack Nicklaus said that specializing in golf at a young age is idiotic.

“To play all the sports is great,” Jack was quoted as saying. “I played everything. My dad played everything. Golf to me was just another sport until I was about 19. When I won the National Amateur at 19, I finally said, ‘Hmm, I must be a little better than I think I am.’”

Added Nicklaus: “Eventually, if you want to specialize in something, that’s fine. But go out and enjoy, and be happy to be able to play other things.”

The Armchair Golfer

Tomorrow: Interview with Fred Hawkins, who talks about competing with Ben Hogan.

Photo of author
Neil Sagebiel

4 thoughts on “Jack Nicklaus to Youth: Don’t Just Play Golf”

  1. Good advice. The more sports young kids play, the better off they are athletically, as well as from a health perspective. Dabbling in different types of sports helps develop proprioception, or body control in space.

  2. It remains excellent advice, but only for those growing up in Jack’s day. If a player is not now totally committed to the game by the time he’s six or seven, he’s too far behind those who are committed to ever catch up with them. That is the difference. It was a different world then and I think a better world, but it is what it is today.

  3. lancer:

    Actually, that’s not true. Evidence is mounting that committing a kid to one sport at that age has disastrous consequences. Jack’s advice is still true today, and the growing trend happening now is generalization, rather than specialization. (I’m majoring in Sports Management and Exercise Science).

    The specialization trend is on the serious decline now due to studies showing specialization leads to more injuries and lots of early burnout. Plus, “specialized” kids tend to act like robots–get them into athletic situations where they have to make a creative play that wasn’t in a drill in practice–and they don’t react well.

    Nobody is saying that kids can’t have a favorite sport and play it as much as they want (that’s the key). However, it’s good for them to get a break from it and play other sports for a more well-rounded athletic background.

    Othello Hunter currently plays a lot of minutes for the Ohio State mens basketball team. He didn’t start taking basketball seriously until he was a senior in high school. That’s just one successful example I can think of right off the top of my head–and there are many more.

  4. One thing I forgot to mention–this is a favorite subject of mine, so please forgive me–I’m not saying any kid should wait until they’re a senior in high school to specialize. The studies I mentioned earlier are recommending holding off on specialization until after the kids have finished puberty and the epiphyseal growth plates are fully ossified.


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