It's fine to get a very young child started with a cut down 7-iron and putter, but as kids get older, they need a set of golf clubs that are made with their bodies in mind. Today there is a good selection of manufacturers making clubs specifically for juniors.
But with all the different types of clubs to choose from, there are a few things to remember when buying junior clubs.
Length is the first consideration. The trick is to find a set of junior golf clubs that is the right length for the golfer, but also a set that the junior can grow with. Remember that it is OK for the junior to choke down or grip down on the club. You just don't want them to move their hands down the grip too much.
The basic rule is this: if the junior is choking down more than 1.5 to 2 inches, he or she is choking down too much. Choking down more than two inches can change the child's whole swing, requiring them to manipulate the swing to get the club around their body. A set of clubs whose length requires the junior to grip down only one inch allows them to make a normal swing at the ball, while probably having enough length to get a second year out of the set.
The next consideration is shaft flex. The main problem with cut-down clubs for juniors is the stiffness of the shafts. When you take 4-5 inches of length off a golf club, you make the shaft extremely stiff. And this explains why juniors using cut-down clubs are unable to get any height on their shots.
One good thing with new sets is that the manufacturers are now making shafts that are the right flex for kids' swing speeds. Using light-weight steel and graphite have made junior golf clubs more playable. The shafts of junior clubs today are so flexible that you can bend them with your hands. So check to make sure that your child's set of clubs has a nice, flexible shaft.
The weight of the golf club is also very important to junior golfers. If the club is overly heavy, the child will struggle to take the club to the top of the backswing. The struggle to get the club back causes a manipulation of the swing that results in inconsistency. A lighter club will help the junior golfer get the club in the correct position at the top of the swing, and lead to an easily repeatable swing.
Just like with shaft flex, most club companies make junior clubs with lighter heads and shafts. So before you buy, just make sure to check the overall weight of the clubs. You want clubs that are light enough to fit your child's age.
The last consideration is grip size. Paying attention to grip size for young golfers is a new thought in recent years. In the past, clubs were cut down and any grip that fit the shaft was put on. But oversized grips cause the same problems for juniors as they do for adult golfers. If the grip feels like a baseball bat, it's going to change the swing mechanics.
So when buying a set of junior clubs, make sure they are fitted with junior grips. If you're changing grips, ask for junior grips with a core size of .50. These thinner grips will make a difference in your child's game.
As adults, we realize how tough golf can be some days and how much the right equipment can help our games. By keeping these considerations in mind when buying junior golf clubs, you can help your junior play better golf, and more importantly, have a better time on the golf course.
About the Author
Frank Mantua is a Class A PGA Professional and Director of Golf at US Golf Camps. Frank has taught golf to thousands of juniors from more than 25 countries. More than 60 of his students have gone on to play at Division I colleges. Mantua has also published five books and numerous articles on junior golf and junior golf programs. He was one of the founding members of the National Association of Junior Golfers, and is one of the few golf professionals in the country that is also a member of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America. Frank also serves as the Junior Golf Specialist on ESPN Radio's "On Par with the Philadelphia PGA".