Fitting junior golf clubs

Junior fitting is often taken for granted and unfortunately in certain fitting situations, can cause the junior golfer to loose interest in the game quickly. Over the years I have discussed junior fitting with literally hundreds of clubmakers, parents and grandparents. Based on what I have heard, I would like to share all this information at one time. Hopefully you will be able to understand all the complexities associated with this special group of golfers.

Look at how junior clubs are traditionally marketed; they are based on broad age groups. If Levi’s had marketed their jeans based on age groups when I was a teenager, in my opinion they wouldn’t be around today. All the tall kids would have been running around with the stripes on their tube socks showing. The shorter kids would have had their pant legs rolled up so far that they would have had to walk bow-legged. The fortunate few would have their jeans fit correctly. Levi’s simply had you measure your waist and inseam, look at the tag, and the jeans would fit regardless of which store they were purchased. Age based fitting just doesn’t allow for a proper fit because of the disparity of heights in certain age categories. The same is true for jeans and golf clubs.

Length should be based on height and the athletic ability of the junior golfer. I know there are kids out there who have good hand-eye coordination who can make good contact with their parent’s clubs, but they are far and few between. Most junior golfers choke down automatically on adult clubs so the length will be proportionate to their height. We offer a height based fitting chart on our website as well as our Total Clubfitting book as a reference. Obviously body builds and athletic ability may allow for slightly longer clubs than the charts would suggest. For instance, a chubby child has more body mass to swing around than a thin tot does, and may need a longer shaft. Youngsters with excellent hand-eye coordination could potentially use a longer club too.

Some parents are concerned that their children will outgrow their clubs over the summer and that the clubs will be too short for the upcoming season. This is a valid point. However, if the parents want the clubs much longer than their kids really need so that they will last a few years, this may serve to create bad swing habits for the kids. If the clubs are too long, the kids are more likely not to hit the clubs as solidly and become discouraged very quickly. Kids are very result oriented. If they are not succeeding, they are more likely to try something different if they can. If you want some room for growth, suggest no more than an inch over what they should use presently.

In the case the child does outgrow the clubs; there are two things that can be done rather inexpensively. First, the clubs can be extended. Since most junior shafts have a .500” butt diameter, you need to be creative with the extender since that is not a standard stock extender size. You can use hardwood dowels or portions of used steel shafts to extend the clubs. The second method, reshafting the clubs, is more expensive but may be necessary if the strength of the juvenile golfer increases or if he or she grows quickly.

If the child has younger siblings, the undersized clubs could be hand-me-down clubs to them. We have heard of companies and individual clubmakers who have lease or rental programs with junior equipment. Instead of purchasing the clubs that children will outgrow, the clubs are traded in for a longer set as the child grows. The old set now could be used by another junior golfer.

Most junior clubs today are die cast, being made from aluminum for the woods and zinc for the irons. The materials are less expensive in order to keep the overall cost down. The materials are also softer and will get nicked up more than stainless steel heads. The junior heads are generally a little more lofted to allow for the ball to get airborne quicker and may weigh slightly less than adult clubs do also. In some cases, like the Hireko Acer Protégé and the Dynacraft Avatar Junior sets, hybrids are incorporated are part of the set to allow the youngster to excel.

What age range is the cross over from junior to adult club heads? Don’t necessarily look at age as much as ability and dedication. If you are buying clubs for a junior just to see if they are going to like the game, then the junior heads will be just fine. Once the child has committed to the game and has the correct fundamentals established, there is no reason they couldn’t use an adult head. Also be cognizant of the fact that the juniors entering the junior high age group may not want the junior heads because their friends may be playing name brand clubs or adult clubs. The image of using junior clubs may hold them back from playing competitive golf.

What is the best set make up for the junior golfers? Typically for the very young golfer, a single lofted iron to the 5-piece set (3-wood, 5, 7 and 9 iron and putter) will suffice. Don’t add too many low lofted clubs in the bag because youngsters won’t have the clubhead velocity to get them airborne. As they become better and start to master the lofted clubs, then it is time when you can add the longer, less lofted clubs to the junior set.

