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CLUBS FOR JUNIOR GOLFERS

Junior golfers need clubs with specifications that match their physical abilities to swing them as they grow. A club that is too long, too heavy, or with a shaft that's too stiff can impede learning the game and lead to developmental problems. Let's consider the importance of providing young golfers with clubs they can control if they are to learn and enjoy the game.

Weight, length, and balance are critical specifications and will need to be adjusted frequently as junior golfers grow if they are to play at a competitive level. Clubfitting for juniors is every bit as important for competitive juniors as it is for adults. 

We have weight at the top of the critical list. Clubs need to be light enough to swing easily and not stress developing bones and joints and muscles. The easiest way to do it is build with light weight shafts. We can remove more than 10 - 15 % of the weight away from just about any club by selecting the proper shaft -- the shaft is the major factor in determining club weight.

A lighter shaft effectively reduces the swingweight (a measure of club balance) as well. If you don't think weight matters, add 25 - 28 g (about an ounce -- a 5% weight increase) to each of your clubs and play a round of golf or hit a bucket of balls on the range. It will transform your views about club weight.

Length and balance often go together in the club playability category. Here's how to test the effect on your game. Add two inches to the length of your driver -- or any other club in your bag. Any clubfitting shop can do it for you as a temporary adjustment by inserting an extender into the butt end of the club under the grip. The balance of the club will have been shifted and the effect is to add about 12 swingweight units -- each extra inch adds about 6 swingweight units to any club.

The driving range is your next stop to see how the longer club performs. You'll find it takes much more effort to swing the longer club, and the clubhead will feel heavy due to the effect of the increased swingweight. It's like a practical physics lesson -- the further a mass is from the center of rotation the greater the force needed to move the mass. It's more work. Most players also swing the longer club slower cancelling out the possible benefit of extra driver length.

Bring along some impact tape to the range and check the impact pattern of the ball on the clubface of your new longer club. You'll most likely see ball marks all over the face because excessive length makes it more difficult to make solid contact consistently -- ball trajectory and shot dispersion problems show up as a loss of accuracy.

Our point here has been to describe the effects of the most common problem we see in clubs for junior golfers. Heavy clubs that are too long resulting in more work and less fun. It's what we see with clubs built for adults in the hands of young players. These clubs are typically "hand-me-downs", an old set of clubs from a parent or family friend -- perhaps even cut down a little -- that end up in a kid's bag. We advise a different approach --  clubfitting to match growth rates. 

Here is where clubfitting can bring huge benefits. I hope you're convinced about the importance of lighter weights and shorter lengths for kids. And, young players appreciate real golf clubs designed and built to play the game. Soft shaft flexes to enhance feel are good, but not so soft that they seem like whippy noodles that can't be controlled.

A partial set will work fine for several years -- there's no point in carrying a club that's not needed. Gap distances between clubs will give the right clues for filling in the set. It also keeps the cost of replacing clubs manageable. That way properly built clubs can be in the bag from the start. And, we recommend having a clubfitter check for length and weight effects every year -- more frequently when there's a growth spurt. It's important to keep the set matched to the swing.

The goal with junior golfers is to fit them with clubs that are appropriate for their developmental stage. Then, kids can swing their clubs with confidence, enjoy the game, and compete with equipment that works for them. It starts young players on the path to playing what we think is the greatest sport ever invented, and it will last a lifetime.