Gear Questions You’re Afraid to Ask: What clubs do you buy a junior player?
Welcome to Gear Questions You’re Afraid to Ask, a GOLF.com series produced in partnership with Cleveland/Srixon Golf. In this column, we explore some indicators to look for come time to determine if your clubs fit your swing.
My son is 11, and he’s eager to get into golf. How do I know what clubs to get him? – Jake G., Wisconsin
Today’s junior golfers are an impressive bunch. The ones who compete on AJGA and/or local state, regional or even citywide tours take the game very seriously, and often play at a level once reserved for top amateur or college players. Really, some of these kids are incredible golfers, often posting scores well under par.
But what about kids who are just getting started? Or maybe those who play the game recreationally? The type of equipment your future superstar starts with is very important, and choosing the right gear can make a big difference in how quickly their skills develop. Should you mis-fit your youngster, it could make the game much harder than it needs to be.
Let’s look at a few tips to help you pick the right gear for your child, pre-teen or teenager to get him/her playing some great golf.
Don’t get too whippy
It’s easy to assume that because you have a junior player who is new to golf, he/she has a slow swing speed and he/she needs maximum flex to get the ball airborne. That’s misguided advice, mainly because a player’s tempo is just as important as swing speed. Some young players have slow tempos, others have fast tempos, the rest are somewhere in between. The angle of attack matters too, with some players having steeper angles while others have shallower angles. Shaft fitting should incorporate all these factors.
Get the right length, weight and grip width
It’s an easy mistake to make, especially considering most drivers are 48 inches or longer when you buy them off the rack. But for most juniors under 5’9”, standard length clubs are too long to put in play. It’s likely a sub-40-inch driver is ideal for your youngster. Also, make sure you don’t get clubs that are too heavy. Heavy clubs can make it hard for kids to swing and may lead to some handsy, floppy positions at the top of the swing. And lastly, remember that juniors have smaller hands than most grown-ups. Consider junior (or women’s) grips to ensure their growing hands wrap comfortably around their grips.
Choose game improvement irons
Most juniors need all the distance and game improvement they can get. And depending what age they are, they may not have the swingspeed required to shape shots anyway, so a set of clubs designed for maximum distance and forgiveness makes more sense as they’re developing their swings. As they get better and hit the ball further, then it makes sense to try a mixed set like you’d get by combining Srixon’s ZX4, ZX5 and ZX7 irons. The larger, more forgiving ZX4 irons are popular for long irons, the ZX5s come with a mix of game improvement with shotmaking capabilities and the ZX6 irons are made for pure shotmaking control. All three can flow seamlessly together into a single set.
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Srixon ZX4 irons
Buy them wedges so they can learn
Getting your young player a set of wedges early in his/her playing days is a great idea to get them comfortable hitting a variety of shots from around the green. Fact is, higher-lofted clubs take skill to master, and starting early helps your player better feel their way around hitting low chips, flop shots and everything in-between. It’s also a must-do if you want to raise a good bunker player.
Drivers aren’t always necessary
Juniors don’t need a driver to start playing golf. Most newbies are just as content hitting a 3-wood or even a 5-wood to instill some confidence before leveling up to the big stick. This is especially true for young players who haven’t developed their swings and who have slower swing speeds. Playing woods off the tee will help them hit it higher and further.
Splurge on a good putter
If there is one club in the bag that’s worth the splurge, it’s the putter. You’ll want to heed the aforementioned advice regarding length and make sure you don’t buy a putter that’s too long for your junior player, but the good thing about putters is you can always get them re-shafted and pop in a longer shaft when its needed.
Plus, having a putter your player loves early in his/her career will help come time to develop a lasting and repeatable stroke because switching putters on a regular basis will make it harder to develop a feel for distance and direction. Buying a quality putter (which doesn’t have to be expensive!) for your junior will lessen the inclination to try something different, helping to also develop a more confident stroke with his/her go-to flatstick.