For the committed youth who wants adult clubs, sit down with them and let them be part of the decision making process. After all, it is their clubs; not yours. Even if you decide on a partial set to play with, buy the rest of the clubs in the set. This way the junior will eventually have a matched set that they can grow with. Another reason to buy the remaining set is to reward the child with a new club when they do something good. For example, did they bring home an A in math? Make up the 8 iron. Did they take out the garbage without being told? Make them the 6 iron. Is their birthday coming up? Make them the 4 iron. Be creative in rewarding junior players for jobs well done.

I had one heated discussion with a parent who wanted his 5-year-old son to be a better ball striker. The father’s idea was to put his son in a set of forged blades so he would learn to hit the ball in the center of the face. Please, don’t “punish” the youngsters. Give them a cavity back club instead. If you want them to be better ball strikers just give them formal training with a local PGA teaching professional.

Long before junior shafts were available, it was common for an existing man’s sets of clubs to be cut down to the length the child needed. Although this is an inexpensive way of introducing the kids to the game, it may not be the most appropriate. Men’s shaft may be on the stiff and heavy side for the junior golfers, plus the fact the lofts may be stronger and make it harder to get the ball airborne. This situation may not be in the best interest of the junior golfer as it may be difficult to gain confidence and have fun at the same time. If you are going to cut a set shorter, let it be mom’s set because the shafts are generally lighter and more flexible. In addition, the increased lofts of women’s clubs are a benefit. Just remember to make a new set for mom in this situation.

There are many options in shaft choices for junior golfers. There are junior shafts, ladies and senior flexes and standard men’s flexes that can be appropriate in the right situation. There are also choices of steel, graphite and fiberglass that have to be considered as well.

For very small toddlers it may be a benefit to look at some very flexible fiberglass shafts such as the Cadence and the Apollo Shadow Junior models. The small child does not have the physical strength to use something very heavy. In addition, when cutting a shaft that short, the flexible fiberglass shaft will provide some feel and increased loft where a steel shaft does not. You are starting to see more of these types of shafts in name brand junior clubs like La Jolla Club, Taylor Made and U.S. Kids Golf. The best part about the fiberglass shafts is they cost about the same or even less than steel. Do be aware though, for juniors above 4 ½ feet tall, these shafts can be a little too flexible.

The junior steel shafts will be appropriate for a wide range of youths. Some manufacturers are starting to devote some research into providing the proper amount of flex for the junior golfers. The smaller butt diameters allow for matching up an appropriate grip while at the same time making the shaft more flexible. As the child grows to near the 5-foot range, the junior shafts may no longer be an option due to the shorter lengths that they are manufactured. When the child has reached that height range then ladies and A-flex (amateur) shafts are better choices for the average child. However, you are starting to see some children in the 5 foot height range that are very powerful and could handle men’s flex shafts. Use your discretion wisely.

The most creative aspect of building junior equipment is in grip sizing. Even though many junior shafts have a .500” butt diameter and the grip are available in the corresponding diameter, you may still need to add build-up tape in order to hold the grip in place. Shafts will only have a limited parallel butt section. Once you cut the shafts to very short lengths, you could conceivably need to add quite a bit of masking tape, especially under the lower hand. Experiment on one club first until you get the right dimensions. Keep good notes so the rest of the set will not require a whole lot of time.

As the child becomes taller, their hands and fingers will become proportionately larger as well. What shaft are you working with? Is it a junior, ladies, senior or standard men’s shaft? What will be the final butt size after you have cut the shaft to the desired length? Can you use junior grips still or will you have to find ladies or even men’s grips to come out to the right size? Do your homework ahead of time.

Does the junior golfer play a lot of baseball or hockey? If so, the grip areas on these are much larger than typical junior golf grips. You may want to build the grip larger to accommodate the right feel in the junior’s hands. As we said before, you need to be creative with proper grip sizing.

Do not be overly concerned with swingweight, but rather more with overall weight. In some cases with very short clubs, the swingweight may be lower than A0. The only concern we would have in swingweighting is to make sure that the clubs within the set are relatively close to one another. Overall weight is more important. In some cases this will take care of itself by using lighter weight shafts. For very short youngsters, keep the overall weight down so they can swing the club efficiently. As juniors grow, then the weight of the clubs should go up correspondingly as their muscles develop. For taller and stronger juvenile golfers, do not try to make the clubs too light, otherwise the junior golfer can develop bad swing habits by getting quicker than their natural swing allows.

