A guide for parents, grandparents, aunties, uncles or anyone looking to purchase a child a new set of clubs
by Peter Myers (PGA Professional)
For the benefit of your child’s golf and their enjoyment of the game, it is important to get them something that is suitable.
There are many options on the market these days… but beware! Some are not good for your child’s golf, so before you make a purchase you should carefully consider the following….
1.How many clubs do I really need to buy? There's no need for a 4 or 5-year-old to carry fourteen clubs. The longer clubs are harder to control and can create frustration. My 10-year-old son Billy started when he was 4 with a wedge and a putter and we have added more clubs to his set over time. It is more fun to get the ball in the air so stick to higher lofted clubs like a wedge.
Even when kids venture onto the course, many have such slow swing speeds that 14 clubs become a pointless abundance.
Depending on height and strength, most junior golfers can only swing so hard. You need swing speed to create distance gaps between clubs, distance gaps are usually quite small or unnoticeable with kids.
Therefore, a high lofted driver and a hybrid, which makes it easier to get the ball in the air, a 7-iron, a wedge and a putter are a perfect set. It only makes sense to have 12-14 clubs when they can swing harder and see a distance gap that's larger than five yards between clubs.
2. What is the perfect length? The longer the club length, the more difficult it will be for juniors who are smaller and lighter in weight to swing and hit the ball in the air more often. Clubs that are too long will also lead to a swing that is too flat.
WARNING! Don't buy longer clubs hoping your child will eventually grow into them. Even worse, many kids and their parents equate a longer driver with longer drives. A driver that's longer than two inches below the sternum encourages improper technique and slower hand speed, these early mistakes are tough to correct!
3.What about the weight of the clubs? The heavier the clubs, the harder they will be to swing with any control and make it more difficult to hit the ball solid and up in the air a high percentage of the time. Clubs that are too heavy (often cut off adult clubs) will make them get too “handsy” as they struggle to lift the club. Graphite shafts are the only option for most younger players as they can be made much lighter than steel. We have tested most of the junior clubs on the market and we have found some expensive sets from well-known club manufacturers to be far too heavy, so it is certainly not just about spending a lot of money!
4. Lofts Choose a make with lofts which are weaker than adult clubheads. The smaller and lighter the junior golfer, the more loft should be on the woods. For example, driver loft should be at least 15 degrees. At this stage in a junior’s playing life, golf is all about getting the ball up and hitting it solid the highest percentage of the time so they will like the game and keep working at it.
5. Shaft Flex More flexible shafts are better for juniors but no shaft, no matter how flexible, is going to make the difference between hitting the ball up in the air or not. That’s the job of the swing, the loft and the length being comfortable for the golfer to swing.
Still, it is much better to fit the junior into a more flexible shaft for the simple reason they will learn the feeling of a solid impact much better than if the clubs have a stiffer shaft. Loft, length, total weight and set makeup are far more important for directly assisting the junior to get the ball well up in the air and hit the shot solid.
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Tiger Woods got his first fitting at the tender age of four, and his clubs were rechecked every six months thereafter.
"It was a big part of my job to help Earl keep clubs fit to Tiger," said Rudy Duran, Tiger's first swing coach.
"Earl knew the importance of club fitting, and as a result we worked together to make sure that Tiger had clubs that fit him every year."
Duran paid most attention to length, and also checked shaft flex, grip size and weight.
Nowadays, equipment companies like MKids have taken a lot of the guesswork out by offering pre-packaged junior golf sets that provide higher lofted clubs of appropriate length, weight and grip size.
They are also a lot less expensive than you might think with individual clubs starting at just £22.99 and package sets including a bag from £139.99.