Yampa Valley Golf Course head pro Bob Mueller helps Jim Neal with his chipping technique Tuesday at the YVGC practice green, while Hayley Whitaker (center) lines up a chip of her own. The PGA Sports Academy led by Mueller is teaching local children the ins and outs of the golf swing and golf etiquette for eight weeks this summer, culminating in a kids' tournament in August.

Photo by Nate Waggenspack

Yampa Valley Golf Course head pro Bob Mueller helps Jim Neal with his chipping technique Tuesday at the YVGC practice green, while Hayley Whitaker (center) lines up a chip of her own. The PGA Sports Academy led by Mueller is teaching local children the ins and outs of the golf swing and golf etiquette for eight weeks this summer, culminating in a kids' tournament in August.

Youth learn how to play at Yampa Valley Golf Course

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Placing the ball within inches of the flag on a chip is a skill golfers of every level will work to perfect for as long as they play, but some Craig kids are getting a good head start this summer.

Chipping and pitching was the lesson of the day Tuesday at the PGA Golf Academy at Yampa Valley Golf Course, the youth golf program going through most of the summer taught by new head pro Bob Mueller. The weekly camp met for the second time Tuesday and continued to extend its swinging motion while moving further away from the pins on the practice green.

“We started with putting last week, this week it’s chipping,” Mueller said. “We’ll keep progressing up to the full swing as the weeks go on.”

Around 30 locals signed up for the program this year, which provides golf etiquette lessons and food for each age group (ages 6 to 8, 9 to 10 and 11 and older) for eight weeks, before culminating in a tournament during the first week of August.

“We’re going to progress through the swing and then let them showcase their talents with a tournament,” Mueller said. “It’s been a good start. All the kids have been into it so far.”

The strategy behind starting on the green and working their way back is to slowly develop the full swing, which will allow them to add a little more power and motion into the techniques they’ve already learned in prior weeks.

“In theory, the best way to learn is by starting out putting, because the full swing is really like a very long putting stroke, obviously with your wrists and hips and everything else getting more involved,” Mueller said. “This way they learn the body control and try to expand the body control.”

Aside from swing work, the golf camp includes games, usually pertaining to other sports, that have an application on the swing work they are doing each week. This week they threw bean bags at a grid of hoops trying to score points, which, aside from adding some variety to hitting golf balls for an hour, gave kids an idea of the limited arm and hip motion they’ll want to use on the short shots from off the green.

The game was a popular one Tuesday, with three teams vying to score the most points in the youngest group of golfers.

“This has been my favorite thing (so far),” said Jim Neal, 8, of the bean bag toss. “It’s fun and you can get better at chipping.”

Later on in the summer kids may be throwing a football or baseball to help them understand the turning of the hips that becomes important on longer golf shots, Mueller said.

“Everything we do will have another sport or another game attached to it to help with the body control,” he said.

Contact Nate Waggenspack at 970-875-1795 or nwaggenspack@craigdailypress.com. Follow him on Twitter at @CDP_Sports.

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