Building and fitting junior clubs is rewarding as well as challenging. Just remember to fit club length based on the child’s ability and height, rather than age. If you make the clubs too long, too heavy or too stiff, the ability of the junior golfer to get the desired results will diminish. Chances are if you fit the youngster right the first time, then they will have fun and make this game, a game for a lifetime.

by Jeff Summitt
Hireko Technical Director

39 comments

  1. Golf fitting for taller men or golf fitting for juniors, both are important, but fitting a junior would be more challenging, because a child grows rather quickly. You would have to check the child fairly often and make the needed adjustments, or it could actually hinder his game.
    You give very nice suggestions, especially the tip about building up the grip underneath the right hand, if the junior plays hockey or baseball. I like that. I’ve done that for adults as well.

  2. Doug Lemons says:

    Hi Jeff,

    It has been a long time. I was a customer when you were with Dynacraft. My question is this. My 11 year old daughter plays the U.S. Kids Tour and has competed at the World Championships in Pinehurst. She is 55 inches tall and has a model swing, however she has a gift. She has very fast hands through impact. This is rare for a girl and she has a driver speed of 86 mph. She uses U.S. Kids Tour Series clubs (steel) and they are just too light. She struggles to hit down on the ball. I want to use name brand heads. I am a Tour Edge fitter and I am playing their exotics on Tour. I have access to the components but the shafts are my dilemma. She tried a set of custom Callaway 22’s with a wflex Callaway graphite shaft at the Worlds and it wasn’t even funny. She hit the ???? out of them. Ball then divot everytime. My daughter instantly noticed the weight and the height, accuracy, and distance was incredible. The father told me he went to see a Callaway fitter in Vegas and he made them. The length was perfect and I have no idea how he did this. What suggestions do you have?

  3. Jeff Summitt says:

    Hi Doug:

    If you are looking for a graphite shaft with similar specifications to the Light (A-flex) X-22 graphite shaft, I would suggest the SK Fiber Tour Trac 80.

  4. Luis Muniz says:

    Hi Jeff,
    My 9 (soon to be 10 in March) has the same situation as Doug’s daughter; he has a fast swing (82-85 mph) for a 9 yr old; he’s 54 1/2 inches in height and by next yrs season probably 56-57 inches. I want to get him a good set; he currently hits with a Junior Callaway XJ and USKIDSGOLF Drivers (1 & 3). What good set (heads/shaft) do you reccomend to add a bit more weight, but not much to hurt his shoulders? How about shaft? graphite or steel?
    Thanks!

  5. Jeff Summitt says:

    Luis:

    Most of our sets are designed as game improvement clubs, especially if you stay in the Acer line. Plus the heads all weigh the same from one line to the next so there is not an advantage of one over another from that standpoint. Just remember that adult heads will be slightly heavier than the junior clubs you mentioned therefore I might stick to graphite or very lightweight steel in the irons to keep the overall weight down.

    You might want to email with more particulars about your budget, brand loyalty, etc. I had several emails w/ Doug after his post only to find out hit daughter was fortunate that she could use a lot of different products well – some of which on paper she should not have been able to hit.

  6. randyskins says:

    A 12 yr old who is 5’3″ has a 30″ wrist to floor. weighs about 100pds. What length do you recomend for driver, 5wd 24deg. hybrid, 5iron and 9 iron?

  7. Jeff Summitt says:

    Randy:

    I would suggest 1/2″ shorter than ladies standard. This may still give him or her a little room for growth.

  8. al petrocelli says:

    For 2 girls just starting out what height of putter do you recommend?
    10 year old at 54 inches tall
    12 year old at 62 inches tall

  9. Jeff Summitt says:

    Al:

    A starting point for the 10 year old is 28.5″ and 32.5″ for the 12 year old.

