Shaft fitting for junior golfers is an equal blend of science and art. The science part is easy….length, weight, flex, tip profile, swing weight. The art part is “when will the growth spurt hit?” and how much strength is this golfer going to pick up in the next year or so. That, my parents, is just a good guess.
In the past year, we have fit golfers as young as eight years old. And these kids are GOOD! Most of the ones we have fit have qualified for U.S. Kids Regional, National or International competition. One of the kids we fit went to the U.S. Kids Drive, Pitch and Putt finals at Augusta National and then went on to anchor his Boys State Championship team here in Colorado. The young man in the photo at the left one his first tournament after we re-shafted his driver with a firmer, slightly heavier shaft.
So, the first thing we make sure of in shaft fitting for juniors is the the shaft weight in all of their clubs is not too heavy. Do NOT, I repeat, do NOT cut down your old set of clubs (Dad!) for your son or daughter! Too heavy…too stiff…all leading to bad swing habits and discouragement. If you are just getting your son or daughter started and they are in the 6-10 year old range, U.S. Kids sets are your best bet. They size them by both height and weight which is a great start. As your son or daughter gets older, becomes more accomplished and shows a real desire to play golf, it is time for a professional fitting. We always counsel our parents on making sure that their golfing junior is really interested or they are wasting their time and money.
Our BGF Fitting System makes very accurate shaft weight, flex, length, shaft profile, and swing weights based upon the juniors swing dynamics (swing speed, ball speed, launch angle, spin rate). Yes, these numbers are very important in a junior fitting. I just fit a junior this morning that went from 56 to 66 mph swing speed in his 6 iron and 66 to 78 mph in his driver since we fit him 18 months ago. BIG change in our recommendations. He actually could play a men’s senior flex shaft but the stock offerings will be too long. And parents, don’t think of buying an off-the-rack set of clubs and cutting them down. That is a prescription for disaster as the clubs will feel too light and make shot results unpredictable. We also fit a young lady aspiring to be number one on her high school team and she actually needed slightly heavier and stiffer shafts than the ladies clubs she was playing. And the results have been phenomenal in increased distance and tighter shot dispersion.
So here are the key points in shaft fitting for juniors:
- Use traditional fitting measures (club speed, ball speed, launch angle, descent angle, shot dispersion) for initial recommendations.
- Have a number of demo clubs to have the junior golfer try to determine feel and see if shot statistics improve
- When fitting longer clubs, i.e. driver, keep the weight light but increase butt stiffness (flex) to allow the junior to grow into the flex.
- Potentially go a little longer in the shaft length to allow for growth in height
Simple answer is fit to ideal shaft weight, slightly stiffer shaft flex and consistent shaft profile (launch angle, spin) in all clubs. By making the shafts consistent throughout the set, that young golfer could become the next Lydia Ko, Jordan Speith or Justin Thomas! And that, is the most fun for me…seeing these kids grow and LOVE the game of golf!