We found shopping for golf clubs to be quite confusing at times. There is so much “information” out there but what felt like no answers. Some folks would be emphatic that using cut down clubs is a bad answer. Others would say to use as long a club as possible. We heard not to use grown up heads as they are too heavy and would tire your kid out, and then we hear heavier is better to teach a smoother tempo. Some would swear by their brand of clubs scaled down for kids, and others have a system that grows with the child golfer; the system grows, not the clubs! Whatever opinion you want you can find.
We had the good fortune to play in a tour with Jack Nicklaus’ grand son. Well to our delight Mr. Nicklaus caddied for his grandson one day. After the round he was very gracious and offered some setup advise to our friend. One thing Mr. Nicklaus said was, “your arms should hang naturally and comfortably when you setup and grip the club.” Well, I figured that advice has to be good (hellooo!) and brought it with us when buying clubs. This way the clubs you buy enable what Mr. Nicklaus likes to see in the setup, a natural comfortable setup. (As a side note I want to say Mr. and Mrs. Nicklaus are soooo nice.)
Where it gets interesting is that “natural” and “comfortable” can be different for different kids. In fact one 42 inch tall eight year old golfer can have a different “natural” and “comfortable” set up than another 42 inch tall eight year old golfer. You can see this in the pros. Some are comfortable bent over more, some are comfortable more upright. Check out Robert Garrigus putting with his 28″ putter! This is the reason fitted clubs are the most effective choice for adults.
Kids golf, fitted clubs???? I dare say many if not most budgets won’t allow for that. Especially because, like sneakers, they won’t fit in three months. So most daddy caddies are faced with finding clubs that fit their child golfer off the shelf. The good news is the selection is as vast as the number of opinions.
Tell your child golfer you’re off to find the right length club; you’re not looking at brand, just length. Take him to a golf store and try everything from the various kids clubs to full size grown up clubs, women’s clubs too. Let him swing and observe which ones fit his natural tendency for setup as Mr. Nicklaus taught us. Your challenge will be to stay on task of determining length and feel, not brand.
At that time for us, our son was playing US Kids Golf orange clubs. They do a great job with kids golf and their equipment is very well known, used, and respected. Now here was our challenge … our son didn’t want “kids” golf clubs. “Mr. Independent”, and I know you have one too, wanted TaylorMade clubs. The US Kids golf clubs are a great and effective choice for many kids. They do a really good job. However, he saw the TaylorMade kids set and just had to have it. Well, we are fortunate to be able to fit them into our budget as they were a little more than the next set of US Kids Golf clubs.
The revelation here was the excitement value. Our child golfer was so excited about those clubs, his TaylorMades were the bomb. That excitement value was worth its weight in gold. He loved to play with them and that was the most important benefit.
I am doing this to share our experience, and I’ve seen it with other kids too. Our son has a pretty athletic build and when we measured his swings speed a the golf store, he was around 75 mph at 8 years old. He also was most comfortable more upright. In fact, attempts to get him to be more over the ball always failed and he always tended to go back to upright.
We had purchased the TaylorMade junior set for the older kids (~11) so they were a good length for his upright preference. The problem was his swing speed. The shafts in the junior golf clubs were too flexible, not stiff enough. You could see them whip, especially in photos. We were having trouble all this time with him being inconsistent with accuracy, could go left, could go right. We attributed the inconsistency to three things: his swing, the length of his club, and the shaft flex.
Unfortunately we only got about 6 months out of the TaylorMade juniors. Our research showed that his swing speed was in the women’s range. We did some trials at the golf store swing some TaylorMade women’s clubs and had great success. Luckily the TaylorMade Ladies clubs were blue at the time, so he was “ok” with getting them, understanding that he needed stiffer shafts than kids clubs and not ready for men’s clubs. We cut down the ladies clubs, but only about 2 inches.
Okay we got about a year out of the TaylorMade Ladies Burner Plus irons, and Burner rescues, and woods. Note that they were still not too short for him. Then, one day, our child golfer asked to swing my clubs. We resisted, telling him they are too long and too stiff. He INSISTED, as if he knew. Well after a fun father-son round he said, “Dad, please let me try your clubs!”
So we went to the range and … he absolutely crushed ’em! Great tempo, long and straight. Nearly every shot. He was grinning from ear to ear. He was just over 9 I believe. So I kissed my men’s Burner Plus’es good bye, gave them to him, and never looked back. His pro watched him swing the clubs and approved. Once again, the excitement factor was off the hook. He was thrilled and proud to be playing grown up clubs. And the school that says swing longer and heavier clubs was happy.
Now this may not be the answer for every kid. The “book” says his clubs are too long and the swing weight (how heavy the club feels to swing) is too high. Well I can tell you the book is wrong, in our case. He crept right up the leader board with the men’s clubs. I can also tell you our son’s swing responded as expected to his coach’s teachings. In other words, the clubs were not a negative factor in his swing, leaving technique to stand alone.
The number one golfer ever can’t be wrong. Mr. Nicklaus’ advice is the best starting point for sure, and we proved it with our son.
- Find clubs that your child golfer likes to swing. “Likes” should be a combination of natural, comfortable, and excited. If you can get them fitted do it. It won’t be cheap. Likely $30+ extra per club for cut and grip. New shafts are $40+.
- If you can’t get fitted, try everything you can and don’t limit what you try to what recommendations you hear. Have them swing a men’s club, a ladies’ club, bigger kids’ clubs. In fact, go to ebay if you can and buy a single used club to try once you’ve narrowed down you selection. Keep in mind used clubs are a great option as a set from 2 years ago can be VERY cost effective and perfectly ok for the child golfer. A two year old set of Nike’s like Tiger plays may go a long way for little investment.
- Kid’s clubs are generally whippy. Err on the side of stiffer for your golfer. Cut down ladies clubs may be a good alternative. Even cut down older kid’s clubs.
- Don’t be afraid of a heavier club. Tempo is critical and we saw the heavier club definitely help slow our golfer down. (Heavier is misleading, the variance is not that great). Lighter clubs hurt tempo.
- If it’s close between two choices, get the one the makes them excited to play.
- If you’re not THAT into the process, US Kids Golf, Nike, Callaway, TaylorMade, and others all make kids clubs that will do just fine. Just be sure they fit your child golfer’s natural setup. Don’t just follow their recipe, confirm it.
Keep ebay and craigslist in mind. There are a variety of club finder sites also. You can buy a selection of used clubs (even singles) for the right price and try them. Get an 8 Iron or 7 Iron. Just sell the rejects again on ebay or craigslist or back to club finder, if you have the ability. This way she can actually try them on the range and tell you what feels good. Let them help with the choice.
Don’t be afraid to consider stiffer and longer as an option.