  10. Hi Jeff
    Please could you tell me how we can have a driver custom made for my son. You can see his swing on his you tube channel via the media page on his website if it helps. My son Freddie is using a US Kids 360 Release TS driver but since hitting various freinds adult clubs a lot further,wants an adult head such as R11 or similar with a ladies shaft I presume? He is able to shape his shots on demand but could do with a little more height and could definitely do with the extra distance. He plays off 12 from the competition tees but can shoot 9/10 over so if we could get him the right driver this would definitely benefit him.Your advice on Heads/shaft and grip combinations would be greatly appreciated. Best Regards, Mark

  11. Jeff Summitt says:

    Mark:

    The US Kids clubs are fit by height. Do you know what length driver he is using right now? Also, chances are the driver is very lightweight. Instead of going to a standard adult driver, there is an option of going to a lighter weight titanium driver like the Acer XF Leggera, which is available in a 12º loft.

    By the way, he have a very nice swing.

  12. Brad Lack says:

    My son is 11, 58.1/2 inches tall. His driver right now is 41″. Seems very long for him. Cant get it around. I was looking at US Kids club tour series the 57″ set. Please assist.

  13. Jeff Summitt says:

    Brad:

    You may your son grip down on the club where it feels comfortable to to swing. I wouldn’t doubt he would need 2″ less at that height. One thing to note, a junior driver head is typically lighter than an adult head. Part of not getting the club around can be caused by a club being too head heavy.

  14. Will Carter says:

    Jeff,

    My son just turned 10. He is 55 inches tall, 84 pounds and wrist to floor is 26.5 inches. Average 9 round is plus 7. He is currently using Ping Moxie but feels like the limited set is hurting him, especially in the chipping game. We did get him a Callaway Razr X driver with a Wflex shaft shortned by 1.5 inches. The length is 43 inches. He seems to hit this well (avg. 175yds) but his Moxies are not keeping up. One issue is they all seem to go about the same distance from the 7 iron thru the fairway wood (avg. 115). We need to upgrade but are very confused how to move forward.

  15. Jeff Summitt says:

    Will:

    Your son may have very good hand-eye coordination to hit a driver much longer than his height would indicate. One word of caution, the length may not spread to the other clubs in the set since he has the assistance of a tee. You may find if you take an existing ladies set and lop off 1 1/2″ off of the butt, he may start digging the club into the ground. There is no way of know until you try a club or two and then gradually shorten if it does.

    With that said, most ladies club heads on the market are no different men’s clubs other than a they installed with a softer shaft, smaller grip and usually 1″ shorter than the standard men’s model. This opens it up to using a variety of club heads, albeit with the correct length and complementary components.

    With the varying lengths and lofts of the Moxies, there should be no reason they go all the same distances. I might suggesting working one-on-one with a local club fitter.

  16. Jason says:

    Hello, my daughter is 9 nearly 10. She was playing with Kid Golf ultra light 51 inch irons and a tour series driver which she hits about 175 yards. She is now ready for the 54 inch clubs and I bought her a set of US kids tour irons 54 inch. She cannot hit them apart from the occasional one she connects. I think the shafts may be too stiff for her. She has a nice swing but I think may lack speed. Is this common for girls?

    regards

    Jason

  17. Jeff Summitt says:

    Jason:

    I wouldn’t say it is common as generally kids that become taller also gain some strength. The shafts for the 54″ clubs may be slightly stiffer than the 51″ clubs, but another difference is the head weights – anywhere between 10-15g heavier from the specs I was able to find. Have here grip down on the clubs by 1″ and see if she doesn’t hit them better. If so, she will just have to remember to do that each time until she grows further and can use the longer length clubs.

  18. Jason says:

    Thanks for your reply Jeff. The new set I bought has steel shafts whereas the previous set is graphite so thought that was the reason but will try getting her to grip down.

  19. Jeff Summitt says:

    Jason,

    I didn’t even realize they offered a steel-shaft set, especially for young girls.

  20. Zac says:

    Jeff,

    Great info here. I have a 10 yr daughter who is using a US Kids 51 inch tour series driver. She is about to grow out of it and all the girls in her division are playing “name brand” drivers cut down or re-shafted. She is a very strong player with a great swing. Can we cut down a name brand driver from the standard 45-46 inches to 39-40 without efffecting the flex/kickpoint to the point that we don’t get the desired benefits from the bigger, better driver. Should the driver be cut down, or completely re-shaftet with something along the lines of an Aldila NV45 shaft? All guidance is great appreciated!

