Golf equipment companies that make clubs for junior golfers are in a difficult position. They need to look out for their business by turning profits, developing brand loyalty and ultimately making their customers happy. But these equipment companies also need to look out for the future of the sport, and get clubs in the hands of junior golfers that will properly develop their golf games.
As such, I want to have a conversation about Cobra’s new Junior F7 One irons, which are single-length golf clubs made for juniors aged 13-15 years old, and the possible consequences (negative or positive) of putting these clubs in their hands.
First, I’d like to commend Cobra on making a set of irons that may make the game easier for more junior golfers, and for being bold in its chase to simplify the game. The single-length iron sets were developed by Tom Olsavsky, the Vice President of R&D for Cobra, after thorough testing, study and input from Mike Schy, a proponent of The Golfing Machine theories and Bryson DeChambeau’s longtime swing coach. Although the single-length system is not widely accepted — not yet, at least — the concept of single-length irons is such that a golfer doesn’t need to change his/her swing between irons because they’re all the same length, weight and have the same lie angle. To make the golf ball go different distances, single-length irons clubs use different lofts and head designs. That certainly can simply things.
Junior golf equipment has come a long way from the days of simply cutting down adult sets, or using your father’s hand-me-downs. There are now many different options for golfers of different sizes and strengths, and that’s a wonderful thing. Also, Cobra gave these particular irons serious engineering attention and similar technologies as the adult, one-length sets.
Like the adult versions, the F7 Junior One irons have TechFlo — a technology designed to help the longer irons fly higher and farther — and they also have PwrShell faces, which means they are thinner and more forgiving across the face. The grooves are milled and designed to produce the proper spin for each individual iron. The clubs come stock with Lamkin EPDM REL-Red, White and Blue grips and graphite Fujikura Fuel Junior shafts (36.25 inches in length), and they come in a five-piece set (5-7-9-PW-SW) that sells for $449 available now at retail and online.
I question the effectiveness of buying a single-length club for a junior golfer who’s 13-15 years old — a fairly wide range of physical characteristics there — without getting fit, but that’s another argument for a different day. My particular worry is for junior golfers who plan to take the game seriously, and have hopes of competing in high school and attaining a college scholarship. Along with the benefits, there could be longterm drawbacks of using single-length irons at a young age.
As a former NCAA Division I golfer who used progressive, or “normal” length irons his entire career, I had a mostly positive experience with the single-length irons — for which I was fully fitted — during my experiment for a GolfWRX review. I’ve since switched back to a normal-length set of irons because of the limitations I felt with trajectory and distance control; the more time went on, the more I felt long irons went too low and short irons went too high. My shotmaking was also suffering around the greens.
For me, using single-length irons was an experiment that I underwent by choice, and switching back to “normal” irons was natural because my swing and mentality had developed using progressive-length irons. My fear for junior golfers ages 13-15 who are given a set of single-length clubs is that their swings would be ingrained under the single-length concept… a concept that isn’t necessarily for everyone. Junior golfers in the developing stage of their bodies and swings are impressionable, and switching back from the single-length set into normal length irons later in life could prove difficult. Also, their shotmaking could be sacrificed in the short- and long-run.
I spoke to top-100 fitter Scott Felix of Felix Clubworks, and Ryan Johnson, the 2015 Michigan Amatuer champion and a fitter at Carl’s Golfland, for their expert opinions on the topic. Felix said while the single-length system could be beneficial using the relatively shorter 5 iron in terms of contacting the center of the face more consistently — but not in creating more speed — the longer wedges may take away from touch and feel around the greens. He said while he wouldn’t necessarily recommend single-length irons to a junior golfer, he would evaluate their performance with the clubs and help the junior get what they play the best. Johnson added that the single-length system may be easier since it’s only one swing in theory, but that the system might work best for a one-plane type swing (which The Golfing Machine calls a “zero shift”) and for junior golfers who understand and embrace the concept. As an accomplished player himself, Johnson once tried the one-length system and found difficulty with the short irons and wedges because they flew too high and to the left, and said “I couldn’t even think about hitting a bunker shot with them.”
