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Growing Up Golf Part 7: The Right Club

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Let’s journey back to my daughter’s third birthday. If you recall in Growing Up Golf Part 2, my wife and I ran into a minor problem with our daughter’s first set of real clubs.

“The day of her third birthday arrived and she opened the clubs and smiled that big smile that all parents love. She pulled the 8 iron out, stood up and attempted her first swing with a real club. The problem is she swung this club like it was a sledge hammer. Now our daughter is far from being a frail little girl. She can pull herself up on monkey bars and hold her own weight on a climbing rope. I was shocked to see that the club was just too heavy. She insisted that she wanted to use it and she’s a “big girl” and wants to use real clubs like Mommy and Daddy. Ok, no worries. I said, “Come on sweet heart, let’s go to the store and pick out one that feels better to you.” But the problem was that the next smaller club was too short for her — one was too short and the other one that fit her perfectly was too heavy. Now what? Well, we kept the club that was the correct length as I saw no benefit to having her use a club that was too short. The putter fit her perfect and wasn’t an issue at all.”

So how do we find the right club for our little golfer? Golf equipment designed for kids has come a long way. Long gone are the days when young golfers had to use adult clubs that had been cut down to size. Most manufacturers create clubs for specific age ranges–typically, 3 to 5, 6 to 8 and 9 to 11–as a general guideline. The age ranges are for different club lengths, and the clubs get longer as the age ranges increase. However, height is more important than age, as we discovered with our daughter. With all the different types of clubs to choose from, there are a few things to remember when buying them.

Length

Length is the first consideration. Find a set of clubs that is the right length for your child, but also a set that they can grow with. It is OK for them 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: Choking down more than 1.5 to 2 inches too much. Choking down more than two inches can change children’s whole swing, requiring them to manipulate the swing to get the club around their body. A set of clubs whose length requires them to grip down only one inch allows them to make a normal swing. There will probably be enough length to get a second year out of the set.

Shaft Flex

The main problem with cut-down clubs of yesteryear  is the stiffness of the shafts. When you cut 4 to 5 inches of length off a golf club, it becomes very stiff. Using flex that is too stiff can promote a very low ball flight. Manufacturers are now making shafts that are the right flex for kids’ swing speeds by using light-weight steel and graphite. The shafts on these kid-friendly clubs are so flexible, you can bend them with your hands. So check to make sure that your child’s set of clubs has a nice, flexible shaft.

Weight

If the club is too heavy, the child will struggle to take the club to the top of the backswing. When this happens, it causes a manipulation of the swing that results in inconsistency. A lighter club will help the child get the club in the correct position at the top of the swing, and lead to an easily repeatable swing. Companies are now making clubs with lighter heads and shafts. Weight was the main issue that we ran into with our daughter and her new clubs.

Following those simple guidelines will increase your chances on picking the correct club for your child.  With this all said, I have found a very simple solution to acquiring clubs that will fit your child. You need not look any further than equipment made by U.S. Kids Golf — a company with a fitting system that is based on a color-coded chart that is adjusted every three inches. When you grow out of one color, you move up to the next.

You simply measure your child and choose the appropriate club in the correct color. All the specifications of the clubs are listed in each color zone. If you desire to purchase your clubs elsewhere, this measuring system can be utilized when deciding the correct club length for your son or daughter. As I stated earlier, there are many equipment companies that specialize in kid and junior golf clubs. I am referencing U.S. Kids Golf  due to their simplistic club fitting system.

U.S. Kids Golf believes that having properly-fitted clubs is vital to young players’ development, so they  created the U.S. Kids Golf Trade Up Program. When you’re ready to move up to the next system, simply trade in your out-grown clubs at your participating retailer and receive a discount on your new ones. If you should decide to purchase your clubs form another manufacturer, check to see if they have a “trade up” program. Another benefit to using U.S. Kids Golf is they have developed the “6th Club Free” program to reward their frequent customers:

– Once you have purchased 5 clubs, you have the opportunity to receive a sixth club free.
– The program applies to clubs purchased as a set or individually.
– Free club can be an iron or putter. Other clubs may be available for an additional fee.
– Be sure to keep your UPC code from your packaging along with your purchase receipt.
– This program is open to residents of the U.S., U.K. and Canada.

We have made some changes to my daughter’s set of clubs. She no longer uses the heavier club (If you recall, I allowed her to use it because she was only chipping with it at that stage of her development) and what I have found to be a prefect fit is the U.S. Kids Golf Ultralite series. We were able to give her in longer club without extra added weight and the shaft flex is designed for younger players swing speeds. My daughter’s set includes a 7 iron a pitching wedge and a putter. There is no need to run out and purchase 14 clubs at this time. Your child can play with no more than a few clubs for a good part of the early years. As your child gets older, you can add a club or two. You may decide to graduate them into the five, seven or nine pitching wedge set, sometimes referred to as the odd irons. Most of the golfers I know learned to play using just the odd numbered irons in the set. This is very common and a good way to start. Having fewer clubs in the bag makes decisions a lot easier.

Now that we fit our youngsters, what about our juniors? I can not stress what I am about to say enough. If your child has decided to take golf to a more serious level and is approaching high school probably even earlier…

TAKE THEM TO A PROFESSIONAL PGA CERTIFIED CLUB FITTER!!!!

The benefits of a properly custom-fit set will make a difference at this level.  Now I am in no way saying you need to run out and purchase the most expensive equipment set out there. There are plenty of manufactures that make clubs for all price ranges.  Choose a budget and work from there. Even if you don’t buy new clubs, there are great deals on used clubs. But no matter what you decide on…

HAVE THEM FITTED BY A PROFESSIONAL PGA CERTIFIEDCLUB FITTER!!!!

Gator Golf

I would like to share some observations that I have made while working with my children. My son turned 2 on Jan. 10, and when your family knows that you and your wife are golf fans and are passing that passion on to your children, your kids are bound to receive a few golf toys growing up. One of the gifts he received was a putting game called Gator Golf. You may have seen this game before, it comes with two putters, two balls and a little alligator that you putt the ball through his mouth and it comes out by his tail and is popped back to you like a little catapult. Both my son and daughter love it. And if you have been following my articles than you know I am all about “Golf Association” and this is a great one.

The putters and golf balls are made of plastic. Here lies the problem. My kids have transitioned to using “real” golf clubs even my son now putts with a “real” putter. When they tried to play Gator Golf, we soon realized that the plastic clubs and balls were too light. After using a heavier metal golf club, the plastic ones really threw their swings out of rhythm.  My wife and I replaced the plastic balls with the foam indoor balls they have been practicing with and we gave them their regular putters. Needless to say all, is well in the Gator Golf front. The foam balls were light enough to be popped back and the game works just fine.

So if your children have transitioned to real clubs, there will be no need for any of the plastic toy ones that we all started them out with when they took those first steps towards growing up golf.

Click here for more discussion in the “junior golf” forum.

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Kadin Mahmet has a passion for golf. He has coached at the collegiate level and has worked as an instructor specializing in youth athletics. You can follow Kadin on Twitter @BigKadin. "Like" Growing Up Golf on Facebook @ facebook.com/Growing.Up.Golf for more content.

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