  21. Zac says:

    I misspoke above, she is currently in a 54 inch driver and ready to move into a 57 or 60 inch US Kids driver.

  22. Jeff Summitt says:

    Zac,

    If you take a modern ladies driver cut down to 39-40″ versus re-shafting an adult head with a L-flex shaft (like the NVS 45) and cutting it down to the same length, you will wind up with the same thing. However, if you are re-shafting the US Kids clubs, then you will get a totally different flex – has nothing to do with kickpoint. The heads are much lighter than the adult head and would make the shaft or club stiffer. At some point she will graduate to a club that will not be as head light. If she is stronger or as strong as her peers, she should be fine cutting down an adult driver.

  23. Des says:

    Hi Jeff,

    Some great information on here. My daughter plays golf.. about 1 to 2 hours a day on our local course. She is 12 years old, loves the game, but unfortunately, I know zero about the sport and even less about the equipment. We live in Australia and the range over here is limited (I have rang three retailer now and the have told me that fitting is a waste of time at this age.) I want to build her a set, but I am dizzy with all the spec and terms. She is very petite. Only 4’7″ tall with a finger tips to floor measurement of 20 inches and 35kg in weight. She currently plays with a cut down women’s set, but they have been cut down a chunk from what I can see. Can you give me some advice on what to do?

    Regards
    Des

  24. Jeff Summitt says:

    Des,

    How well does she hit the shortened ladies clubs? If she is hitting them well, you can use those as a template (for length) for newer clubs. Also, try to seek out someone in your area (other than retailers) who specializes in fitting. They can work one on one with her so she can make solid contact with the ball.

  25. Des says:

    Thanks for the reply Jeff. I took your advice in the end and found a guy that fitted her with a couple of clubs that are really working well… The difference is quite something – thanks again…

  26. Mike says:

    Hi Jeff,

    Great article on fitting a junior golfer! Thanks for the advice!

    I have a question regarding USKG (10-15% lighter than adult clubs) vs women clubs for a 9yo boy. Is there any advantage in cutting down a women set since they’re lighter? Are adult clubs built better? I’m looking to add some wood/hybrid (3, 5, 7 and 3H) arsenal to my son’s set to narrow the fill in the 140-180 gap between his 4H and driver. Any recommendations on brand and model? Which is the lightest?

    My son plays tournament golf: he is short relative to his peers (53″), but is strong husky built. He has a 39″ driver swing speed of 70-75 mph. He doesn’t have a problem getting the ball up in the air with any of his clubs. He shoots any where around 3 to +7 over 18 holes during tournaments from 4500-4700 yards.

    Thanks in advance for your response!

    Mike

  27. Jeff Summitt says:

    Mike,

    The women’s irons aren’t any lighter than men’s clubs. They are a lighter swingweight due to their shorter length. The US Kids clubs are lighter for developing bodies. The materials that adult clubs are made from are often better quality than those for juniors (made of aluminum and zinc).

    As far as fill in pieces, I would look at what he is currently using and to find the specs to avoid having duplicate lofts in the bag. Also pay attention to the shaft and grip.

  28. mark says:

    Hi great stuff. I have a son playing us kids 51 tour series. I want to put him into rocketbladez womens 45 gram shaft they are about 5 inches to long. Will it dramatically change the club if i chop it down. I know the swing weight will go down a bunch but i don’t believe the us kids clubs can even be measured. i know the driver could not be. should i add lightweight grips to get some weight back in the head. I believe the head are 20 grams heavier naturally. The stactic weight is almost identical and if i cut the club the womens club will be lighter. I dont want to screw these clubs up. any help would be apprecitated

  29. Jeff Summitt says:

    Mark,

    The US Kids club heads are much lighter in weight than an adult club. By cutting down a ladies set, this might be to your advantage to increase the flex. However it will feel more head heavy if you make them the same length as the US Kids clubs. Don’t worry about seeking out lightweight grips. Your biggest challenge will be finding a grip that will fit the reduced sized butt diameter by trimming that much off the butt end. Plus most junior grips are already light due to their smaller diameters.

