THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW (BUT SHOULD) WHEN GETTING JUNIOR CLUBS

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend a U.S. Kids Golf Instructor Certification Seminar, and I came away with vital information that NEEDS to be shared with everyone.

In recent years, the importance of club fitting for adults – no matter the experience level – has come to the forefront of golf technology.  However, when it comes time to get clubs for the kids, we are still in the dark ages.  Many parents or grandparents will just pull out an old set and cut them down to size, and then stick adult grips on the shafts and expect the kids to swing like Rory McIlroy.

Although the intentions were good, nothing could be more damaging than providing ill-fitting clubs to the kids, ones that are too heavy, too stiff, or both.  When the tools become too difficult to handle, the game becomes too difficult to learn, and, guess what?  The kids hate golf because it isn’t fun to learn and play. 

When cutting down your old set of irons/woods, you are shortening the clubs to ‘proper length,’ but you are NOT reducing the ratio of head weight to total weight of the club.  In essence, the head is still “x” ounces, while the shaft weight has been reduced significantly. In addition, the shafts are getting STIFFER as you cut them.  Ever try snapping chopsticks into two pieces?  Keep going, and you get to a point where you cannot break it anymore because it is “too stiff.”  An adult grip for a child’s hands essentially slows the wrist-and-hand release in the golf swing. 

You are now asking your child to swing the equivalent of a sledgehammer. 

Many parents whose children are more experienced golfers, or over the age of 12, have gotten their kids fitted for ADULT equipment.  That is a wonderful step to take in the evolution of your young pro, but you must remember: while the fitting matches the clubs’ SIZES and FLEXES to your child, it does NOT take into consideration the WEIGHT of the clubs, NOR that your child is still DEVELOPING and GROWING.  Inherent in club fitting is that the golfer (adult) is not going to grow any more.*   Children between the ages 2-to-11 years old grow an average of 2.5-to-3 inches a year.[1]  Your son/daughter’s swing speed may be 78 mph today, and 98 mph two months from now. 

Clubs that are poorly fitted to the junior golfer inhibit developing a natural and proper swing plane, increasing swing speed, and improving balance.  They can also lead to injury and growth issues later on, such as scoliosis.

 

On the left, you can see 12-year old Max Popper sway his hips to his right, while his left foot and knee roll inward.  This is all the result of swinging an iron that is too heavy for him.  In the right picture, Max is swinging a U.S. Kids Golf Tour Series iron that has been properly fitted to his swing.  This is literally his first swing with the iron, just out of the box! You can see the instant improvement in balance.

In the finish position, the picture tells very little.  However, I can tell you that several factors took place here.  On the left, Max was constantly grunting due to the effort he had to put into each swing he took.  In addition, he would complain of back pain.  NO child should be experiencing back pain issues at this age!

In the picture on the right, Max is just watching the ball fly out onto the range.  He can hold the position effortlessly.  Other benefits are that Max can swing faster (launch monitor noted a swing speed increase of 4 mph!) with a higher ball flight, no loss of distance, but a GAIN of accuracy and consistency.

Finally, kids should grow out of the clubs, not grow into them.  You are going to have purchase more than one set of clubs for your kids as they grow, just like clothes and sneakers.  However, unlike clothing, where we all would buy one size UP and allow our kids to grow INTO them, clubs should be grown OUT of.  If the equipment is too long, yes, your child can choke up.  But remember that the club is weighted for an older, stronger child, so it will still feel heavy.  Light weight clubs help develop swing speed, power, and a correct swing plane, all with very little effort. 

In a prior article I wrote about the best junior clubs on the market. Make sure you get golf equipment that matches your child’s HEIGHT, not AGE! Many companies put out 3-4 sizes and try to fit children into age groups.  As we all know, one 10 year old (4’ 10”) is not the same as another 10 year old (5’6”).  I also measured the weight of a junior driver from two companies, Maxfli (351 g.) and Walter Hagen (356 g.), and the drivers weighed almost as much as mine (358 g.)!

* Adults may go through swing changes via lessons or fitness


[1] http://www.growmetry.com; Titleist Performance Institute; U.S. Kids Golf Foundation

Published by JamesHongGolf

A career spanning over two decades, James Hong has been recognized as one of the premiere golf instructors and performance coaches in the world. Currently the Director of Instruction at Harbor Links Golf Course in Port Washington, New York, James works with golfers of all ages and skill level. Accolades and certifications: - 2017-2020 Golf Digest Top Teachers in State (NY) - 2014-2019 GRAA Top 50 Growth of the Game Teaching Professionals - 2012 U.S. Kids Golf Lifetime Master Teacher - 2009-2011 U.S. Kids Golf Top 50 Teacher - Titleist Performance Institute * Level 1 Professional * Level 2 – Junior Coaching; Advanced Performance Coaching - Bioswing Dynamics Level 2 Instructor (Mike Adams and E.A. Tischler) - Certified Coaching Alliance (Dr. Rick Jensen and Henry Brunton) - Aimpoint Express (Mark Sweeney) Level 1 Instructor - Flatstick Academy (David Orr) Level 1 Instructor - U.S. Kids Golf Certified Instructor - Lynn Blake Certified Instructor - Stack & Tilt Network Instructor - Kwon 3D Biomechanics Level 1 Podcast & Radio Appearances: • “How’s My Hand Path?” w/Shauheen Nakhjavani • “On The Mark” w/Mark Immelman • “Golf Guru Show”w/Jason Sutton • “On the Virg” w/Virgil Herring • “Junior Golf Blue Print” w/Matthew Walter • “Those Weekend Golf Guys” w/Jeff Smith • “On Par” w/Anthony Scorcia Featured in November, 2016, GOLF DIGEST, “How To Raise A Golfer.”

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