“I wouldn’t tell a junior golfer or a parent not to (buy a single-length set),” Johnson said. “I’d just give them a rundown of the concept and what it entails.”
Olsavsky, on the other hand, doesn’t see a downside to the single-length system. “If a kid can hit a 7-iron, [he or she] can hit every club in the bag,” he says, and that one-length irons will ultimately put less stress on the mind and body throughout a junior’s life if they stick to one-length irons. He described a short game test that Cobra performed on one-length wedges vs. normal-length wedges, where a group of 2-12 handicappers hit 20- and 30-yard shots, as well as a chip shot and a flop shot. The results of the test showed that shots hit with single-length wedges finished closer to the hole and were more preferred in three of the four locations.
Regardless of performance, however, junior golfers are influenced heavily by what they see on TV or what their friends are doing.
“Since working with Bryson DeChambeau to help bring this concept to life in two adult sets of irons earlier this year, we have had requests from retailers and consumers to offer a set of one-length irons for junior golfers,” Olsavsky said in a press release.
So let’s say a junior’s favorite golfer is Bryson DeChambeau and they see him using single-length irons. Obviously, they ask their parents to buy them a set of single-length irons because it’s “cool.”
Parents should proceed with caution here. If a child wants to compete at a high level, it’s a bigger decision than simply saying, “Oh, this is what the kid says he wants so I’m going to buy it for him.” Let’s remember, DeChambeau himself grew up using a conventional length set of irons and later switched.
That’s not to say single-length is the wrong decision, either. Some kids will absolutely thrive under a single-length system, and in turn have confidence they wouldn’t have otherwise. The game may be simplified and come easier for the junior golfer because of it, and make golf fun.
For others, their development may be stunted. That’s why seeking professional guidance in this circumstance is so crucial.
Cobra has this to say about the performance aspects of the clubs.
“We tested these irons among a wide range of skill levels ranging in age from 13-15 and we found that universally they delivered more consistency and better performance for these younger golfers,” Olavsky said in a press release.
Personally, I don’t doubt that to be the case. In a vacuum, the irons surely perform really well (it’s more of the long-term effects that have me nervous).
Let me make this clear: I’m not bashing Cobra for providing single-length irons as an OPTION for the youth, I’m simply warning parents and junior golfers that the decision to buy these clubs is an important one. It will have lasting effects, whether positive or negative. Before buying a set of single-length irons for a junior golfer, please have this conversation with them under the supervision of a professional fitter or teaching professional.
We don’t want to rob golf of the next Justin Thomas just because he/she idolizes Bryson DeChambeau, or vice versa.
Clark: A teacher’s take on Brandel Chamblee’s comments
Because I’m writing to a knowledgeable audience who follows the game closely, I’m sure the current Brandel Chamblee interview and ensuing controversy needs no introduction, so let’s get right to it.
Brandel Chamblee, a former PGA Tour player, now plays a role as a TV personality. He has built a “brand” around that role. The Golf Channel seems to relish the idea of Brandel as the “loose cannon” of the crew (not unlike Johnny Miller on NBC) saying exactly what he thinks with seeming impunity from his superiors.
I do not know the gentleman personally, but on-air, he seems like an intelligent, articulate golf professional, very much on top of his subject matter, which is mostly the PGA Tour. He was also a very capable player (anyone who played and won on the PGA Tour is/was a great player). But remember, nowadays he is not being judged by what scores he shoots, but by how many viewers/readers his show and his book have (ratings). Bold statements sell, humdrum ones do not.
For example, saying that a teacher’s idiocy was exposed is a bold controversial statement that will sell, but is at best only partly true and entirely craven. If the accuser is not willing to name the accused, he is being unfair and self-serving. However, I think it’s dangerous to throw the baby out with the bathwater here; Brandel is a student of the game and I like a lot of what he says and thinks.
