When considering what golf clubs to buy for junior golfers we generally look at two primary age groups of juniors that will determine if they are more suitable for "off the shelf" juniors or kids clubs or if they should consider getting professionally junior golf club fitting (essentially fitted "adult" clubs with junior friendly shafts). This article is intended to provide information for juniors playing at intermediate to advanced levels and are currently competing or looking to compete in junior tournaments. That said, the same principles can be applied to selecting clubs for juniors without the need for professional fitting.
The two primary age groups are:
- Junior golfers, approx. 6-10 years old, with driver swing speeds of less than ~90 mph.
- Junior golfers approx. 10 to 14 years old with driver swing speeds of ~80 to 100 mph that could benefit from adult club technology but still need lighter weight and more flexible clubs than standard adult clubs. This is a transitional age between kids clubs and full size adult clubs.
In this article we will focus primarily on the second age group and the junior golf club fitting considerations that need to be understood and applied.
For juniors in the first age group (younger juniors), we highly recommend U.S.Kids and Flynn Golf (VT Max) clubs. Refer to this post: Junior Golf Driver Reviews and Fitting, for more information on both U.S.Kids and Flynn Golf including reviews of the various product lines and what makes each a great option for younger juniors golfers.
A good junior golf club fitting will ensure that that your junior's golf equipment matches and supports their swing. As a junior golfer gets older and stronger and hits growth spurts it is important to have a professional club fitting in order to help them realize their potential.
The most important aspects of junior golf club fitting are - lie angle, shaft weight, shaft flex and length. The lie angle is the angle that the club sits on the ground. As kids get older the weight of the shaft is key and can be a big factor in being consistently accurate. Some shafts are designed to keep ball flight down and others keep the ball up in the air. They can be the same weight. As juniors get stronger, the shaft needs to get stiffer, generally speaking, to accommodate higher swing speed and retain accuracy.
Usually around 12 years old or when they are ready for US Kids size 63 clubs, a professional junior golf club fitting can make a big difference for your child. A lot of the time, around this age, a junior is strong enough to move into a major brand. Ultimately the major brand will help strengthen the golf swing and provide greater consistency. Below is an example of the Ping i200 and Ping i irons that we see a fair amount of juniors using in tournaments and are a good transition set of irons when moving from kids to adults golf clubs.
For more on fitting options, a detailed explanation of what factors go into the fitting consideration and fitting driver for junior golfers refer to this article: Best Junior Golf Drivers.
Technical Club Fitting Considerations For Junior Golfers
The following are the most important factors to be considered in junior golf club fitting:
Junior Golf Club Fitting Overview
Many variables affect the performance of a club including shaft weight, club head weight, shaft length, total club balance and weight (including shaft, club head and grip), shaft flex, shaft kick point (flex point) etc. This can be extremely technical and very confusing but don’t worry, we’re going to boil it down to the most important factors in fitting junior clubs.
Club fitting is as much an art as a science. This is because there are so many factors that inter-relate to each other as well as to the individualism of each players swing. Below are reliable “rules of thumb” that we can use to simplify the process. Professional club fitting for juniors is recommended once their driver club head speeds start reaching the mid 90 mph range.
Club Head Weight
- Junior can benefit from clubs that are lighter than standard adult clubs. This is especially important with drivers. A lighter weight head can make it easier for your junior to keep the club on a good swing plane thus helping with desired club head position at impact and more center face strikes.
- Shaft length will be determined primarily by the junior's height. In general a longer shaft will generate more club head speed but may also lead to more off-center strikes (i.e. not struck in the club head sweet spot) and may also negatively impact the swing plane (a longer club generally leads to a flatter swing plane).
- If in doubt always go for a shorter shaft than a longer one. It will help with center face strikes, swing plane and tempo. This is supported by the recent trend on the PGA Tour with some of the top ranked players opting for shorter shafts. Both Jimmy Walker and Rickie Fowler shortened their drivers down to 42 and 43.5 inches (tour average is approx. 45 inches). Rickie Fowler then proceeded to win the Honda Classic with his shorter COBRA driver thanks to increase accuracy and marginal loss of distance.
