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.
Mondays Off: How is the new PGA schedule looking? Gross golf bag cleaning story!
The new PGA schedule is out and how will so much major golf look in the fall. What golf gear would you buy with your stimulus check if you could blow it all on golf? Knudson has a gross story about cleaning out a golf bag.
Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below.
Tiger at the Masters: The 3 that got away
This time last year, Tiger Woods earned his fifth green jacket at the 2019 Masters, breaking a 14-year drought at Augusta National and completing a storybook career comeback (see Tiger Woods’ 2019 Masters WITB here).
Between his 2005 and 2019 victories, Woods gave himself several chances to reclaim the green jacket, but for one reason or another, the championship continuously eluded the 15-time major winner.
Looking back on that drought, three years in particular stick out in my mind where Woods (being the ruthless closer that he is) could, and maybe should, have capitalized on massive opportunities.
A unique tournament broke out at the 2007 Masters with chilly and windy conditions meaning we would see an over-par score winning the event for the first time in a generation.
Unusually however was the fact that Tiger Woods had got himself into a fantastic position heading into the final day’s play—one stroke back of the lead and in the final group.
By the first hole on Sunday, Woods had a share of the lead. A couple of holes later, and he was the sole leader. But instead of the game’s greatest ever closer doing what he does best, we saw the first small chink in Tiger’s major armor.
Unable to keep up with the improved scoring on Sunday, Woods finished the championship two strokes behind Zach Johnson. It was the first time Woods lost a major in which he held the lead at some point in the final round.
Summing up after the round why things hadn’t turned out the way the entire golf world expected, Woods said
“Looking back over the week I basically blew this tournament with two rounds where I had bogey, bogey finishes. That’s 4-over in two holes. The last two holes, you just can’t afford to do that and win major championships.”
In one of the most exciting final rounds in Masters history, an electric front-nine charge from Woods coupled with a Rory McIlroy collapse saw the then 35-year-old tied for the lead heading into the back nine.
After back-to-back pars on the challenging 10th and 11th holes, Woods found the green on the 12th before it all slipped away. A disastrous three-putt was followed by a deflating five on the par-5 13th and an agonizing near-miss for birdie on 14.
In typical defiant fashion, Woods then flushed a long iron on the par-5 15th to give him five feet for eagle and what would have been the outright lead. But he couldn’t find the cup.
Directly following his round, a visibly miffed Woods said
“I should have shot an easy 3- or 4-under on the back nine and I only posted even. But I’m right there in the thick of it and a bunch of guys have a chance. We’ll see what happens.”
What happened was eventual champion Charl Schwartzel did what Woods said he should have done—shooting 4 under on the back to win his first major.
Luck, or lack of, is a contentious topic when it comes to sports fans, but at the 2013 Masters, Woods’ shocking fate played out as if those on Mount Olympus were orchestrating the tournament.
Woods entered the 2013 Masters as the World Number One, brimming with confidence having won three out of his first five tournaments to start the year.
By Friday afternoon, Woods had cruised into a share of the lead, before crisply striking a wedge on the par-5 15th as he hunted for another birdie.
In a cruel twist of fate, Woods’ ball struck the pin and ricocheted back into the water. “Royally cheated!” shouted on-course announcer David Feherty. Nobody could argue otherwise.
A subsequent “bad drop” turned a probable birdie into a triple-bogey placing Woods behind the proverbial 8-ball for the rest of the tournament. The game’s ultimate closer should have been in the lead with two rounds to play on a front-runner’s paradise of a course; instead, he was in chase-mode. (From 1991-2012, 19 of the 22 winners came from the final group).
Woods tried to rally over the weekend, but if he didn’t think the 2013 Masters was ill-fated for himself by Friday evening, then he would have been excused to do so on the eighth hole on Saturday.
Had Woods’ golf ball missed the pin at 15 on that hot and humid Spring afternoon in 2013, then he not only wins, but he likely wins going away.
The Wedge Guy: Power Leak No. 1: Your grip
One of the things I like the best is when a friend or stranger asks me to take a look at their swing to see if I can help them. I never get into the “lesson” business, because that is the domain of our golf staff at the club. But I have spent a lifetime in this game, and have studied the golf swing pretty relentlessly. I also have been blessed with a pretty good eye.
So, the other day, I was out hitting some balls in the afternoon, and a good friend from the club asked if I’d take a look at where he is losing power. Darrell is a big guy and a good player, but not nearly as long as you would think he’d be. He plays with the “big dog” money game, which has a few really big hitters that can be quite intimidating.
I’ve played with Darrell enough to know exactly where his power leaks were, so when he came out to the range, I watched him hit a few and dropped the first one on him.
“It’s your grip!”
He, like so many amateur golfers, was holding the club too far out on the end, and much too high in his palms — not low in the fingers like you should. I’ve always been of the opinion that the grip is the most important fundamental in the entire golf swing. Without a solid and fundamentally sound hold on the golf club, the rest of the swing cannot function at its best. Hogan thought it was so important, he dedicated a whole chapter of “Five Lessons” to the subject.
You’ll see the occasional pretty good scorer at the club with a funky grip, but you never see a bad grip on tour. The golfer who has mastered a great grip is the most teachable there is.
In my opinion, the grip is only ‘personal’ to a small degree. Whether you like to overlap, interlock or use the full finger grip (not baseball)…whether you like to rotate your hands a little stronger or weaker . . . the fundamentals are the same, and they aren’t negotiable.
The club has to be in your fingers to allow the “lag” that builds power, and to allow or even force the optimum release of the club through impact. The last three fingers of the left hand have to control the club so that it can be pulled through the impact zone. The right hand hold is limited to the curling of the two middle fingers around the grip, and neither set of forefingers and thumbs should be engaged much at all. One of the best drills for any golfer is to hit balls with the right forefinger and thumb totally disengaged from the grip. Google “Hogan grip photos” and study them!!!!!!
So, with the changes in the grip I had Darrell make, he immediately began ripping drivers 15-20 yards further downrange than he had. The ball flight and even sound of the ball off the driver was more impressive. So we went out to play a few holes to see what happened.
Historically, Darrell is only 5-10 yards longer than me at best, and sometimes I outdrive him. But not anymore!! On those five holes we played late that afternoon, he consistently flew it out there 20-25 yards past my best drives.
And that made us both really happy!
Next Tuesday, I’ll talk about the second in this series on Power Leaks.
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