His overriding message in that interview is that golf over the last “30-40 years” has been poorly taught. He says the teachers have been too concerned with aesthetics, not paying enough attention to function. There is some truth in that, but Brandel is painting with a very broad brush here. Many, myself included, eschewed method teaching years ago for just that reason. Method teachers are bound to help some and not others. Maybe the “X swing” one player finds very useful, another cannot use it all.
Brandel was asked specifically about Matthew Wolff’s unique swing: Lifting the left heel, crossing the line at the top, etc. He answered, “of course he can play because that’s how he plays.” The problem would be if someone tried to change that because it “looked odd.” Any teacher worth his weight in salt would not change a swing simply because it looked odd if it was repeating good impact. I learned from the great John Jacobs that it matters not what the swing looks like if it is producing great impact.
Now, if he is objecting exclusively to those method teachers who felt a certain pattern of motions was the one true way to get to solid impact, I agree with him 100 percent. Buy many teach on an individual, ball flight and impact basis and did not generalize a method. So to say “golf instruction over the last 30-40 years” has been this or that is far too broad a description and unfair.
He goes on to say that the “Top Teacher” lists are “ridiculous.” I agree, mostly. While I have been honored by the PGA and a few golf publications as a “top teacher,” I have never understood how or why. NOT ONE person who awarded me those honors ever saw me give one lesson! Nor have they have ever tracked one player I coached. I once had a 19 handicap come to me and two seasons later he won the club championship-championship flight! By that I mean with that student I had great success. But no one knew of that progress who gave me an award.
On the award form, I was asked about the best, or most well-known students I had taught. In the golf journals, a “this-is-the-teacher-who-can-help-you” message is the epitome of misdirection. Writing articles, appearing on TV, giving YouTube video tips, etc. is not the measure of a teacher. On the list of recognized names, I’m sure there are great teachers, but wouldn’t you like to see them teach as opposed to hearing them speak? I’m assuming the “ridiculous” ones Brandel refers to are those teaching a philosophy or theory of movement and trying to get everyone to do just that.
When it comes to his criticism of TrackMan, I disagree. TrackMan does much more than help “dial in yardage.” Video cannot measure impact, true path, face-to-path relationship, centeredness of contact, club speed, ball speed, plane etc. Comparing video with radar is unfair because the two systems serve different functions. And if real help is better ball flight, which of course only results from better impact, then we need both a video of the overall motion and a measure of impact.
Now the specific example he cites of Jordan Spieth’s struggles being something that can be corrected in “two seconds” is hyperbolic at least! Nothing can be corrected that quickly simply because the player has likely fallen into that swing flaw over time, and it will take time to correct it. My take on Jordan’s struggles is a bit different, but he is a GREAT player who will find his way back.
Brandel accuses Cameron McCormick (his teacher) of telling him to change his swing. Do we know that to be true, or did Jordan just fall into a habit and Cameron is not seeing the change? I agree there is a problem; his stats prove that, but before we pick a culprit, let’s get the whole story. Again back to the sensationalism which sells! (Briefly, I believe Jordan’s grip is and has always been a problem but his putter and confidence overcame it. An active body and “quiet” hands is the motion one might expect of a player with a strong grip-for obvious reason…but again just my two teacher cents)
Anyway, “bitch-slapped” got him in hot water for other reasons obviously, and he did apologize over his choice of words, and to be clear he did not condemn the PGA as a whole. But because I have disagreements with his reasoning here does not mean Brandel is not a bright articulate golf professional, I just hope he looks before he leaps the next time, and realizes none of us are always right.
Some of my regular readers will recall I “laid down my pen” a few years ago, but it occurred to me, I would be doing many teachers a disservice if I did not offer these thoughts on this particular topic!