    If you have the clubs and have no other use for them, I might recommend altering just one and see whether your son can hit them as well as his current clubs. If the clubs are too head head and he is not as consistent, you may have to cut more material from the butt or have him choke down. Once you find a length that fits him, you can move on to the other clubs in the set.

  30. Andy says:

    Hi Jeff,

    my son is 7 turning 8 on Oct.. He is currently playing on US kids tour and other local tourney in LA.. he is using Nike Size 2.. Current height is 52″.. Has a great swing, averaging 130-145 yards on the driver, 110-120 yards on a hybrid and 90-100 yards on a 7 iron..

    I ask for some opinion for his club change, and recommended US kids.. currently he is choking this grip on the size 2 Nike and used to doing it for more than 8 months now.. I was looking to get him a 57 inch but worried about making a wrong purchase.. Will this be too long for him? or should i buy him a 54″ set..

    Please advise.. thanks in advance for the help…

  31. Jeff Summitt says:

    Andy,

    The Nike Kid Size 2 was designed for the 52″ – 61″ range so that is why he is choking down since he is at the lowest end of the range. If you are considering US Kids, I might suggest the 54″ set unless you anticipate a huge growth spurt before the end of the golf season. You can also purchase individual clubs and that might be a option to try one club first and fill in later.

  32. Robert Castro says:

    Jeff,

    My son is 8 years old and started
    Playing a custom build set of Power Play Warp Speed irons this year; he played us kids irons before.
    His game improved so much since he started with this new irons. I used the junior graphite shaft from Hireko.
    My question is: can I built him the Power Play Warp Speed driver using these same junior graphite shafts?
    Please advice.

  33. Jeff Summitt says:

    Robert,

    I would look at the loft of his current driver and evaluate his trajectory. If it is 14º and he is hitting it relatively high or near his peers, he might possibly be able to go to the 12º Warp Speed driver. But if he is a low ball hitter (as most junior drivers are high lofted), it may not be prudent quite yet.

  34. Rich Lorenzen says:

    Have Twin Boys aged 14 1/2 years old. Play every weekend and active year round First Tee participants with very good basics and fast club head speed and distance starting to match mine. Their Maxfli Varsity sets are approaching 3 years old now and fairly beat up. The boys are 5ft 7in (67 inches) now and I’m torn over whether to invest in new clubs, buy some used replacement individual clubs, or spring for fittings and get new set. Of course my hesitation is their rapid rate of growth. They will probably grow 3-5 inches over next 3 years to be 70-72 inches in by age 17. First Tee coach says fitting now is money wasted since he still wants to tweak their swings a bit. Local club fitter (Bob Van Sweden) says opposite and that they should come in now for fitting and it is money well spent for new clubs. Guess I’m old school and think buying them each a set of used adult clubs in great shape at Golfsmith is the easiest solution until they growth slows down. Your thoughts? Thanks!

  35. Jeff Summitt says:

    Rich,

    You will need at least some basic fitting for length, grip sizing and flex (for their strength). Your two sons no longer will fit into junior clubs at their height so used adult clubs are an option. Realize if they grow, you can keep any adult heads and have them extended or re-shafted and have something that can last them a while.

  36. Jon Doyle says:

    Hi Jeff,

    I’m transitioning my son to adult irons this fall and all the manufacturers post custom club/shaft lengths +/- one inch. To get closer to a good fit, I’d need to cut them down 1 1/2 – 2″ from standard. I’d like to know if cutting this much will increase the stiffness enough to require moving down one level in stiffness, i.e. instead of getting regular flex, buy senior flex, then cut down to achieve regular flex. I realize the answer is going to depend on the particular shaft, but if you have some general experiences with this I’d be very much interested in learning about it!

    thanks-

  37. Jeff Summitt says:

    Jon,

    By making them that much shorter, the swingweights will reduce and subsequently make the frequency (stiffness) higher. I would probably need to know how far they can hit a 7-iron to get an idea of their strength to determine the flex they should transition into.

  38. […] Fitting junior golf clubs | Hireko Golf Blog – Golf fitting for taller men or golf fitting for juniors, both are important, but fitting a junior would be more challenging, because a child grows rather quickly…. […]

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