The ultimate fitting paradox – The accomplished junior golfer

By Andrew Hodson – Golfwrx featured writer

So I’ve had the opportunity over the years to custom fit a wide range of golfers, ranging from the professional to the beginner. I must say the most difficult fit always seems to be the rising junior star typically in the 11-14 age groups. Generally these players have exceptional skill, power, and feel when it comes to their game and equipment. I work with most of the regional teaching professionals who coach these athletes and inevitably they all refer their students to me for properly fit equipment. I’m not trying to be boastful, I’m only trying to support the fact that not only do I find it challenging to fit these players but their coaches also.

Parents of these athletes must understand that most of the “junior” or “youth” clubs are made for the general youth/beginner market. These clubs are typically very light in overall weight due to their light heads and even lighter shafts. These heads are also a very cheap 17-4 stainless steel cast and are nearly impossible to bend or adjust. Don’t get me wrong these junior clubs do serve a general purpose as most of the slower swinging younger junior golfers do need these lightweight “bullwhips” to help get the ball airborne. The problem is that once these juniors get moderately improved and stronger, these clubs will produce more poor shots than good because of the instability typically associated with the lightweight whippy shafts.

Perhaps the biggest frustration when fitting these accomplished junior golfers is the limitations of equipment available to properly build them a set that will maximize both their current and near-term potential. Most people don’t understand that these good junior players have as much “feel” as any other good golfer, but most of them just don’t know it yet. I perform an extensive amount of fittings for these junior golfers and have a large matrix of various weighted heads, shafts, and grips which when properly matched can produce impressive results. I always start off these youth fittings by assembling some clubs which are more in-line with what they are currently using (or trying to use). As we proceed through the fitting I will start to interchange various weighted heads and shafts while educating the junior (and parents) as to the benefits of not only properly fit clubs, but also the combination of properly weighted shafts and heads for that particular golfer.  Now every child is different in both growth and strength but a typical timeline is usually;

  1. Initial fitting with the custom built set being made a bit long so that the player can get extended use as they grow in the short-term.
  2. Follow-up fitting perhaps a year later to determine if the clubs need to be extended (typical) or re-shafted based on new height and strength.
  3. Follow-up fitting perhaps the following year to determine if the clubs need to be re-shafted or if it’s time for an under-length or petite adult set (again with the properly weighted shaft flex and heads).

Hopefully this article will help those parents proceed accordingly with their children’s equipment and avoid falling into that retail trap of buying an on-going assortment of ill-fitting clubs which only adds further frustration to an already frustrating game – for both young and old alike J.