A trip down Magnolia Memory Lane: Patron fashion at the 1991 Masters
Like a lot of golfers out there, I’ve been getting my fix thanks to the final round Masters broadcasts on YouTube via the Masters channel. Considering these broadcasts go back as far as 1968, there is a lot we could discuss—we could break down shots, equipment, how the course has changed, but instead I thought we could have a little fun taking a different direction—fashion.
However, I’m not talking players fashion, that’s fairly straight forward. Instead, I wanted to follow the action behind the action and see what we could find along the way – here are the 1991 Highlights.
I love the “Die Hard” series as much as anyone else but one fan took it to a new level of fandom by wearing a Die Hard 2 – Die Harder T-shirt to Sunday at the Masters. This patron was spotted during Ian Woosnam fourth shot into 13. Honorable mention goes to Woosie’s gold chain.
There is a lot going on here as Ben Crenshaw lines up his put on 17. First, we have the yellow-shirted man just left of center with perfectly paired Masters green pants to go along with his hat (he also bears a striking resemblance to Ping founder Karsten Solheim). Secondly, we have what I would imagine is his friend in the solid red pants—both these outfits are 10 out of 10. Last but not least, we have the man seen just to the right of Ben with sunglasses so big and tinted, I would expect to be receiving a ticket from him on the I20 on my way out of town.
If you don’t know the name Jack Hamm, consider yourself lucky you missed a lot of early 2000s late-night golf infomercials. OK so maybe it’s not the guy known for selling “The Hammer” driver but if you look under the peak of the cabin behind Woosie as he tees off on ten you can be forgiven for taking a double-take… This guy might show up later too. Honorable mention to the pastel-pink-shorted man with the binoculars and Hogan cap in the right of the frame.
Big proportions were still very much in style as the 80s transitioned into the early 90s. We get a peek into some serious style aficionados wardrobes behind the 15th green with a wide striped, stiff collared lilac polo, along with a full-length bright blue sweater and a head of hair that has no intention of being covered by a Masters hat.
Considering the modern tales of patrons (and Rickie Folwer) being requested to turn backward hats forward while on the grounds of Augusta National, it was a pretty big shock to see Gerry Pate’s caddy with his hat being worn in such an ungentlemanly manner during the final round.
Before going any further, I would like us all to take a moment to reflect on how far graphics during the Masters coverage has come in the last 30 years. In 2019 we had the ability to see every shot from every player on every hole…in 1991 we had this!
At first glance, early in the broadcast, these yellow hardhats threw me for a loop. I honestly thought that a spectator had chosen to wear one to take in the action. When Ian Woosnam smashed his driver left on 18 over the bunkers it became very apparent that anyone wearing a hard hat was not there for fun, they were part of the staff. If you look closely you can see hole numbers on the side of the helmets to easily identify what holes they were assigned to. Although they have less to do with fashion, I must admit I’m curious where these helmets are now, and what one might be worth as a piece of memorabilia.
Speaking of the 18th hole, full credit to the man in the yellow hat (golf clap to anyone that got the Curious George reference) who perfectly matched the Pantone of his hat to his shirt and also looked directly into the TV camera.
It could be said the following photo exemplifies early ’90s fashion. We have pleated Bermuda shorts, horizontal stripes all over the place and some pretty amazing hairstyles. Honorable mention to the young guys in the right of the frame that look like every ’80s movie antagonist “rich preppy boy.”
What else can I say except, khaki and oversized long sleeve polos certainly had their day in 1991? We have a bit of everything here as Tom Watson lines up his persimmon 3-wood on the 18th. The guy next to Ian Woosnam’s sleeves hit his mid-forearm, there are too many pleats to count, and somehow our Jack Hamm look-alike managed to find another tee box front row seat.
You can check out the full final-round broadcast of the 1991 Masters below.
The 19th Hole Episode 119: Gary Player joins the 19th Hole!
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