I’m proud to announce that Hodson Golf will be involved with Gavin Parker and some exciting changes he will be implementing this year through the Fore Children program at Independence Golf Club. Hodson Golf works with a growing number of juniors throughout the year (of ALL skill levels) so I thought it might be helpful to give my thoughts on what exactly a “junior fitting” entails.
There is a lot of confusion and misunderstanding out there with parents, in regards to junior fitting and equipment (and rightfully so). I’ve included this blog in order to dispel most myths and assumptions regarding younger golfers and their equipment.
Year after year, hands down, the biggest misconception regarding custom fit/custom made clubs applies not only to juniors, but to adults alike – “I/We can’t afford custom made clubs” or “He/She is not good enough for custom fit/custom made clubs”.
Just like adult clubs, properly fit junior clubs are an essential part of the success and enjoyment of golf. If a golfer’s clubs are not properly fit, regardless of skill level, the golfer can easily lose interest in the game very quickly, which is much more evident with junior golfers.
JUST WHO IS A “JUNIOR GOLFER”
Just like adult golfers, junior golfers come in all ages, sizes, and skill levels. I like to consider junior golfers as either:
- Beginning Junior Golfers – Generally aged 9 and younger who have taken a new interest in the game, but not yet sure of their potential skill levels. When the child is just starting, all efforts should be made to provide that child with the most friendly and game improving clubs which allow them to make solid contact, get the ball airborne, and above all have fun. Inexpensive entry level “box sets” are generally a great first step for the juniors at this level.
- Aspiring Junior Golfers – This group can vary by age but displays improved overall skills and, more importantly, a keen desire to play, practice, and improve. This group, again regardless of age, generally enjoys the camaraderie and competitiveness of structured junior golfing events. This is perhaps one of the most important levels of the junior golfer as their potential and desire to improve can easily be diminished by ill-properly fit clubs.
- Skilled Young Amateur Golfers – This group generally consists of standouts in terms of both current and potential skills. This group is typically comprised of the players that everyone else is gunning after (just like the adults). Again, regardless of age, this skill group clearly benefits from custom clubs, which is typically evident with their current and generally routine equipment changes/upgrades. I would say the majority of players at this level are entering their late middle-school and/or early high-school years, although I have worked with many golfers much younger, who are competing on a national and/or international level.
INFAMOUS AMBIGUOUS JUNIOR “BOX SET”
Most manufacturers market their junior clubs in “Box Sets” geared towards certain age groups (regardless of skill level). These boxed sets are produced overseas with the cheapest materials available, including lightweight aluminum and zinc heads (versus far more durable and superior stainless steel and titanium) along with extremely lightweight and unstable graphite shafts. Typically these graphite shafts are extremely flexible/whippy and are actually prone to breaking when used by the stronger more athletic player. These lighter heads are much softer and very quickly show signs of wear as they scratch, nick, and ding very easily.
IMPORTANT ASPECTS OF JUNIOR FITTING
Just like adults, junior clubs should be properly fit to the individual golfer who will be using them. Some of the key features of a custom fit set of junior clubs are:
- Length – Length is a key variable in any set, but junior fitting provides a unique problem as the player will eventually outgrow the set. Again, box sets for the beginning junior are fine and provide the parents with an inexpensive “entry level” set . Most parents typically purchase the sets which are much too long under the assumption that the child can just “choke up” initially until they grow into the set. I do build sets for children that are moderately long and typically stretch the grip so that they do have room to choke down. Just like adults, if the clubs are excessively long, the player will be forced to actually pull away from the ball at impact (among other swing faults). If the club is too long and/or too heavy this can cause some significant swing issues and generally result in very poor and inconsistent ball striking. There are great alternatives when building a custom set that will allow the junior to maximize the set which they would normally outgrow after only 1 season.
- Weight – Most of the junior clubs today are made out of much less expensive materials such as aluminum for the woods and hybrids and zinc for the irons. These materials are of lesser quality and will get banged up much quicker than the more traditional stainless steel and titanium. I like to keep the very young juniors in the lightest overall weighted clubs that I can to help and encourage them to fully swing the club. As the junior becomes older and more adept, the weight of the clubs needs to be changed accordingly. It’s an important aspect of the junior fitting process to pair the golfer with the properly weighted club, based upon his/her swing and ability. There are actually custom junior heads available that can feature an internal weight port, which can be adjusted as the player grows and gains strength. This is a great alternative to the typical & cheaper “disposable” junior clubs, as heads can be used for a much longer period of time.
- Lofts – The lofts of junior golf clubs are much higher than standard, which is good for most junior golfers (especially the beginners). Once the junior becomes more accomplished, you will find that he/she flights the ball very high, with way too much spin (which is a leading sign that the junior is in need for more properly fit custom clubs).
- Lie angle – As with any golfer, the lie angles of the clubs need to be adjusted to best enhance the swing of the individual player (regardless of their size or age). Having the clubs built and/or bent to the correct lie angle, based on the golfer’s height and swing, will allow him/her to make much better contact while also allowing the sole of the club to move more cleanly through the shot, which is a key aspect of direction.