- Junior Golf Driver - Height to Shaft Length Guide:
- U.S.Kids has done extensive research and their fitting guid chart is a great tool even if your junior has grown out of the U.S.Kids Tour Series clubs:
- In general, the heavier the total club weight the more difficult it will be for juniors to get the ball in the air. A graphite shaft should be used where possible to keep the shaft weight down. Most good junior irons and drivers will come with a lighter weight graphite shaft.
Shaft Flex & Flex Point
- Optimal shaft flex is dependent on both swing speed and tempo.
- A slower swing speed benefits from a more flexible shaft. A lightweight junior, senior or ladies flex shaft is often a good option for juniors with driver swing speeds of less than approx. 85 mph.
- A slower tempo also benefits from a more flexible shaft whereas a faster tempo can benefit from a stiffer shaft.
- The folks at True Temper shafts have provided some very useful general guidelines for driver swing speed and tempo in the chart below.
True Temper Swing Speed and Tempo to Shaft Flex Chart
- Shaft flex point / kick point is the part of the shaft that bends the most in the downswing and at impact. A shaft with a low kick point bends near the head of the club, resulting in a higher ball flight and is better for slower swing speeds. Some fitters like to "soft step" shafts for juniors to provide a little more flex at a lower kick point.
- The club balance point that is the equilibrium point of the finished club (including the head, shaft and grip). The balance point impacts the swing weight - i.e. how the club “feels” when swung. This is relevant to junior clubs as you don’t want a heavy club head and light shaft and grip which is what happens if an adult driver is simply cut down – not a good idea.
Grip Size & Weight
- Make sure the grip is a junior size or undersized grip. Once junior’s hands are large enough to use a men’s regular golf glove or ladies large golf glove they can transition into a standard size grip.
Loft and Lie
- Loft is the angle of the club face relative to the ground, that controls trajectory and affects distance. A general rule of thumb is the younger the junior the more loft they should have on their driver. Also make sure that the irons are a true loft and not de-lofted for more distance as this will impact a junior's ability to get the call in the air. Club makers sometimes de-loft clubs (e.g. wedges) to give more distance. A good club fitter will check the loft of each club to ensure a consistent gap between each.
- Lie angle is the angle between the golf club shaft and the ground line. The most important thing about measuring lie angle for each particular golfer is how the club is interacting with the ground at impact. The length of the club will impact lie angle so a good fitter will first make sure to have the right length shafts and then fit for the right lie. In some cases they will need to manually "bend" the club head attachment to get the right lie.
- If the lie angle is too small the heel of the club will impact the ground rather than the sole and if the lie angle is too large the toe of the club will impact the ground instead of the sole. In either case this makes it extremely difficult for a junior to consistently make solid contact and a small lie angle will tend to result in a shot left of target while a too large lie angle will generally result in a shot to the right of the target.
Younger juniors (swing speeds of less than approx. 80 mph and ages approx. 5 to 10 years old): The U.S.Kids or VT Max (Flynn Golf) clubs are specifically made for these juniors and we highly recommend them.
Juniors that are "in between" kids and adult clubs (swing speeds of approx. 80 to 90 mph and ages 8 to 12): Junior golf club fitting starts to become more important in this age group but not essential, especially at the younger end. The U.S.Kids Tour Series (especially the U.S.Kids Tour Series V3 series coming out in 2018) are still a great option up to 11 or 12 years old. However, we do see many of the juniors this age that are playing regional or national tournaments starting to move into fitted "adult" clubs. Note that some makes such as Ping are a great first option as they have slightly lighter weigh club heads.
Older juniors - swing speeds 90 mph and above: For competitive golfers in this group (generally ages 13 and up), properly fitted adult clubs are generally the best option. For juniors playing intermediate to advanced level tournament play, professional club fitting is highly recommended.