Small clubs, big impact
Knowing how to choose the right clubs for your kids can make all the difference
Ted McIntyre - originally published in Golf Canada magazine
Published on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012 11:25AM EDT Last updated on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012 11:34AM EDT
Today’s parents can’t be faulted if visions of their kids’ latest shoes, hockey skates, and $100 jeans are called to mind as they mull over golf clubs for the little ones.
“Can’t I just buy the next size up and have them grow into them? I mean, Seve Ballesteros used a cut-down 3-iron to whack golf balls around a beach when he was seven, for crying out loud!
If it was good enough for most of the greatest players who ever lived, why not my kid too?”
One problem with that mentality is that today’s youth have somewhat shorter attention spans than previous generations.
If the game does not come easily and with great success, then, chances are, they’ll find something else to do within about five minutes.
“I guess when you’re talking dollars and cents, the most economical way to see if the child will like golf is to cut down some clubs. However, the weight can be a big issue,” cautions Richard Sweeting, a PGA of Canada Class ‘A’ professional and technical consultant for Callaway Golf. “With the technology of lighter clubs, there is a greater opportunity for kids to enjoy swinging something they can control, rather than the heavier club controlling them. I fi nd kids are far more likely to stop playing golf because they aren’t seeing any results, and that’s mostly because they aren’t able to make good contact.”
If you’re testing the waters, most experts suggest starting your child with a wedge and a putter, then add a 7-iron, hybrids, and drivers as they develop. Yes, it’s great to start honing that short game early, but, more importantly, children like to launch the ball in the air, and a wedge or 9-iron will best produce the results that they’re looking for – even if they’re just knocking a practice golf ball or tennis ball around the yard.
“For the more athletic kids, I introduce light graphite (A-flex) and use a shorter length for control. Occasionally I will use a women’s flex to test for control and length,” notes Sweeting, whose company features eight sets (bags included) for juniors of varying size and age.
While many major manufacturers also provide junior equipment, including Nike, Adams, Wilson, and Ping, the proverbial 600-pound gorilla in the category is U.S. Kids, which offers 10 different pre-packaged junior sets and two kinds of balls tailored to kids between 27 and 63 inches in height. The company recommends the “2/3 Solution” for fitting youngsters – meaning that a beginner to intermediate-level player 51 inches in height should ideally be swinging a 34-inch driver.
While clubs that are too long will often lead to swing flaws, Sweeting doesn’t mind allowing a little room for growth.
“Understanding the age of a child and how much more growing they have left has to be established and explained to parents,” he says. “If a child is very athletic and still growing, going with the slightly heavier shaft and not going too short might make the clubs last longer. You can just have them choke down a couple inches. Depending on the other activities the child is involved in, some grow stronger more quickly. The shafts might be the first thing they grow out of. This is when light steel can be introduced.”
Since youngsters typically cannot generate enough swing speed to notice much of a distance gap between clubs until they’re around 10, most parents can steer clear of full sets until at least that age.
Golf Canada, the country’s newest player in the junior club market concurs. The sport’s national governing body has introduced Golf Canada-branded junior sets of three to five clubs to green-grass shops and its more than 2,000 mobile clinics at the end of June.
“The big companies have some great products for more competitive juniors, but we wanted to make sure there was an introductory set that struck a balance between good quality and a good price point,” says Jeff Thompson, Golf Canada’s chief sport development officer. Almost 18 months in the works, the clubs feature a trio of models, fitting kids according to their height.
The big picture, after all, is just holding a child’s attention, Sweeting advises. “Give them the right tools to play with right away and they will stay interested. Having them fitted at an appropriate age is important, too. Knowing that interest level is half the battle. When a child shows an increased level of interest, it might be a good time to consult a professional fitter.”