Buying Junior Clubs

Junior golf ain’t what it used to be, and neither are the clubs! Here’s how to pick good clubs for your budding star.

Junior Golf PaintingLike many golfers, I was introduced to the game of golf as a child: I hit “borrowed” range balls around a soccer field with a sawed-off 7-iron. I probably had it a bit easier than most because I got a late start at the age of fifteen. I escaped the harm that can come of starting a seven year-old child out with a cut-down adult club.

Fortunately, today’s world brings us an unheralded variety of junior-sized clubs, bags, and accessories (shoes, hats, etc.). Some manufacturers, like U.S. Kids Golf make nothing but kid-sized clubs. Others, like Ping or Nike, offer junior lines in addition to their standard, adult-sized offerings. How then do you choose the set that’s appropriate for your budding star? Follow along and we’ll walk you through the steps.

Quite clearly, one of the more unique aspects of children is that they’re shorter than most adults. A 36-inch kid can’t wield a 46-inch driver! The trick to finding clubs of the proper length is to pick clubs that a child can grow into. After all, they can grip down a little for now, and move up on the grip as they grow taller. The general rule of thumb: your kid should only have to choke down an inch or two at the most.

Clubs that are too long for junior will cause him difficulty when he tries to swing the club around his body. Clubs that are too short, of course, will force him into poor posture and limit his playing abilities. Get clubs that are an inch or two longer than their current fit and they should last two or even three years.

Grip Size
Put your child’s palm against yours. If it took this demonstration for you to realize that your child’s hand is smaller than yours, you need to spend more time with your children! Smaller hands require smaller grips. This hasn’t always been understood, unfortunately: children playing cut-down clubs would often also play with adult-sized grips. Grips that are too large for the hands holding them decrease wrist action and force changes to the grip, affecting the swing for the worse.

When buying a set of junior clubs, make sure they’ve got junior grips to go with ’em! You shouldn’t have any problem with this from any of the well-known junior clubmakers, but if you’re going a different route (custom clubs, making a set yourself, etc.) then you’ll want junior grips with a core size of 0.50 inches. Thinner grips for smaller hands.

Your kids aren’t as tall as you, nor are they as strong. Heavy clubheads can cause all sorts of problems. Your kid will struggle to take the club away properly, will tire quickly, and will not hit the ball as solidly or as hard as they’re capable. Lightweight clubs allow your future Major-winner to take the club back properly and to get into the proper position to make a simple, easy swing.

Most junior club manufacturers are making light-headed clubs with lightweight shafts. Decreasing the weight of both keeps the relative swingweight constant, allowing your child to graduate up the ladder to adult clubs without feeling much of a difference at each step.

Shaft Flex
Shaft flex is one of those macho things: we all know that “woman’s flex” and “senior flex” are more flexible than “x-stiff” or even “regular” flex. We may not be caught dead with a regular flex shaft, but junior golfers don’t yet know enough or care enough to worry about lame macho hangups. They just like to hit the ball in the air. They like to hit it far too. For juniors, both of these are accomplished with a very flexible shaft.

As your child gets older, her swing speed will increase. Most manufacturers are using very flexible graphite shafts or lightweight steel. They tend to increase the stiffness very slowly as the length of the clubs (and thus the age of the target child) increases. Most junior clubs are so flexible that you can bend them with your hands. We don’t recommend taking your kid to have his launch angle computer monitored, but knowing that a very flexible shaft both increases height and distance for your whippersnapper is a good start.

Go Shopping
Here are some links to help you get started:

  • U.S. Kids Golf makes clubs for children aged three and up and for heights 3’0″ and up with a tried and true gold, silver, green, blue, and red fitting system that also incorporates skill level. Full “sets” for juniors begin at about $100.
  • Cleveland Golf offers a set of “Junior Series” clubs. Built for golfers by age or height, the Cleveland series starts at 36″ and moves on up through three levels.
  • Golfsmith offers a few name brands like “Lynx” and “Golfsmith” as well as Nike and Cleveland sets.
  • Nike offers color-coordinated clubs in “Par Red,” “Birdie Blue,” and “Eagle Silver” series depending on height. They also offer a lot of information and even junior golf balls. Thank Tiger Woods (and some keen marketing sense) for Nike’s involvement in junior golf.
  • LongDog offers three fitting systems – purple, green, and orange – geared towards 3-6, 6-9, and 9-12 year-olds.
  • Ping breaks their fitting system into three parts as well, with “Executive,” “Medalist,” and “Champion” packages available for each.
  • TaylorMade offers the 320K line for junior golfers. Three different sets are available for your rugrats.
  • PowerBilt got into the junior club line recently with three series: Gold, Silver, and Orange. Your kids might really dig the grips and shafts on these clubs! PowerBilt, with PGA Pro Rolla Frisinger, runs the third-largest junior tour program in the country.
  • TourEdge offers the Bazooka series for children aged 5-8 and 9-12.

Go Play!
Getting kids involved in the game of golf is one of the best things you may do for them. No other activity teaches the traits – discipline, patience, hard work, respect, and honesty – like golf. Time spent golfing is time spent in the outdoors, breathing fresh air. Time spent golfing can also be time spent with family and friends.

Welcome your kids to golf, and get them off on the right foot with the equipment help listed above. Come back and tell us how your kids are doing in the game, and as always, keep ’em in the short grass.

(“Junior Golf” painting available at Sadie’s Pots and Paintings.)

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