Five is too young for kids to be starting golf, says Lee Westwood

Lee Westwood, who won the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on Sunday, is now aiming to complete a desert double in this week's Omega Dubai Desert Classic
Lee Westwood, who won the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on Sunday, is now aiming to complete a desert double in this week's Omega Dubai Desert Classic
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Lee Westwood, who is still going strong at 46, reckons it is too early for budding golf stars to be picking up a club at the age of five.

The Englishman, who won the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on Sunday, made the claim as he prepared to try and make it a desert double in this week's Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

"Without knowing, I was fortunate when I was a kid that I played lots of different sports," said Westwood as he reflected on a largely injury-free career since starting out on the European Tour in 1994.

"I didn't start playing golf at five years of age. I played lots of different sports, rugby, football, cricket. I was a good runner. And all those kind of give me a base, a physical base to work from. I was just a strong lad growing up and pretty fit. Then I started playing golf at 14.

"I do sometimes worry about these kids who start playing golf at the age of five now, because golf, you're bending over, you curve your spine that way, you rotate, as well. It's not the ideal movement for a six or seven-year-old kid."

Asked if he thought five was too young to be starting in the game, the 25-time European Tour winner replied: "Yeah, it probably is. Mentally, you're not ready for golf at that kind of age.

"It's a pretty draining sport mentally. Certainly looking at my son (Sam), if he'd taken it up at a young age, he wouldn't have enjoyed the game as much as he's enjoying it now. He just started at 13-14 years of age, which I did."

Westwood's weekend win saw him taste success across four decades on the European Tour, joining Des Smyth and Mark McNulty as the only players to have achieved that feat.

"I've been lucky with injuries," he admitted, "but I've also done the work when it's needed, going to the gym in my late 20s. I probably should have gotten there earlier, but just didn't switch on quick enough.

"So I got in the gym around my 30s which coincided with getting to No 1 in the world and I did a lot of hard work with Steve McGregor from 2006-ish to 2012, which is going to be a good foundation. I'm back working with him again."

As a result of that, Westwood is an impressive specimen physically these days, which is also down to having a better diet than when he started out as a professional.

"I just spoke to Helen, my fiancée," he said. "She'd tell that you my diet could be better, and there's times when I drink a little bit too much.

"But, over the years, I've worked out a lot and I'm very fortunate to play practice rounds with people like Greg Norman and Nick Price, Nick Faldo in the early years and Gary Player and just obviously impressed upon me working out.

"I don't so much need to be skinny, but I've always concentrated on maintaining the areas of my body that take a battering, knees, back, shoulders.

"I've done a lot of exercise over the years on them to try and prevent injury, really, rather than getting an injury and then having to fix it. I've only really been out once and that was when I tore a calf muscle, basically."

Westwood had vowed to "Dry January" but that went out of the window following his impressive victory in the opening Rolex Series event of the 2020 season on Sunday.

On waking up on Monday morning with a raging hangover, he said: "I think because I had not had a drink for nearly two weeks, it affected me really quickly. So I was a really cheap date for somebody, after about four beers, I felt I was flying.

"I just went to the sports bar and watched Liverpool beat Man-United with Thomas Björn, so he was pleased.

"A few beers, a few pints of Guinness. Went back around 3.00 for a chicken shawarma some chips, watching the 49ers. It was a perfect day, really, round of golf and watching the 49ers get into the Super Bowl."